CHESTERFIELD travel to Oldham Athletic this evening in their quest to get to Wembley for the third time in the club’s history.
John Sheridan’s side have a 2-1 first -eg advantage over his former club in the Northern Final of the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy, so a draw or better will see Chesterfield underneath the arch.
They visited the old Twin Towers in 1990, Paul Hart’s side lost the first ever play-off final there to a Dion Dublin goal for Cambridge United. Five years later Tony Lormor and Phil Robinson scored in the 2-0 win over Bury to earn promotion for John Duncan.
Boundary Park is far from a happy hunting ground for Chesterfield - 17 defeats and seven draws in 25 league visits to the stadium. One of those losses, a 5-2 hammering earlier this season, is still fresh in everyone’s minds.
However, in cup ties, it’s been a happier place with two wins in three knockout games.
The downside of those two cup wins and one in the league is that every season that’s seen a Chesterfield victory it has been followed by relegation. Superstitious Spireites will therefore be hoping for a draw!
With three straight wins behind them, the Spireites will be going into the game with confidence.
Friday’s 1-0 triumph over play-off-chasing Bournemouth showed the progress the defence has made since that hammering at Boundary Park in November. Five of the starting line-up on that dark day are no longer at the B2net and only three survivors started the Bournemouth game three days ago.
Friday’s two stand-out players, Neal Trotman and scorer Liam Ridehalgh, are cup-tied. Simon Ford is most likely to come in at centre-half and there are plenty of options for the left-midfield slot. Craig Westcarr (ankle) and Dean Morgan (hamstring) have both been back in training and are contenders. So too are Alex Mendy and former Latic Danny Whitaker who were both subs in the last game.
Jordan Bowery may also get the nod ahead over Scott Boden to partner Jack Lester up front.
Jimmy Juan (calf) is unlikely to make it, with Saturday’s trip to Carlisle United a more likely target date for his return.
Oldham, without a game at the weekend, will be hoping four of their key men recover from injuries. Dean Furman, James Wesolowski, Robbie Simpson and Zander Diamond have all been on the treatment table. All four would be automatic starters.
Centre-back Diamond picked up his injury in the warm-up for the first leg in which Boden and a Whitaker penalty marked Chesterfield’s goals.
The Latics are without a win in 2012. That’s five winless games, two of them against Chesterfield: the first-leg game and a 1-1 draw at the B2net to start off the New Year.
Sheridan said: “I don’t really have to do a team talk. If we can get a result we play in a Wembley final. Not many players do that in their career.”
Keeper Tommy Lee, who kept the club’s first clean sheet in 25 games against Bournemouth, indicated the dressing room was buzzing. “We’ve been playing quite well and defending quite well recently. The game at Oldham is one we’re all looking forward to,” he said.
“It’s a break from the league; getting to Wembley is something we want to do, appearing in a final there. It would be a day out for the fans as well. They’ve stuck by us in a difficult season.”