ANALYSIS: How the Spireites treated TV audience to a Sunday roast of the Magpies
Football fans up and down the country were scratching their heads over Sunday dinner and asking why Chesterfield are in the League Two drop zone.
The second-bottom Spireites treated Sky TV viewers to a footballing feast in a comprehensive 3-1 beating of fourth placed Notts County.
Out of possession, Chesterfield were terriers, chasing down the Magpies’ defensive line and stopping them from playing long, accurate balls up to their dangerous front two.
Instead of causing trouble for the hosts, Shola Ameobi and Jon Stead had to pull out wide and try to pick up scraps from the hurried clearances sent in their general direction.
Even when Notts did give their forwards something to jump for, Sid Nelson and Alex Whitmore were more than just competitive, aggressively battling their far more experienced opponents.
When the Spireites had the ball, which was often, they were bright, quick and creative.
Crucially, their performance included two attributes that have been lacking from so many games this season – clinical finishing and mental toughness.
Jack Lester’s side were in dreamland by the break, 2-0 up against a bunch of bewildered Notts players.
Andy Kellett, who was a thorn in the Notts side all afternoon, whipped in a dangerous corner that might just have been helped on with the slightest touch by Drew Talbot for centre-half Nelson to chest home.
It was his first goal in Town colours and his celebrations showed exactly how much it meant.
Six minutes before the interval, Kristian Dennis and Zavon Hines persisted and persisted to block and harry the Notts defence until the ball broke to kinds for Hines and he finished with aplomb.
That, too, was his first goal for Chesterfield and it appeared to give him an injection of confidence because he gave the visitors a torrid time after that.
The second half was largely a repeat of the first, Notts struggling in possession, finding themselves out-played, out-fought and out-thought.
Louis Reed pulled the strings and Robbie Weir screened the back four, while the likes of Talbot and Jacob Brown added endless energy, aerial strength and much needed bite.
Returning from a two game ban, Reed showed everything Town had been missing in his absence, calmly stroking the ball around, skipping around opponents when he had to and zipping diagonal balls to the flanks to stretch Notts.
The visitors were rarely able, or seemingly willing, to put any pressure on the ball and Reed was almost always able to find a man – Kellett in particular benefitting, thanks to his knack of finding pockets of space.
It wouldn’t be Chesterfield if it was all plain sailing, however, ex-Spireite Dan Jones introducing nerves to the equation in the final minutes with a goal from a fine curling free-kick.
Ameobi might just have got the faintest of touches with his hair, but it was all about the quality of the delivery.
Home supporters and maybe even Lester himself would have been forgiven for fearing the worst – given late lapses in several games this season.
But this time, there was no collapse.
Even the addition of nine extra minutes failing to provoke anything like panic in the home ranks.
Chesterfield not only held on but increased their lead in stoppage time.
They had already gone close through a Brown header when a defensive error, caused by Dennis’ presence, put Kellett in the clear and he was felled in the box.
Dennis was the coolest man in the ground, sending Adam Collin the wrong way to spark delirium in the Kop and bring the Spireites to within three points of Grimsby, over whom they have two games in hand.
It was a comprehensive beating and the Magpies can feel fortunate to have got away without conceding a couple more.
Chesterfield, again, left us all baffled as to how well they can play in games against the more successful teams in this division.
More importantly, they’ve put the ball firmly in Grimsby and Port Vale’s courts and shown there’s fight in the old dog yet.
Chesterfield: Ramsdale 7, Barry 7, Talbot 8, Whitmore 8, Nelson 8, Reed 9, Weir 8 (McCourt 84), Hines 8 (Smith 90), Kellett 8, Brown 8, Dennis 8. Subs: Anyon, O’Grady, Dodds, Maguire, Kay.
Notts County: Collin 7; Tootle 5, Duffy 6, Brisley 6, Dickinson 5 (Jones 80); Hawkridge 5 (Alessandra 54), Hewitt 5, Noble 5 (Virtue 72), Grant 5; Stead 5, Ameobi 5. Subs: Fitzsimons, Jones, Husin, Smith, Forte.
Referee: Sebastian Stockbridge.
Assistants: Steven Plane, Paul Newhouse.
Goalscorers: Nelson 16, Hines 39, Dennis 90; Jones 85
Yellows: Whitmore 82; Stead 63
Attendance: 6,005 (1,411 away).