Paul Cook heaped praise on his Chesterfield side after they ran out comfortable 4-0 winners against Bury - their biggest victory of the season.
The Spireites got their noses in front early on when the returning Gary Roberts nipped in at the far post to bag his sixth of the campaign.
Their task was made that much easier when Danny Mayor was shown a straight red card for a high tackle on Matty Brown just before the break.
Such was the home side’s dominance a second goal looked certain to kill off what little threat the Shakers possessed, following the sending-off.
Chances came and went during an action-packed second period before man of the match Jay O’Shea unleashed a rocket from fully 30 yards into the top corner.
Brian Jensen, in the visitors’ goal, had no chance of keeping it out and it would become an all too familiar feeling as the afternoon wore on.
Controversy surrounded the third as the linesman flagged Marc Richards offside. However, it emerged the last touch came off Bury substitute Tom Soares and the goal was rightfully awarded.
Chesterfield flooded forward at every given opportunity and looked in the kind of mood where they could score at will, something which had been lacking in recent weeks.
Nevertheless, the Spireites had battled through an injury-hit December and come out of it still in the top three, which is where they remain with leaders Scunthorpe and second-placed Burton both recording wins.
New recruit Dan Gardner, from Halifax Town, came off the bench to score the fourth and make it a memorable debut for the 23-year-old with his first goal in the Football League.
There was still time for Armand Gnanduillet to show what technical abilities he possesses, alongside his brute strength, with a spectacular scissor kick which flashed just wide of the post. It would have crowned off what was a five-star performance from Chesterfield.
It was a display which saw the Spireites answer the manager’s pleas for them to get back to the dominant force they were at the beginning of the season, which saw them steamroll through their first eight games.
Cook said: “We played well today. I’m really pleased to get three points because that’s what’s about and we move on to a crucial stage of the season where three points becomes vital in every game.
“Certainly our performance was very, very good against a strong Bury side. I’m glad we’ve played them twice now because I do think they will have an upturn in fortunes because they’ve got some very good players.”
The Chesterfield manager made seven changes to his last starting line-up which featured almost two weeks ago against Dagenham and Redbridge. And the difference between the two performances wasn’t lost on him.
“Sometimes when you’re without your good players you can forget how much damage they can do,” he said. “Nowadays every result gets over-analysed.
“Football is about players and when you’ve got good football players, we’ve got a lot of them at the club, and get them on the same pitch you seem to get good results so there is a message there for everyone.”
Bury, managed by former Barnsley boss David Flitcroft, set up with two in attack and clearly felt they could get something from the game which saw two sides with similar form prior to kick-off. Both had taken nine points from a possible 18.
“Bury came to win the game and allowed us to move the ball,” added Cook. “When everyone gets behind the ball and camps out on the edge of the 18-yard box, it is a lot harder to penetrate. That’s not a criticism, it’s just something that we’ve faced. I’ll leave the debates (on formations) to everyone else and I’ll concentrate on managing the club.
“I’m very proud of the lads tonight because it was probably our strongest performance of the season.”
The pick of the goals came from O’Shea, who dedicated his wonder-strike to his late friend, David Spain.
Cook added: “Jay’s a good player who needs to get in those areas of the pitch more because when he does things happen for him. Today was one of those days.”
His scintillating performance, accompanied by 13 other blue shirts, sent the majority of the 6,053 in the Proact Stadium home happy.
And there was no-one happier following the match than Gardner. He said: “I can’t ask for anymore from the debut. I enjoyed every minute of it. I could have had a few more goals but I’ll take the one.”
The man who arrived just a week ago from FC Halifax Town where he was playing part-time found himself in acres of space as he advanced towards the Bury goal.
Rather than passing, the new professional had the confidence to take it on himself and got his rewards after his shot deflected up off Jensen and looped in to the goal.
“It felt like ten minutes for the ball to come down, but it finally went in so I was over the moon,” he added. “We have got a great squad here and the team spirit is very good. It’s a good place to be.”
A Spireites XI will travel to Borrowash Vics on Wednesday for a Derbyshire Senior Cup quarter-final.