There were highs, lows, a trip to Wembley and plenty of glory in a rollercoast season. Matt Brooks looks back at the Spireites 2013/2014 season:
A rebuilding programme began in May of last year with swift changes to the club’s foundations as several players and backroom staff were moved on.
Paul Cook’s blueprint for success saw young, hungry players brought in alongside experienced professionals like Ian Evatt, Jimmy Ryan and Gary Roberts.
Leam Richardson, his assistant at Accrington Stanley, answered the call once more as they went about sculpting a side fit for a rigorous campaign.
An encouraging pre-season against neighbouring clubs from higher leagues served only to raise expectations further that this could be the season.
The manner of the success on the opening day at newly-relegated Bury was an early indication of what was to follow in a memorable start for Spireites. Defeat to Leeds United at Elland Road in the League Cup gave more evidence to fuel Chesterfield’s ambitions. Cheltenham Town were dismissed at the Proact before an incident-filled game at Rochdale resulted in a share of the spoils. Second half goals saw off Southend United and Portsmouth for a promising start for Cook.
September carried on in much the same vein as consecutive home wins over Accrington and AFC Wimbledon confirmed one of Chesterfield’s best ever starts to a league season. It was also the month Spireites plucked Ollie Banks from non-league giants FC United of Manchester. He would have to wait for his chance as Chesterfield continued to set the division alight with a win at Oxford United. But the arrival of fierce rivals Mansfield Town to a sold out Proact brought an end to an unbeaten league record.
Defeat hurt them bad, and there was worse to come when Morecambe overturned a 3-0 goal deficit at half-time to win 4-3 in a comeback few would have predicted at the Globe Arena. Revenge was had over Stags on their own turf just 11 days after Paul Cox’s side had done the same to to Chesterfield. Then-Manchester United manager, David Moyes, was in attendance to watch Spireites draw at Fleetwood Town. A combined point from Burton Albion and York City was followed by another on the road at Bristol Rovers to conclude a less fruitful October.
Chesterfield looked destined for three points at home to Scunthorpe United before the Iron snatched a late equaliser. A two-week break from league action saw Spireites advance in the FA Cup over Daventry Town quickly followed by defeat of Rochdale in the JPT. A Banks-inspired Spireites swept aside Torquay United and he scored his fourth goal in three games to beat Wycombe at home before the month ended with a goalless draw to Northampton Town.
Chesterfield put defeats to Newport County (league) and Rochdale (FA Cup) to bed with a penalty shoot-out win at Oldham Athletic in the area semi-final of the JPT. Tommy Lee’s heroics in goal and Drew Talbot’s decisive penalty inspired Spireites, who then went on a five game unbeaten run. Plymouth Argyle were dismissed at home before Chesterfield brushed Exeter City before Christmas. Home draws to Hartlepool United and Dagenham and Redbridge brought 2013 to a close with Spireites top of the pile on goal difference.
The winter weather wreaked havoc on the fixture schedule, as Chesterfield didn’t play again until January 11. They showed no signs of being ring rusty as they romped to a 4-0 win over Bury. Southend proved to be a sticking point once more as the Shrimpers put the game to bed in two second half minutes. After a home draw with Rochdale, win at a rain-soaked Northampton followed by another success at York - inspired by new recruit Dan Gardner from FC Halifax Town.
Bristol Rovers were no match for Chesterfield at the start of February to set the Spireites up for the first leg of the JPT area final at Fleetwood. A superb strike from Ryan rounded off an impressive win and a two goal lead to take into the decisive leg which Fleetwood won but couldn’t prevent Chesterfield from booking a place at Wembley in March. Wins over Torquay and Cheltenham, a draw at Scunthorpe, amid a defeat at Wycombe, kept Spireites on top of League Two.
With all eyes on Wembley, Chesterfield stuttered in the league campaign. One win in six - over Oxford - was surrounded by draws with Portsmouth, Wimbledon, Mansfield and defeats to Accrington and Plymouth. However, a narrow win over Morecambe set the Spireites up for a memorable day out at the national stadium. Despite a 3-1 defeat to Peterborough United, Chesterfield could hold their heads up high after a performance which did their travelling blue army proud.
As their attentions returned to the league, Spireites continued where they left off with three wins in five games in a month which saw Cook architect Chesterfield’s promotion to League One and a return to the top of the table. Draws at home to Newport and Exeter were outweighed by victories in all three of their away fixtures during April at Hartlepool, Dagenham and Burton. Jay O’Shea, who’d got the ball rolling on the opening day, fittingly finished the job with a brace to send the Spireites up.