Having passed the quarter mark of the season, enough football has been played to enable a mid-term report to have some meaning.
Without doubt, any report for Paul Cook’s Spireites would read along the lines of ‘doing really well, very popular with everyone but could, with just a little improvement, be close to the top of the class. Needs to improve concentration immediately after break time.’
Saturday’s come from behind draw against Lee Johnson’s Oldham Athletic, in many ways, summed up the campaign to date. Lovely football, commitment to attack but conceded straight after half-time then had the spirit to get back into the game.
Having made the step up to League One, Chesterfield have embraced everything that goes with it in some style and they’ve exceeded most expectations. But stats show it’s now only one win in six but you could easily argue that in all five of the non-won games, the team could have earned more reward.
In league game, when Spireites have scored first this season, they’ve won. When they’ve been behind, they’ve earned points in four of the seven such matches, showing the spirit and fight is present. But they’re forming a worrying pattern of conceding in the first few minutes of the second half.
MK Dons at home, a 1-0 defeat, Scunthorpe at home, the game that saw the quality of football and entertainment start to reach new levels, witnessed Paddy Madden score on 46 before Spireites came back to win 4-1. Doncaster away, a battling 3-2 loss, for Bristol City, repeat the Doncaster words, and now Oldham, who won a penalty on 47 after seeing Dominic Poleon head within a whisker in the previous minute, all augment the unwanted and frustrating pattern.
Nevertheless, putting aside the patterns and the frustrations, watching this Chesterfield side week in, week out, is a privilege and the fans are lapping it up.
The entertainment intensity continues to be of the highest order and it’s beginning to approach the levels of the 1979-80 & 1980-81 sides of Arthur Cox and Frank Barlow for sheer quality as well.
Those two seasons, the best in Spireites living memory at level three for ‘watchability,’ featured a midfield including the likes of magician Alan Birch, the sweet left foot of Geoff Salmons, the guile and vision of Phil Bonnyman, to be joined in the second of those seasons by young powerhouse Danny Wilson.
Behind them, the combination of Bill Green and John Ridley, in front of them, all-time hero Ernie Moss with Phil Walker and Alan Crawford for company; a great team who played great football.
Paul Cook’s side, if they can become a little bit more streetwise and a bit tighter at the back, could soon be rivaling that era.
Cook, unsurprisingly selected an unchanged team following the heart-breaking defeat at Ashton Gate. Oldham, entering the game unbeaten in ten in all competitions, made one forced change, ex-Blade Jonathan Forte, fully recovered from injury, replacing recalled by Bolton striker Conor Wilkinson.
Right from the off, the game settled into an easy on the eye, up-tempo rhythm. Latics tested Tommy Lee whilst the hosts did the same to Paul Rachubka whilst Ian Evatt and Sam Clucas put in efforts a smidgeon off target as the first half ended goalless having being breathless.
The half time talking point surrounded Athletic defender Brian Wilson, booked early on and he subsequently and deliberately bundled over Sam Morsy as he prepared to enter the box. No second card though, why? God Only Knows!
Poleon’s header just wide 40 seconds after the restart looked to have got the early bird heebie-jeebies out of the way. However just a minute later, the busy Liam Kelly did well down the right, fed ex-Blade and son of Tony, Danny Philliskirk, who went over when coming in contact with Georg Margreitter’s boot.
The contact was there, the contact was minimal, the referee was well positioned, the decision was, at best, 50-50. After the usual couple of minutes of posturing and waiting, Forte stepped up to convert the 12 yarder, low and down the middle.
It didn’t take long for parity to be restored. Clucas, tight on the left touchline, slipped the ball to Dan Jones, he found Morsy. The midfield dynamo surveyed his options before playing short to Gary Roberts who showed why he’s such an important asset. His instinctive, first touch flick over the central defenders was divine. Gambling, Clucas continued his run into the box, and stuck out a long left leg to volley the ball home from the edge of the six, a well crafted goal of real quality.
The leveller was followed by half an hour or more of Chesterfield chance, Oldham chance, great passing, great running off the ball, great desire to win by both sides in an excellent atmosphere. It would have been harsh for either side to have conceded but the hosts always looked the most likely scorers, a slide rule cross from Daniel Johnson just eluding 15 goal leading scorer Eoin Doyle being the closest to a winner. Doyle said in the dressing room afterwards that he should have converted from that position.
Cook said afterwards: “A draw was probably a fair result. It’s just disappointing to concede a goal just after half-time yet again. We’re making the same mistakes at the moment and that’s what’s costing us more points than we’ve got. We’re a nice team, we’re a good team winning lots of plaudits but we want to win more games and we’re not doing it just at the moment.”
Chesterfield (4-2-3-1): Lee 8; Darikwa 6, Evatt 7, Margreitter 6, Jones 7 (Gnanduillet 66, 6); Morsy 7, Ryan 7; Roberts 7 (O’Shea 85), Johnson 6 (Gardner 88), Clucas 7; Doyle. Subs: Hunt, Raglan, Banks, Boco.
Goal: Clucas 57
Oldham (4-3-3): Rachubka 7; B.Wilson 7 (Kusunga 90), J.Wilson 7, Dieng 6, Mills 7; Winchester 7 (Dayton 73), Jones 6, Kelly 8; Philliskirk 6, Forte 7, Poleon 6 (Ibehre 64, 6). Subs: Coleman, Brown, Tidser, Turner
Goal: Forte (pen) 49
Ref: Geoff Eltringham (Durham)
Bookings: Evatt, Gardner (Chesterfield), B.Wilson, Dieng, Poleon
Attendance: 7130 (1028 from Oldham)