Spireites suffer a blip on title trail
Spireites had a bad day at Edgar Street.
Not only did they slump to their biggest defeat of the season, but they also lost defender Gregor Robertson with what has initially been reported as a ruptured achilles tendon.
The Scot, who came back from a bad leg break and a year out earlier this season, will see a specialist today to confirm the diagnosis, which if verified will mean a recovery of up to six months.
John Sheridan left out Mark Allott, bringing in Scott Griffiths but he left in Jack Lester for his first away start since the beginning of January.
However right from the off, Hereford United looked hungrier.
Having had three points deducted for fielding an ineligible player, Bulls were desperate to make amends and pull themselves away from the dreaded drop zone.
It took them just 10 minutes to take the lead, when lone striker Stuart Fleetwood headed home from close range and they cemented the points in the final fifteen minutes with two crackerjacks from Steve Leslie and Joe Colbeck.
Hereford had the game’s frst chance as Colbeck headed wide but they didn’t have to wait too long to seize the advantage.
Leslie gathered the ball on the left and managed to squeeze the ball across, despite pressure from Dwayne Mattis. Colbeck headed back across the face of goal for Fleetwood to nod in before Dean Holden could get close on him.
It was the striker’s 17th goal of the season and Hereford’s first goal in close on six hours.
Joe McQuilkin forced Tommy Lee to save from distance, Fleetwood went close with a shot on the turn and a Colbeck hammer clipped Griffiths and flew inches wide in a first half that spawned only half-chances for Spireites.
The league leaders flew out of the traps at the start of the second half. Craig Davies’s box-edge angled shot hit the foot of the post, a 20-yarder from the leading scorer was gathered by keeper Adam Bartlett and Dean Morgan left- footed just over.
Sheridan then made a couple of changes, introducing Scott Boden, who missed a couple of late headers, and Allott but within minutes the manager’s plans were shot when Robertson pulled up with his injury.
The long break while the 27 -year-old received treatment allowed Hereford to regroup and they stepped up again and Fleetwood almost nipped in after Mattis dwelled too long on the ball.
The result was all but confirmed when Leslie hammered in from 30 yards for his first goal for Hereford, a move that began with a wasted short corner routine from Spireites.
The home side scored their third in the 81st minute when another Chesterfield attack went wrong. Deane Smalley’s run forward ended with him being dispossessed and Colbeck picked up inside his own half. The former Bradford City wide man ran and ran, unchallenged, to the edge of the penalty area from where he fired beyond Lee to send the home fans into dreamland.
Shrewsbury Town’s defeat at Aldershot Town means that a Spireites win at home to Macclesfield Town next week could lead to the maths about promotion being redundant, but only if Graham Turner’s men drop points in their home match against rock bottom Stockport County.
Sheridan was bemused about his side’s show: “Sometimes you struggle to explain a performance like that.
“First and foremost, I’ll apologise to the fans that went to Hereford for a performance like that.
“I don’t care if we’re top of the league, it’s about how you play.
“I’ll accept getting beaten but it’s how you go about getting beaten and we didn’t merit anything from the game.
“Hereford wanted it more than us.”
Spireites’ last two defeats were both followed by stunning performances, to see off Wycombe and Rotherham, and the manager will be demanding another show of note on Saturday.