Analysis: Gardner magic brings three points in Town's '˜audition' for job favourite
Chesterfield played out an audition of sorts in front of the man shortly to be revealed as their new manager and can be pleased with their display in a 1-0 win.
In a cagey affair between the Spireites and fellow relegation threatened side Coventry, a piece of Dan Gardner magic was the difference.
But Town can rightly claim to have been the better side for large parts of it.
Caretaker manager Ritchie Humphreys went with a relatively attacking line-up, playing two up top and giving Jay O’Shea a free role.
Company secretary Ashley Carson said the man he hoped to appoint was in the stadium to watch the game, and he witnessed plenty of desire.
Tigerish running from the Chesterfield attackers put Coventry under pressure from the off and when keeper Lee Burge took a poor touch, he had to be sharp to block Kristian Dennis’ effort.
Chances were few and far between for Dennis and strike partner Ched Evans all afternoon but they came off the field exhausted having harried and hounded the back four constantly.
It wasn’t a vintage first 45 minutes from either side, but nor was it a bore in the manner of the MK Dons game.
While there were signs of intent from both clubs, the feeling that anyone making a mistake might cost their team three points added a tension that lingered for the entire game.
Chesterfield’s problem in the first half wasn’t getting into good positions, it was wasteful errant passes in the final third, or a lack of composure when it mattered.
Evans did well to free himself from the clutches of his marker for a corner routine we’ve seen before this season, but he fired well over the top when found by Jay O’Shea.
O’Shea later sent in a lovely free-kick that Sam Hird headed downwards and goalwards, only for Lee Burge to hold comfortably.
Stuart Beavon was unsurprisingly dangerous for the visitors and came close in the first half when he flicked out a boot to redirect Kevin Foley’s fierce cross just past the post.
After the break Chesterfield, roared on by a Kop that didn’t stop singing for a good 10 minutes once the referee restarted the action, had plenty of possession but didn’t do a lot with it.
And hearts were in mouths when Coventry put the ball in the net with their first attack of the second period, but an offside flag brought relief as Marcus Tudgay poked the ball past Ryan Fulton.
There were even more worrying scenes on the hour mark, Tom Anderson going down after a bang on the head and remaining prone for several minutes.
The on-loan Burnley man was stretchered into a waiting ambulance and taken to hospital in destressing scenes, but thankfully released after his scans were given the all clear.
It was a lengthy delay however, and Coventry settled better when things got going once more, Fulton having to get down well to save from Ryan Haynes.
Their best move of the match followed as they built up momentum, the ball played quickly before Thomas darted into the box and drilled across goal and past the far post.
That momentum was wrenched from their grasp on 77 minutes when Chesterfield worked the ball to O’Shea, he teed up Gardner and the winger thumped a wonderful strike past Burge and high into the net from 25 yards.
It was a moment of individual brilliance, the perfect way to end the side’s five-game goalless streak.
It proved to be the difference.
Coventry didn’t go down without a fight, Fulton beating away a Beavon shot less than a minute after Gardner’s goal.
But as they attacked they left themselves open and unlike against MK Dons, Chesterfield showed a desire to get forward late in the game, a quick break seeing Dennis release Gboly Ariyibi who dallied and then saw his shot blocked.
The crowd were delighted as Town went for the jugular, Evans’ chasing down a defender who played a woeful back pass to Burge, Dennis nipping in and rolling the ball across the goalline from an almost impossible angle.
Gardner had his sights on a repeat performance when the ball came to him on the edge of the box again but this time he fizzed it wide.
And although the Sky Blues were buoyed by the announcement of 11 minutes of time added on, they only made one more good chance, the ball dropping to Thomas at the back post where he hammered it high and wide.
The final whistle lifted some of the gloom that has surrounded the Proact lately.
And although the win doesn’t lift Chesterfield out of the relegation zone, they are now only in the bottom four on the merit of goal difference.
Chesterfield: Fulton 7, O’Neil 6, Donohue 6, Evatt 7, Anderson 7 (Ariyibi 68), Hird 7, Nolan 7, Gardner 7, O’Shea 7, Dennis 7, Evans 8. Subs: Allinson, Ebanks-Blake, Mitchell, Martinez Maguire, Simons.
Coventry: Burge 6, Foley 6 (Di Kelly-Evans 82), Willis 6 (C), Clarke 6, Haynes 5, Reilly 6 (Stevenson 74), Rose 5, G.Thomas 5, Reid 6, Tudgay 6, Beavon 7. Subs: Charles-Cook (GK), Turnbull, Dev. Kelly-Evans, Gadzhev, Lameiras.