This was as good a day as the previous Saturday was bad.
Seven days earlier Spireites conceded late on against a very ordinary Newport side to drop two points while Scunthorpe won as did chasers Fleetwood and Burton. The mood around the Proact was somewhat depressing.
Fast forward a week, a change in formation and four changes in personnel as the Spireites came from behind to win for only the third time this season. Paul Cook’s men were the only top six side to win. Job done, joy returns.
Liam Cooper’s leveller and Eoin Doyle’s excellent 11th goal of the season, which turned out to be the winner, more than cancelled out Luke James’s left-footer, scored on 24 minutes totally against the run of play.
Five points ahead of the pack with just four games remaining means that statistical certainty of promotion could be achieved as early as Easter Monday at Dagenham & Redbridge. To make that a possibility, Spireites will need to come out of Good Friday’s home game against relegation-threatened Exeter City with a lead of at least four points over fourth spot. In reality, beat Exeter and, in all but the minds of mathematicians and pessimists, it’ll be mission accomplished.
Fleetwood play Cheltenham (a) and struggling Wycombe (h) over the holiday weekend while, a point behind them, Burton are at home to Hartlepool and away at Newport.
Cook, serving the second game of his two-match touchline ban, opted to leave Gary Roberts, Jay O’Shea and Hartlepool record appearance holder Ritchie Humphreys on the bench while Jimmy Ryan was suspended, his first of two misses. Recalled were wide man Dan Gardner, who went on to affect the game significantly, striker Marc Richards, Sam Hird, who played in central midfield, and, for a first run-out in since January, left-back Nathan Smith.
On the bench for the first time was 17 year old striker Jake Beesley, son of former Blades defender Paul.
The manager opted for a 4-4-2 formation and the Spireites started brightly, keeping the ball well and regularly threatening Andy Rafferty’s goal for the hosts, who went into the game having lost four on the bounce.
That counted for nothing as Jack Barmby slipped the ball through to James who took one touch with his right foot before left-footing beyond Tommy Lee from the right corner of the penalty area.
Just six minutes later, parity was restored. Gardner’s right-wing corner was knocked down by Ian Evatt and Cooper stretched out a leg to stab the ball home from close in.
Pools occasionally raided but Lee has had fewer quieter games this season while the Spireites build up several heads of steam, earned ten corners and were, from first to last whistles, clearly the better side.
Three minutes after the break Doyle lifted a superb shot above defence and keeper.
Daniel Kearns had switched play from left to right, Gardner received and passed a simple but pragmatic ball to the Irishman, who subsequently celebrated right in front of the 553 travelling fans.
Doyle had three more good chances, two were hit wide and one saved, but Lee was largely redundant as the visitors eased through to a massive three confidence-boosting points.
Goals: James 24 (Hartlepool); Cooper 30, Doyle 48 (Chesterfield).
Hartlepool (4-4-2): Rafferty 7; Duckworth 6, Harrison 6, Collins 7, Hoden 8; Barmby 6 (Poole 60, 6), Walker 5 (Oliver 80), Walton 7, Compton 6 (Franks 62, 5); James 7, Harewood 5. Subs (not used): Flinders, Richards, Jones, Hawkins.
Chesterfield (4-4-2): Lee 6; Darikwa 7, Evatt 8, Cooper 7, Smith 7; Gardner 7 (Roberts 57, 7), Morsy 9, Hird 8, Kearns 6 (Humphreys 60, 6); Doyle 7, Richards 6 (Gnanduillet 80). Subs (not used): Dunbavin, Togwell, O’Shea, Beesley.
Referee: Eddie Ilderton (Tyne & Wear).
Bookings: Evatt (Chestefield); Walker (Hartlepool).
Attendance: 3, 778.