CHESTERFIELD moved five points clear of the field and nine away from fourth spot with a ground-out result against resolute Stevenage.

Drew Talbot scored the only goal and, like many of his, it was a cracker. With the half-time break looming and Chesterfield, playing reasonably but struggling to stamp any meaningful authority on the game, Mark Allott nicked the ball off Stacy Long.

As he does, the midfield general played a simple ball to pick out Simon Ford, having his best game at right-back, and the defender copied that straightforward pass routine to find Talbot, tight on the right touchline.

The scorer of last term's Goal of the Season, who's enjoying a purple patch of form at the moment, cut inside. The defence held off and, from just outside the right corner of the box, he hammered a low shot, left-footed, to beat keeper Chris Day's outstretched left arm. Another contender.

The goal forced Borough to expand their game, and they looked a decent side pushing forwards, but lacked the killer touch of a Jack Lester or a Craig Davies, but at no stage did they lack fitness and endeavour.

Manager Graham Westley had used something his opposite number, John Sheridan, had said following the autumn goalless draw at Broadhall Way to gee up his troops. The Spireites boss commented that Stevenage had looked like "the England bodybuilding XI", ironically in a complimentary rather than derogatory way.

However, Stevenage, reputed to have the toughest training regime in League Two, lived up to their reputation. On arrival at the B2net Stadium, every visiting player was given a gym mat on the pitch, tracksuited up, to do a ten-minute exercise routine.

The mood was frequently lightened during the schedule when the strong wind, that went on to badly affect the game, kept blowing away the mats every time a player took his weight off one.

Several players' post-match routine was impinged on. The FA's random drug-testing squad was in town to check all was above board!

Chesterfield's president, The Duke of Devonshire, was watching his first game at the B2net Stadium, and he could well have been wishing he was back at Chatsworth cataloguing his art collection as the Spireites toiled against the wind and determined opponents.

Stevenage, with the division's meanest travelling defence, saw Davies hook a ball high from a Ford cross and they showed occasional attacking flair. Tommy Lee had to stretch to palm away a Michael Bostwick long-ranger.

Moments after scoring, Talbot saw a volley blocked by Scott Laird, back in action after being floored by a supporter after his side's famous victory over Newcastle a week earlier in the FA Cup.

Darius Charles replaced Peter Winn at the break and the sub, along with an approach change, gave the visitors hope. Lee had to work hard to deny the sub and also Chris Beardsley but they continued to look goal-shy.

Chesterfield sub Deane Smalley, unlucky to be dropped after scoring in the previous two games, almost got a third immediately after his introduction when he picked up a scuffed Day goal-kick but lost control of the ball as he bore down one on one.

Danny Whitaker saw Day save well from a quickly-taken free-kick and the same player curled a shot inches wide of the far post in stoppage time as the Spireites tried to take advantage of the gaps left as Stevenage pushed more bodies forward.

The final whistle was greeted with relief by the noisy home fans, who've seen their side bounce back to register four wins and a draw in the last five games following their November wobble.

Sheridan concluded: "We were expecting a hard game; they're a big, physically strong side who get the ball forward early, get around you.

"But, first half, we played really well in what was a battle. I'd said we needed to win the battle and then try and play. We got ourselves in a winning position with a great goal from Drew and that gave us something to hold on to."

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