Chesterfield: Cook aims to keep play-off dream alive

Alan Knill
Alan Knill
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Spireites lock horns with Torquay United tonight looking to maintain their improved form.

Paul Cook’s men won at in-form Oxford at the weekend to follow on from a 2-0 home win against another upwardly mobile team, Bristol Rovers.

Hosts Torquay, managed temporarily by ex-Chesterfield assistant boss Alan Knill whilst long term boss Martin Ling recovers from an illness.

Knill has seen the free-falling Gulls draw their last two games, both away, at Southend United and Dagenham & Redbridge. The Plainmoor team haven’t won since a 1-0 victory in their derby game at Exeter City 12 games ago. They sat in 13th spot after that win, they were in eighth last time they won at home, back in December.

United will be without former Spireite favourite Aaron Downes, he’s suspended, whilst a League Two champion with Chesterfield two years ago, Ian Morris, is injured, as is the experienced Craig Easton.

Blades loanee Jordan Chappell made his Gulls bow at the weekend and he’s expected to start tonight.

Cook said: “Every game is a challenge. Torquay have got in Rene Howe and one or two other players at the top end who are threats. You know, lads who score goals at this level. Obviously they’re not on a great run. Alan’s [Knill] been bought in to sort of stop that little bit of a rot.

“Torquay are fighting for their lives, we’re under no illusions about how difficult is going to be. But I think every football game is a must-win.”

Chesterfield will be without striker Armand Gnanduillet. The big Frenchman missed out at Oxford after breaking down in training a couple of days before. Cook has indicated he’ll be out for two to three weeks and his loss will be significant.

Left-back Nathan Smith, a frontrunner for the Player of the Season Award, will miss out with an ankle injury that forced him off in the opening third of the game at the Kassam Stadium. Craig Clay (hernia) is the only other injury issue, though there will be bumps and bruises to work off from the weekend game.

Cook’s selection headaches will involve his right and left sides. Richard Brindley, exhausted after the Oxford win, should continue at right-back whilst Tendayi Darikwa and Drew Talbot vie for the position ahead of him.

Danny Whitaker came in on the left of midfield when Smith limped off, Conor Townsend moved to left-back and he’ll stay there. Whitaker will be under pressure from Darikwa and Talbot who can both operate on both flanks. Winger Alex Henshall is another who could come back into contention, but he’s looked much more effective after coming on as a sub rather than from the start of a game.

Torquay haven’t lost at home to Spireites in the last nine contests dating back to 1984.