Spireites are staring down the barrel of a relegation shotgun after throwing away a lead and suffering a humiliating drubbing against Alan Knill’s fellow strugglers.
In the battle of the anniversaries, Knill was able to celebrate his year in charge of the Iron whilst John Sheridan’s 150th game in charge of Chesterfield will haunt him for some considerable time.
With just six games left the gap to safety is more like a chasm, at 10 points it looks all but unbridgeable.
The atmosphere couldn’t have been more different to that experienced as Wembley just six days earlier where triumphalism and hope was the order of the day. Whilst the midweek loss at Bramall Lane was all but expected, this hammering was anything but.
Scunthorpe had come into the game on the back of an improved run but they’d drawn their previous five games, three of them without scoring.
However they were without the only man to have scored for them in their last nine hours of play. Tough striker Jon Parkin was absent with a hamstring problem so Knill gave a first ever senior start to Everton loanee Conor McAleny in his place. He’d soon chalked up two assists to turn around the game.
Sheridan brought in Liam Ridehalgh at left-back, the only change to the team that lost 4-1 against Blades, and his side started brightly.
Referee Andy Haines, whose performance didn’t endear him to the home fans, or indeed the home technical area, made his first error when he failed to book United skipper Paul Reid 30 seconds in. The central defender cynically tripped Jordan Bowery who would’ve been beyond the entire back four without the foul. Reid, wearing a protective mask having recently broken his nose for the fourth time this season, was cautioned before the game was quarter of an hour old. He should have been off at that point.
Bowery and fellow striker Craig Westcarr continued to torment what looked like a shaky rearguard and it came as absolutely no surprise when Westcarr latched on to a loose ball to hold off his marker and fire home from the left side of the box. At that point, a vital home win looked inevitable, such was the gulf in performance of the two teams.
However, as has been so often the case this season, things then didn’t go to plan.
With their first potent attack, McAleny cut the ball back to former Blade Jordan Robertson who hit a rising shot home to double his seasonal goal tally. Spireites players and fans appealed strongly for a handball in the build-up but the referee had none of it.
Andy Barcham immediately had a chance to put the visitors ahead but, after the back four had worryingly parted, Josh Thompson and Ridehalgh recovered to snuff out the danger.
Alex Mendy’s speed then became the focal point for the stunned home side. He made an excellent 50 yard run, was fouled on the way but shrugged it off and his burst was eventually halted by another illegal challenge by Damien Mozika. Westcarr’s free-kick was gathered by Sam Slocombe.
After the break, the nerves began to show and Spireites confident and competent pre-break dominance began to evaporate. Ridehalgh had a good run into the danger zone but Spireites defence started to look shaky and incoherent.
A United double corner caused the heebeegeebees and the rock bottom Spireites fell behind when McAleny again pulled the ball back for Josh Walker to fire his side into the lead.
Chesterfield then needed to do something they’ve failed to do since Bonfire Night, score a second goal in a home league match.
James Hurst and Franck Moussa had efforts blocked as Spireites looked to get back into a game that was rapidly slipping away but their hopes all but evaporated when Robertson banged in his second of the game from distance after a free-kick had only been partially cleared.
That goal, followed by a McAleny shot that was just inches wide, triggered some early departures from the home stands but Barcham’s skip round the defence to slot home a fourth Iron effort opened the exit floodgates in a three-parts silent stadium.
Robertson miscued a three yarder in stoppage time to miss out on a hat-trick but by then just about every Spireite had begun to dig out their map books to work out the best route to Fleetwood.