I like to think of myself as a rational person who can assess a situation and come to a sensible conclusion of what the outcome is likely to be. This sensible and rational approach goes totally and utterly out of the window when it comes to this thing called football.
I had looked at Chesterfield’s remaining fixtures before the home game against Scunthorpe United and still believed the club could survive this season. The basis of this belief was upcoming matches against fellow struggling opposition, fixtures the Spireites were more than capable of winning, or so I believed. The plan began with a victory against one of our relegation rivals in Scunthorpe before heading to Walsall for three points next weekend, finally capping a momentous three victories in nine days with a home win against Wycombe.
Due to me only living a Neal Trotman clearance away from Glanford Park, it was a game I was really looking forward to and had been all season. My daily commute with fans of the Iron and my son going to school with mini-irons meant we had a lot resting on the game.
The defeat at Sheffield United the Wednesday before, which was not a huge surprise only three days after the trip to Wembley, had made this game an even bigger ‘must win.’ The run in had given me a lifeline to hold on to – unless Chesterfield were totally cut adrift at the bottom of the league, we had every chance of getting out of the bottom four. This game was the first of that run in, against a side who had struggled all season having been relegated from the Championship last term.
The team John Sheridan put out was arguably our strongest other than Jack Lester who was missing through injury. His replacement being the in-form Craig Westcarr who scored that memorable goal in the final at Wembley.
A surprise in the Scunthorpe starting eleven was the exclusion of ‘The Beast’ Jon Parkin. A shrewd loan acquisition by Alan Knill in the January transfer window from Cardiff City, that had improved Scunthorpe’s forward line and who’s goals since joining had helped them pull away from the relegation zone. I still have no idea why he wasn’t picked to play or even as a substitute, did something happen behind the scenes? Time will reveal.
Chesterfield started well and controlled the game, winning the ball and more importantly keeping hold of it through good work from Mark Allot and Alex Mendy in midfield. After 15 minutes, it looked like there was only ever going to be one winner of this game and the team were not from North Lincolnshire. The good start continued and on 21 minutes, Craig Westcarr closed down a Scunthorpe defender to win the ball, race through on goal and slot the ball past their on rushing keeper. A deserved lead provided by a striker obviously hitting form.
From the opening goal going in, something seemed to change immediately within the team. No longer were they keeping hold of the ball and finding passes they had been only minutes earlier. The sloppy passing and unforced errors were back. You would have thought the goal would give the team confidence and that little bit of swagger, but we have seen very little of this season. Instead of pushing for more goals and putting the game beyond our visitors, the team seemed to panic in possession. Scunthorpe obviously capitalised and got themeslves back into the game.
Everybody in the ground could feel the equaliser coming and it arrived on 27 minutes. Some neat build up play from Scunthorpe, including what looked like a handball from McAleny, resulted in Robertson’s left foot strike from close range, 1-1.
We now needed half time to come and allow the team to regroup before starting the second half like they had the first. Did the team realise that defeat today would more or less seal their fate? Thousands of Chesterfield fans were hoping so to keep the great escape alive. It was time for Sheridan and is coaching staff to remind them.
What followed in the second half was one of, if not the worst half of football I’ve seen from Chesterfield all season. A very average Scunthorpe side bossed the game and played as if this was their home and they could do with the ball whatever they wanted. The travelling Iron fans probably could not believe what they were seeing as goal after goal hit the back of the home net, right in front of the away end. I could only think how good it must have been being a Scunthorpe fan for those 45 minutes. It was certainly better than how I was feeling, League One football was disappearing before my very eyes.
The match finished 1-4 with Scunthorpe worthy winners. The inevitable ‘Sheridan out’ chants came from the home end before the fans trudged off home knowing Chesterfield were all but relegated. Conversely I casually looked back as I left the East stand to see Alan Knill milking the applause from the away end, this result nudged Scunthorpe towards guaranteeing their League One status.
Myself and Freddie were devastated at the loss and decided to remove the Spireites scarf from the window and hide it away in the glove box. The drive back to Scunthorpe was going to be a long one, a little longer than usual.
My three game plan had fallen at the first hurdle, only a miracle can now prevent Sheridan’s men from relagtion back to League Two in what only seems like a flash since they escaped it. Walsall away next and my irational thoughts returned, with the possibility of winnng all six remaining games. Please bartender, kick me out of this last chance saloon!
Written by Dean Mansell, We Are Going Up’s Chesterfield Blogger & editor of the Away End website
Dean tweets at @awayend