Column: Everything fell into place for Spireites on a day full of storylines

Chesterfield vs Bury - Chesterfield pay their respects to Albert Phelan with a minutes applause - Pic By James Williamson
Chesterfield vs Bury - Chesterfield pay their respects to Albert Phelan with a minutes applause - Pic By James Williamson

Everything fell into place like the flick of a switch for Danny Wilson’s Chesterfield on Saturday.

By the time they strode out onto the pitch at the Proact it was known that Blackpool couldn’t catch them, leaving just Doncaster Rovers as the side the Spireites needed pull away from.

And by the time Rovers kicked off in their rain-delayed game at Crewe, Chesterfield were already on their way to the three points that took them to safety.

Jay O’Shea’s coolly taken penalty was greeted by a huge, relieved cheer.

It was no surprise however, Chesterfield were well on top from the very off.

After all the talk of their tendancy to start games poorly, and their difficulty in overcoming nerves in front of their home fans, any worries or doubts melted away in the face of a fiery performance.

In the interest of fairness, Saturday’s visitors offered very little.

But it wasn’t so much a case of them handing the game to Chesterfield, as having it ripped from them inside the opening minutes.

In the wake of the Sheffield United beating Wilson famously said his players were fresh for their next fixture because they hadn’t put in a tackle in that game.

Within minutes of kick-off last weekend, Dion Donohue had ensured there would be no repeat of that statement.

It was as brave and committed a challenge as the Proact will have seen all season, and crucially it was legal.

It certainly made a lasting impact on Bury’s Craig Jones who needed treatment, and while no one wants to see a player injured, there’s no doubt the sight of Donohue running back into position having won the 50:50 duel lifted the Proact.

Saturday’s game will be remembered for skill and trickery – Gboly Ariyibi and Jamal Campbell’s dancing feet, Dan Gardner and O’Shea’s wonderful link up play for the final goal, Lee Novak’s passing exchanges with those around him.

But the flair players were given the chance to go and showcase their ability by a solid defensive unit who never looked troubled.

Gary Liddle stopped Bury in their tracks enough times to make this his best showing at the Proact.

Chesterfield’s skipper, who has come under fire for some underpar performances, played like a man fully intent on protecting his record of having never been relegated from this division.

He timed his tackles well, and started attacks with simple distribution.

Liddle is a defensive workhorse kind of midfielder, he’s not a maurauding O’Shea – and yet it was the former’s clever run into the box that won the penalty for the latter to open the scoring.

Given the identity of the opponents, a goal for Gardner, recently returned from a loan spell at Gigg Lane, was a nice subplot.

What a goal it was too – defence to attack in oneAriyibi pass, the breakaway move finished with class and confidence by O’Shea and Gardner.

All too often players head off on loan in the secondf half of the season never to be heard of again, but that goal ensured Gardner is far from a forgotten man at the Proact.

There were several other storylines that made the day special for Chesterfield.

Over 7,000 coming through the turnstiles thanks to reduced ticket prices, Tommy Lee’s 100th career clean sheet, supporter Suzuki Koichiro from Tokyo making the trip to the Proact – it was a feel good day.

Before kick-off there was a minute of applause, from both sets of supporters, for a Spireites legend, Albert Phelan who died recently at the age of 70.

But even before anyone arrived at the ground, the game was put firmly in perspective by a Chesterfield fan who revealed it was likely to be the last time his friend sat with him in the East Stand.

The pair have attended games together for over 25 years, but the onset of Motor Neurone Disease will tragically curtail their football friendship.

Football is but a game – but it’s a game that can give us tremendous highs.

I imagine more than a few tears fell in the East Stand on Saturday, but hopefully the afternoon’s ending will have provided some comfort to all involved and one final, fitting, happy Spireites memory.