CHESTERFIELD boss John Sheridan has to conjure up something special after seeing his side slump to a fifth straight league defeat.
In his sixth season as a manager, Sheridan has never before been in charge of a team on such a disastrous run. He admitted: “Of course we’re in a relegation fight. The way we played, we looked like a relegation side.
Visitors Hartlepool were also on a winless run. Mick Wadsworth’s men had lost their previous three games.
Chesterfield got the start they were desperate for. With only ten minutes played, the recalled Danny Whitaker squared the ball from the left along the 18-yard line, Alex Mendy hopped over the ball and it ran to Leon Clarke. The striker hit his seventh goal of the season and 50th league goal of his career, left-footing precisely to give his side some confidence.
However, within nine more minutes, the Spireites’ recurring defensive frailties were again exposed and they fell behind.
A free-kick deep in their own half was taken by Pools’ Neil Austin and it looked a straightforward take for Greg Fleming. The Scot was playing in goal only after fit-again Tommy Lee slipped in the warm-up to tweak his previously-injured groin and pulled out. “I just didn’t feel right,” said Lee.
Fleming opted to punch but hit the ball downwards, it bounced once but straight at Paul Murray who stooped to loop a 20-yard header home.
With the disappointment from that error reverberating around the stadium, Jonathan Grounds’ clearance, when he was under minimal pressure, was dreadful and straight at James Poole who made a few yards unchallenged ground before hitting a rising long-ranger into the top corner.
Dean Holden headed just over for the hosts and Andy Monkhouse, from the best part of 40 yards, forced the nervy Fleming to tip over in some style. Mendy, the only Spireites man on form, saw Scott Flinders save just before the break.
Sheridan, still banned from the touchline, told his charges what they needed to do at the interval but the home side were even further behind. Evan Horwood crossed in and Poole headed on target.
It didn’t take long for Chesterfield to pull one back. Mark Randall’s free-kick was partially cleared, Whitaker put the ball back into the danger area, Clarke got a touch and the ball sat up for Holden to convert with plenty of time for an equaliser remaining.
That remaining time wasn’t used well.
Sheridan concluded: “We didn’t deserve anything from the game; it was a very, very poor performance. “
Chesterfield: Fleming 4, Talbot 6, Holden 6, Grounds 5, Smith 5 (Downes 59, 6), Mendy 7, Allott 4 (Morgan 69, 5), Randall 6 (Clay 59, 6), Whitaker 6, Clarke 5, Westcarr 4. Subs (not used): Bowery, Mattis.
Hartlepool: Flinders 6; Austin 6, Collins 6, Hartley 7, Wright 6, Luscombe 5 (Brown 63 / 6), Murray 7, Liddle 6, Horwood 6, Monkhouse 7 (Humphreys 90+2), Poole 8 (Nish 78). Subs (not used): Rafferty, Boyd.
Bookings: Horwood 51, not retreating; Nish 81, time-wasting.