Chesterfield’s derby day joy over Sheffield United brought more than points on the board for Paul Cook’s Spireites, writes Matt Brooks.
An inspiring display against a local rival, who were widely tipped to mount a promotion charge this season, breathed renewed optimism in to the lungs of the Proact Stadium. Without a win in three prior to kick-off, there was a risk the good vibes around the club might have started to wane.
But those concerned need not have worried as Cook’s side produced a vibrant performance from the first whistle to the last to maintain momentum, built on the successes of last season and the encouraging start to life in League One this campaign, to move up in to the top six in the early runnings.
And, like Rotherham United along with others before them have shown, a winning mentality can be an infectious habit and a difficult one to shake. Chesterfield have gone toe-to-toe with some of the division’s best and have been fearless in their attempts to play the game in the right manner.
Cook, who is coming up to his second anniversary at the club, has had time to build a squad and instil a particular brand of football which has reaped rewards in a relatively short space of time. Saturday was a stern test but Chesterfield, backed by the home faithful, were good value for the win.
The Spireites were undoubtedly bolstered with the return of trio Dan Jones, Sam Morsy and Gary Roberts, with Morsy, in particular, producing the type of performance which has won him countless admirers since he arrived in the summer of 2013 at the Proact.
He was outstanding in the centre of midfield alongside Jimmy Ryan. The two of them know each others’ game inside out and compliment one another in the engine room, where so many opposing attacks are broken down and Chesterfield’s forays forward begin.
They both have an eye for goal, too, and Ryan’s piledriver to break the deadlock was one of the sweetest strikes of a ball one would have witnessed at any level of the game. After having conceded first in their last four games, it was crucial that didn’t happen again.
Ryan’s strike gave the hosts belief that something special was on the horizon and when Michael Higdon, who had earlier had a goal struck off for offside, was sent off for a late, needless tackle on Jones on halfway it seemed destined to be the Spireites’ day.
But it was far from plain sailing for Chesterfield who were reduced to ten men themselves when Ryan Flynn capitalised on a defensive mistake, beating Tommy Lee to the ball, and the referee flashed a red card, despite protests from the hosts’ keeper Flynn was going away from goal.
Myles Wright, a product of the development squad, was thrown in to the action but remained largely untested. An incident-filled fist half still had one more entry when Roberts cut out Paddy McCarthy’s loose pass and still had half the length of the pitch to run before a calm finish doubled the home side’s lead a the break.
Unlike previous weeks, it was the Spireites’ opponents who had a mountain to climb but United rarely showed signs of getting off the ground. Eoin Doyle put the game beyond any doubt when he pounced from six yards for his 13th goal of the season and 22nd of 2014.
Wright, 18, showed no evidence of nerves on his league debut and was well protected by centre-halves Ian Evatt and Georg Margreitter who had kept the visitors at arm’s length for 80 minutes. Though a fumble when coming off his line to cut out a hopeful through ball allowed Marc McNulty to reduce the arrears.
Neill Collins’ header in injury time set up a tense finale but there was to be no sting in the tail, as Chesterfield provided further evidence they are not a team to be taken lightly in this division. The sound of Perfect Day ringing around the Proact after the final whistle was a fitting end to a memorable win.