COLUMN: Late goals and losing mentality is too familiar a refrain, time to change the tune

Every time Chesterfield lose a game by a single goal, it all feels a little too familiar.

Chesterfield v Crawley, first goal
Chesterfield v Crawley, first goal

Nine times this season the Spireites have been beaten by the odd goal and on Saturday it was yet again a case of mistakes costing the club so dearly.

One bad pass, a defence caught out by both their own position high up the pitch as they pushed for a winner and speed of the opposition counter attack, and another bitterly disappointing defeat.

It’s a familiar refrain isn’t it? You’ve seen it all before.

Last season it was the same story.

Fifteen times in the dismal, doomed 2016/17 campaign Chesterfield lost by a single goal.

Many of those goals came as a result of an individual error combined with the opposition’s ability to be ruthless and their desire to win the game.

A lot of the goals came late in games.

In seven of last season’s defeats, the opposition winner came in the last 10 minutes.

Three times this season Town have suffered the same fate.

And Colchester, Swindon and Mansfield all grabbed late goals to snatch a point in their respective clashes with Chesterfield.

It’s fair to say that if the Spireites had been as clinical as many of the sides they’ve faced over the past season and a half, life could be so different, so much more comfortable right now.

To err is human, mistakes will happen and sometimes they’ll come from an unlikely and unexpected source.

Saturday’s Crawley winner was so unfortunate because the attack that led to the goal came from Louis Reed’s poor pass.

He had been largely brilliant all afternoon, as he has been for many afternoons recently, and it was he who got Town’s opener.

But the crucial point is that Reed’s pass didn’t have to automatically result in a goal – Harry Kewell’s men had to execute a lovely move and supply a sublime finish.

They were ruthless and showed the winning mentality that a team needs to pick up three points, even if they’ve not performed to their best, even if a draw would be a fair result.

A winning mentality has been lacking for much of the time since Paul Cook left the building.

Losing games, conceding late goals, gifting points to rivals has, depressingly, become part of the club’s DNA.

Gary Caldwell believed this played a major part in his inability to save the Spireites from relegation last season.

He repeatedly talked about needing to turn things around, how much time was needed because the club had been on a downward spiral for so long.

Jack Lester has made similar noises about needing to arrest the slide and get things going in an upward trajectory once more.

The difference between last season and this, Town fans have to hope, is that they’ve got the right man in place to mastermind enough wins to maintain Football League status and that the club got its January business spot on.

There were glimmers on Saturday of good things that could potentially come from Louis Dodds.

He showed, in fits and starts, some lovely touches and showed great vision to play a through ball that almost split the defence in two and put Kristian Dennis in on goal.

Alex Whitmore was excellent out of position.

Aaron Ramsdale bounced back, again, from a big mistake the week before to produce some brilliant stops.

With 11 new faces added last month, they will need time to gel but time is in short supply.

There are only 15 games left for Lester, his staff and his new-look squad to get it right and accumulate enough points to finish third bottom or better, safe from the drop.

It might take 15 games for them to click into gear and play football exactly the way the manager wants.

But it can’t take 15 games for them to develop a winning habit or start clawing back points that look lost as games tick into the final seconds.

This time last year they were second bottom, five points from safety.

Ahead of a vital trip to Morecambe on Saturday, they’re second bottom but two points from safety.

With a trip to Forest Green, the side directly above them yet to come, the Spireites’ fate is still in their hands.

This group have an opportunity to change the tune at the Proact and ensure they don’t become the first players in 152 years to take the club out of the Football League.