In Gary Roberts, Chesterfield have recruited a clever manipulator of a football and an attacking player capable of unlocking tight rearguards.
Much will be expected of the Liverpudlian, brought in by Spireites boss Paul Cook on a free transfer last month, when the 2013/14 season gets underway next month. The early signs are promising, though, and point to Roberts adding a new dimension to Chesterfield’s forward line.
Cook deployed Roberts, Jay O’Shea and Tendayi Darikwa just behind lone striker Marc Richards in a 4-2-3-1 formation in their 2-1 pre-season friendly victory over Huddersfield Town. Roberts, predominantly left footed, kept on swapping positions with O’Shea and Darikwa. The trio linked up well together and the visitors struggled to contain them.
Roberts was arguably the biggest plus Chesterfield could take from their first home warm-up match. The 29-year-old quickly won over his new public by putting the Derbyshire side 1-0 ahead in the eighth minute as he fired home from close range after Darikwa’s cross was only half cleared. Roberts played an instrumental role in Huddersfield gaining promotion, via the play-offs, to the Championship in 2012 and downplayed his celebrations out of respect for his former club.
Kevin Lynch, the Spireites first-team coach, said: “Gary is going to be a crowd favourite. His goal summed him up against Huddersfield and we were really pleased with him. I think he will excite this division.
“A lot of players in our dressing room can learn from him. He is going to be a massive part of us going forward. The players around him will only get better. That’s what happens when you play with good players.
“Gary is good around the dressing room. He has great ability. He has really trained hard. He is a model professsional and our younger players can really take a lot from him.”
Despite taking the lead through Roberts, who was given a rapturous reception by the Huddersfield fans before kick-off, Chesterfield’s joy was short-lived as the visitors equalised in the 11th minute thanks to Danny Ward. The skilful winger, who had moments earlier been denied by a superb stop from Tommy Lee, cut in from the right flank before unleashing a powerful left foot shot which deflected in off Liam Cooper.
Both sides produced plenty of attractive, intricate passing football in hot conditions with just wayward finishing letting them down. Ward and James Vaughan fired narrowly wide when well-placed while at the other end Alex Smithies brilliantly dived to his left to keep out Roberts’ free-kick.
Chesterfield made four changes after the break while Huddersfield fielded an entirely new side. Eoin Doyle, one of Chesterfield’s substitutes, should have made it 2-1 in the 52nd minute after collecting Roberts lovely pass but his weak effort from 10 yards went straight at Ian Bennett.
Just before the hour, Spireites made three more substitutions and trialist Jamie Devitt was one of the players to enter the action. The midfielder enhanced his hopes of a contract after he curled in a delightful free-kick from 25 yards.
“Jamie is a fantastic player,” said Lynch. “He conducts himself really well in training. He has done his chances no harm.”
As Chesterfield continued to dominate, fellow subtitute Armand Gnanduillet tried his luck from distance with Bennett comfortably hanging on to his effort. With 16 minutes left, Gnanduillet, who netted last week against Buxton, raced on to a long ball, shrugging off a challenge from Spireites old boy Liam Ridehalgh and looked destined to increase their advantage after rounding Bennett. However, the Worksop-born shot-stopper somehow scrambled back to palm Gnanduillet’s low strike to safety.
Huddersfield piled on the pressure late on but Calum Woods, James Spencer and Jordan Sinnott failed to keep their composure in front of goal as the Spireites hung on for a deserved and morale-boosting win.
Lynch added: “It was an excellent workout; we got out of the game exactly what we wanted. We are really pleased with the players fitness and energy levels.
“We can take positives from the game but we can’t get too carried away. We have beaten a Championship team but we need to focus on August 3. There is still plenty of work to be done.”
Chesterfield welcome Nottingham Forest to the Proact Stadium tomorrow night, kick-off 7.30pm.
Chesterfield: Lee; Talbot (Cakin 62), Hird (Brown HT), Cooper (Broadhead 75), Humphreys (Shaw 59); Ryan (Togwell HT), Morsy (Clifford 59) Darikwa, O’Shea (Doyle HT); Roberts (Devitt 59), Richards (Gnanduillet HT).
Huddersfield (first half): Smithies; Hunt, Wallace, Lynch, Carroll; Southern, Clayton; Ward, Patterson, Hammill; Vaughan.
(Second half): Bennett; Woods, Smith, Ridehalgh, Dixon; Sinnott, Norwood; Scannell, Higginbotham, Spencer, Crooks (Carr 69).
Referee: Jason Whiteley (West Yorks).