Football can be a very cruel game. Having spent the vast majority of a season waiting for your team to start to play the football you believe they can, it finally happens when all but the smallest amount of hope remains. Chesterfield’s game at home to Wycombe which resulted in a resounding 4-0 victory, was exactly that performance. It unfortunately occurred the day most Spireites and probably every other fan in the division, thought our relegation back to League Two would be confirmed.
Going into the game, only a win would see John Sheridan’s side evade the trap door we’ve been fearing for the majority of the season. Wycombe on the other hand were buoyant following decent results of late, that had given them a more realistic chance than us of beating the drop. If ever a game was made for the term ‘six pointer’ then this was it.
Chesterfield started with a fresh looking line-up and a new 4-5-1 formation not seen at home all season. Sheridan was obviously rolling the dice with what he had left and decided to change things around. A centre midfield trio of Jimmy Juan, Franck Moussa and Mark Randall gave promise of at least holding our own in midfield. The ever improving Jordan Bowery leading the line on his own would have been frowned upon last season, but not this. His improvement has been there for all to see and I had no doubts in his ability to put in a performance.
From the first minute Chesterfield dominated possession. The midfield stamped it’s authority on the game with Juan winning the ball for Mark Randall and Franck Moussa to probe and try and find a way through the Wycombe defence. It was great to watch the team once again take care of the ball, reminiscent of many a game last season. I couldn’t help but think back to the same game towards the end of last season when Wycombe were pushing us for the title. Chesterfield came out 4-1 winners that day, in a similar type of display. From the way they had started this game, the outcome was heading the same way.
It was no surprise when the home side took the lead on 29 minutes. All too often this season, a ball bouncing around the 18 yard box has fallen to an opposition player to clear the danger. This time, a corner kick finally resulted in a piece of luck when the ball landed at Craig Westcarr’s feet a yard out and he couldn’t fail to score. The question now was would the good start continue or would the Spireites do a ‘Scunthorpe’ and revert back to the bad habits and mistakes of previous games?
Thankfully from the resulting kick off, the team carried on where they left off. The passing game had returned with Mark Randall showing the invention which had been so badly missed all season. Time after time he tried something a little bit different to try and create a chance for himself or somebody else.
Half time came with a much deserved 1-0 lead. It was very noticeable that John Sheridan had spent all the first half sat down on the corner seat of the benches. This was the first time I had ever seen him sat down during a game. His usual stance being arms folded at the edge of the technical area, shouting instructions to his troops. He had threatened this course of action during one of the post match interviews, but not actually carried it out until today. For whatever reason, it seemed to be working. I just hoped he’d stay sat down during the second half!
The team started the second period well. All that was required was that second goal to give Chesterfield a much-needed cushion. I was very surprised at how poor Wycombe had been. They came to to the b2net undefeated in nine and with some good results of late. I had expected a lot closer contest with maybe one goal between the sides, but I couldn’t have been more wrong. The second goal arrived within two minutes of the restart. Jimmy Juan played a lovely ball into Scott Boden who calmly laid it into the path of Franck Moussa. His resulting finish showed a quality held by a player destined for bigger things.
Goals from Alex Mendy, followed by a ‘Craig Davis special’ from Jordan Bowery, put the game well and truly beyond our visitors. Very good goals in themselves and not befitting a team staring relegation full in the face. The game was won and the relief could be felt all around the ground. For me, It was the performance of the season. A game we dominated from start to finish, with Tommy Lee’s goal very rarely threatened. One good and three great goals capped a fine display. To top the afternoon off, Walsall and Leyton Orient both lost, meaning Chesterfield were still in with a chance of survival, however slim that chance maybe.
The next game up was Hartlepool away. I couldn’t make the trip myself so a very tense listen on the radio lay ahead. Following the previous weeks performance, surely Sheridan would start with the same eleven, and that’s exactly what he did.
The first half didn’t go according to plan. Not only did the team go a goal behind but Leyton Orient took the lead away at Sheffield United. Was this going to be it? Was the great escape about to come to a disappointing end? Whatever Sheridan said at half time did the trick. What sounded like a far better performance in the second half led to a quality strike from Danny Whittaker, after only being on the pitch for two minutes as a second half substitute.
An assured finish with his left foot reminded Chesterfield fans of the ability he posses. He has been the unfortunate pantomime villain in recent weeks at the b2net. Pockets of the home support had decided to boo him before he even stepped out onto the pitch. There was no wonder his form and confidence have taken a dive, this would hopefully go some way to answering his critics.
On 69 minutes the Spireite fans prayers were answered. A great ball in from the left by Scott Boden was met by a clinical headed finish from Jordan Bowery. His eleventh goal of the season was enough to secure the three points and grace us at least another week in the division. Leyton Orient finally relented at the Lane and lost 3-1, while Walsall lost at home to Tranmere. This had turned out to be a great afternoon.
What we are now left with is a very simple formula. Win the remaining three games and hope either Leyton Orient or Walsall lose all theirs. It’s not quite the simple formula I made out as a combination of a draw for Chesterfield or Leyton Orient somewhere along the line could still mean we survive. What we cannot afford is a defeat. From being dead and buried, Sheridan and his side find themselves once again with a chance of beating the drop.
From good old football cliche’ land, we’ll take each game as it comes, starting with Rochdale at home. All we ask is a performance from the players like the one they served up against Wycombe. What we cannot affect is results elsewhere. Leyton Orient entertain Yeovil while play while Walsall travel to Exeter.
It would be a shame to see Chesterfield go down with a home defeat against a side below them in the table. That’s right I said ‘below them in the table.’ Not a boast we’ve been able to make most of the season, so let’s enjoy it while we can.
Somebody once said football’s a funny old game, and as Spireites, my God don’t we know it!
Written by Dean Mansell, We Are Going Up’s Chesterfield Blogger & editor of the Away End website.
Dean tweets at @awayend