Dean Smalley has gained a new lease of life with Chesterfield FC.
His goals have helped keep the Spireites at the top of the League Two table and his net-bulging style has seen the club reach a significant milestone.
For when he opened the scoring at Barnet, it was the on-loan player’s tenth goal of the season for the Blues.
He said: “I had an operation on my groin during the summer and I needed games which is why I have been sent out on loan. I had a spell with Rochdale but it did not work out there, so I was pleased when Chesterfield made a move for me because John Sheridan knows what I am like,’’ he said.
Smalley may have been with the Spireites for just over five months but his 21st minute strike at Underhill made him the fourth man at the B2net to reach double figures this season, an achievement which has placed him among the pantheon of the greats. And his 11th arrived in the second-half against Port Vale.
The other three to break the ten-goal barrier in Chesterfield’s race to the title are leading marksman Craig Davies, the veteran hit man Jack Lester and midfield dynamo Danny Whitaker.
It was a noteworthy landmark for John Sheridan’s men, for such an achievement has not occurred since the 1979/80 season.
That was a memorable campaign when Ernie Moss, Phil Walker, Alan Birch and Alan Crawford all reached ten or more goals as Chesterfield narrowly missed out on promotion to Division Two – a level equivalent to the Championship of today.
It was excruciating as Arthur Cox’s team finished agonisingly in fourth place – a single point behind rivals Sheffield Wednesday who gained automatic promotion.
Back in those days there were only two points for a win but if there had been three it would have been the men from Saltergate, rather than the Owls, who had finished third and gone up.
Until the title, and indeed promotion, is secured, nothing is certain, but it seems very likely that Smalley and the class of 2010/11 will enjoy a better outcome.
He said: “As soon I became match-fit I knew that I would begin to play okay. The lads have really helped me settle down with Chesterfield and that has made a big difference to me.’’
The Manchester-born striker began his professional career with Oldham and was given his first team debut back in 2007 when Sheridan was boss at Boundary Park.
Fast, direct and with an eye for goal, Smalley (22) can play as a striker or in a wide right position,
His first senior goal arrived in the Carling Cup when the Latics saw off Mansfield Town 4-1, a game in which Davies also netted for the winning side.
In all he has made more than 100 appearances for Oldham but earlier this season went out on loan to Rochdale. He was unable to make a great deal of impact at the Spotland club, but his star began to rise when he switched to the B2net on an emergency three-month loan last November.
The goals started to flow for the Blues No 22 from the beginning of January and when his spell at Whittington Moor was up at the end of that month it was extended again until the end of the season.
After netting his first in the 2-2 draw at Accrington, Smalley netted both in the 2-0 triumph at Gillingham and grabbed the decider in the 1-0 verdict at Bradford.
He was also responsible for Chesterfield’s goal in the 1-1 draw at Stockport and both in the 2-2 home draw against Aldershot.
Smalley’s contract at Boundary Park was due to run out at the end of the season but his match-winning form with the Spireites has seen him offered a new deal by Oldham.
Smalley said: “I’ve been told that coaches have been to watch how I’m getting along. I have been offered a new contract but I have not sat down with them yet to discover what is what.’’
But at the moment, all his attentions are aimed at helping Chesterfield gain a place in League One for next season.
It cannot be said with any certainty whether Smalley will be with Oldham or Chesterfield – or another team – next season but his status as one of the Spireites’ super-loanees is assured.
Supporters would love him to move to the B2net on a full-time basis, but if that does not happen he will be guaranteed a warm welcome whenever he faces the men in blue.