Chesterfield were close to matching Swindon Town but were, for most of the match, playing catch up.
Jack Stephens headed the table topping Robins ahead before Sam Clucas rolled in his third goal of the week from the right corner of the penalty area. At that point, briefly at least, Spireites looked like they could match their lofty hosts, the only team to have beaten Chesterfield by more than one goal in the league so far this season.
However before the visiting fans had fully taken on board the fact that parity had been restored, John Swift latched onto a loose ball after Tommy Lee had closed down Michael Smith and he swiveled to shoot and score from 12 yards.
For Stephens, 20, and borrowed from Southampton plus 19 year old Swift, on loan from Chelsea, their efforts marked their first ever senior goals.
Swift supplemented his fine performance with the killer through ball that fed Swindon’s top scorer Andy Williams, who slid the ball wide of Lee on 47 minutes to register his 19th goal of the season and his 10th in the last nine games.
Spireites’ top scorer Eoin Doyle started up top alongside Armand Gnanduillet but he was soon plucked back to shore up a midfield that was being overrun in the opening exchanges and, as a result, his appearances in scoring positions was rare.
Cook made his first changes of 2015, Ritchie Humphreys moved to the bench whilst Romy Boco moved out, he’s expected to start plying his trade in India. In came Dan Jones and Jimmy Ryan into an eleven the manager wanted to play in a non-stop attacking style.
However Swindon hadn’t read the script and they took the game to the visitors, forced them to change style, and despite both sides being below their own excellent high standards, Swindon had the edge, at least until they led 3-1, though Ryan was a whisker away from making it 2-2 as he hammered against the underside of the bar from a Gary Roberts pass. Roberts, a former Swindon player, didn’t make the end of the game after picking up another hamstring problem and he must be rated doubtful for Saturday’s FA Cup 4th Round trip to Derby County.
From 3-1 to the end, Chesterfield enjoyed the bulk of the play. Gnanduillet had a header cleared off the line, he also saw a rocket 30 yard free kick whizz just by the upright whilst sub Dan Gardner also saw a long range free-kick look as though it may strike gold, but keeper Wes Foderingham grasped the ball at the second time of asking.
Cook commented: “I think everyone neutral knew it would be a good game, which it turned out to be, but we’ve conceded three really poor goals today. When you give poor goals away, you’re going to struggle to win any game. I think Swindon are a fantastic team and I hope they go on and get promotion because they deserve it.”
The manager is now delighted that his side has a clear midweek, though it’s a busy week for the club. The Youth Team visit Leicester City tonight (7pm) in the FA Youth Cup for a fourth round tie having seen off Aston Villa in the last round whilst an eleven travels to Glossop North End tomorrow for a Derbyshire FA Senior Cup game (7.45pm).
However it’s the trip to Derby in only Spireites’ second 4th round tie in 60 years that takes centre stage. The last few of the 5900 ticket allocation goes on sale at the Proact this morning. Clucas is looking forward to it. He said: “It’s a mouth watering tie and I think there’s going to be loads of fans there. On our day we can beat anyone so where they are in their league, we’re not going to look at.
“We’ll go out there and play our game, try and keep the ball and see what comes of it. We don’t fear anyone. We go out there to play our own game because we know if we’re on it we’ll beat most teams with the quality we’ve got.
Swindon (3-5-2): Foderingham 6, Rossi-Branco 6, N.Thompson 7, Turnbull 7, Toffolo 8 (Barthram 90), Swift 7 (Rodgers 71), L.Thompson 7, Stephens 7, Byrne 7, Williams 7, Smith 6 (Obika 66, 6). Subs not used: Belford, Barker, Hylton.
Goals: Stephens 17, Swift 25, Williams 47
Chesterfield (4-4-2): Lee 6, Darikwa 7, Hird 6, Raglan 6, Jones 7, Roberts 7 (M.Dierseruvwe 82), Morsy 7, Ryan 7, Clucas 8 (Gardner 70), Doyle 6 (O’Shea 70), Gnanduillet 7. Subs not used: Wright, Humphreys, Evatt, Ariyibi.
Goal: Clucas 21
Ref: Nigel Miller (Durham)
Booked: Doyle, Raglan (Chesterfield)
Attendance: 7981 (407 away)