THE Spireites' show at Roots Hall underlined John Sheridan's team's promotion credentials.

With leading scorer Craig Davies at home in bed with flu and Jack Lester rested on the bench, the manager selected a team that had every Chesterfield connection scratching their heads wondering 'where are the goals going to come from?'

Twenty minutes into the game the thoughts had changed to 'genius team selection!'

At the game's conclusion, with three goals scored in an away game for the first time in 11 months, there were few at the ground who felt theSpireites weren't certs for the step up come May. The view was reinforced as other results plus a blank weekend for some rivals left the B2net club five points clear at the top of the table.

The result wasn't as close as the scoreline suggests. Chesterfield strolled through the first half with as good a 45 minutes on the road as any under Sheridan. Though there were a few hairy moments after the Shrimpers pulled it back to 3-2 after 83 minutes, the visitors were never going to succumb to the sort of comeback they achieved themselves at Accrington five days earlier.

There were only three changes from the side that nicked a 2-2 draw at the Crown Ground, but it seemed like more.

Jack Hunt, architect of the increased impetus in the previous game when he came on as sub, got a start in what could be his last game for the club. His loan from Huddersfield Town has now ended.

Deane Smalley got his first league start for the Spireites and he rewarded his manager's faith with a goal and a man-of-the-match performance as the spearhead of a 4-3-3 formation.

The masterful Mark Allott returned to midfield after a hamstring injury and did what he does best, calmly running the centre of the park.

Add to those personnel changes the fact that Dwayne Mattis moved from central defence to midfield and 12-yard supremo Danny Whitaker played on the left of the attacking three and the starting line-up had a look unlike any of the previous 21 games in League Two this season. But it worked a treat.

With just 20 second played, Mattis should have scored. Whitaker's pass picked out the advancing skipper who should have beaten keeper Glenn Morris but the Southend man won a duel weighted against him.

However, Chesterfield didn't have to wait too long to take the lead. Hunt and Drew Talbot, surely the division's most consistent wide man this season, exchanged excellent passes and the right-back darted into the box only to be upended by Craig Easton. A penalty was rightly awarded.

Whitaker stepped up to beat Morris and take his goal tally to double figures eight days ahead of schedule. That's to say it's the quickest the 30 year old midfielder has ever reached 10 goals in a season, just over a week quicker than when he reached that target as a Macclesfield Town player in 2002-03.

The penalty hero turned provider soon after, planting a long ball right at the feet of Smalley, who picked it up just inside the Southend half. He then showed great close control and outpaced his two markers, calmly slotting the ball home.

It meant the man borrowed from Oldham Athletic had scored in consecutive games for the first time since 2008.

Tommy Lee had to make a fine one-handed stop to keep Ryan Hall's close-range shot at bay in the only first-half scare of note from Paul Sturrock's side.

United pulled one back out of the blue, but within four minutes of that the two goal cushion had been restored.

Chesterfield made a pig's ear of a clearance from a long throw and the ball came out to Easton who's hammered-in shot just clipped Hunt on the way through before going in off the post.

The fright was short term as Whitaker's shot was saved and, controlling the loose ball, Talbot was fouled by Hall. Whitaker was again spot on from 12 yards.

Lee had to make another good save to keep out a Barry Corr flicked shot ahead of the ex-Owls man being bundled over by Ian Breckin and converting from the spot himself.

United's predicted all-out attacking spell didn't ever look likely to penetrate the Chesterfield rearguard, only a couple of corners and an Anthony Grant cross causing any palpitations, and then only minor ones.

An excellent victory for England's top scorers, exactly the sort of performance that promotion seasons are built on.


We made it a bit difficult toward the end, it was a bit of a twitchy bum time, but I was very comfortable after we got a two-goal lead, though I'm disappointed with the goals we conceded.

The first goal gave them a bit of belief but luckily we managed to get a penalty soon after they'd scored that got us back into a 3-1 lead. Other than the final ten minutes, I thought it was a really good away display.

With the team selection, I just wanted to try and freshen things up a bit. I wasn't dropping anyone, it was a case of resting one or two and putting one or two in who might liven things up a bit and luckily it did. Deane Smalley played really well.

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