Chesterfield kept pace at the top of League Two with a first league win on home soil in ten weeks.
First half headers from Ollie Banks and Armand Gnanduillet sealed a solid if not spectacular win over a spirited Wycombe Wanderers side, who refused to throw in the towel.
So many times in recent weeks have the Spireites faithful seen an opposition side line up without a recognised striker on the pitch. How refreshing it was, then, for Gareth Ainsworth to name two in attack as the Chairboys boss put faith in the same players that overcame League One strugglers, Crewe Alexandra, on Tuesday night in an FA Cup first round replay.
Chesterfield, who had no such problems advancing through to the second round of the competition against Daventry Town a fortnight ago, prefer teams to have a go. An open game suits the style of play Paul Cook has instilled in to his squad. It served them well at the beginning of the season, and so it proved again on Saturday.
The Spireites were clinical where their opponents were not.
Banks’ opener came just moments after the visitors had squandered a chance presented to them following a defensive mix-up in the hosts’ penalty area. Liam Cooper came to the rescue to block Steven Craig’s effort from close range.
Chesterfield went down the other end and Jay O’Shea’s inviting centre from the right attracted the interest of Banks, who had stolen a march on the Wycombe defenders. The 21-year-old wanted it more and his desire to meet the ball paid dividends as his powerful header sailed past Matt Ingram in the visitors’ goal. That’s four in three for the midfielder.
Ainsworth’s side were forcing one or two errors in the Spireites’ back line, who were again let off the hook when Billy Knott’s effort was partially blocked before Stuart Lewis sliced high and wide from the edge of the area.
It proved costly, as the hosts again made them pay.
Gnanduillet had a running start over the Wycombe defenders to meet Roberts’ out-swinging corner with force and head Chesterfield in to a 2-0 lead at the break. It took the wind out of the visitors’ sails and gave the Spireites something to protect.
On a day that saw Tommy Lee wear the armband on his 200th league game for Chesterfield, the stopper was back to his commanding best. He barely had a shot to save all game but when he was called upon early in the second half, there was a feeling it was going to be his day.
The chance for Wycombe came when Knott and Craig played a neat interchange inside the penalty area which saw the former with a clear sight of goal. Knott’s first touch set him up perfectly to slide the ball across goal, but Lee quickly narrowed the angle and made the save.
Had it gone in, on another day, the second half could have taken a very different shape.
“I thought his (Lee’s) concentration levels were really good, to save that it helps to develop everyone’s confidence so I was really pleased for him today,” said Spireites first team coach, Kevin Lynch, shortly after the full time whistle.
“He’s a great ambassador and a great professional. He’ll remember this day for a long time to come and thoroughly deserved the clean sheet.”
Ainsworth has assembled a young team who are comfortable in possession and it showed during an encouraging second half display from the visitors. Chesterfield, however, were resolute in seeing the game out and held Wycombe at arm’s length for the majority of the match.
Lynch said: “They had the majority of the play second half without really hurting us. It was a professional job that the players have done. The objective was to get the three points and we’ve carried it out, so we’re really pleased.”
The form guide shows Chesterfield have won their last four in all competitions, so have Cook’s side turned the corner following a run that brought three defeats from four in the league?
“Sometimes you lose your way every now and again, but I don’t think the belief and the confidence ever really left us,” added Lynch.
“Sometimes you look at different ways of playing. That’s the third game we’ve had the same team and that’s helped continuity of the players playing in those same positions. You’ve got to stick to your beliefs and I think we’ve done that and now we’re getting the rewards.”
Wycombe’s miserable run at the Proact Stadium continues, with the Chairboys having never won at Chesterfield since the Spireites moved in 2010.
Nevertheless, it was an important win for the hosts who remain on the same number of points as table toppers, Oxford United, who won 3-0 at home to Morecambe, and third-placed, Rochdale, who beat Exeter at home 3-1.
Tuesday night’s visitors to the Proact Stadium, Northampton, remain rock-bottom after a 2-0 defeat on the road to Hartlepool United.