Why Chesterfield will have to improve record against the National League's top teams - starting with Harrogate Town
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The Blues were not in action due to Harrogate Town’s involvement in the FA Trophy, and so there was an opportunity for the teams down the bottom of the National League to open up a gap on Chesterfield by picking up some points.
But they all slipped up, leaving John Pemberton’s side no worse off going into the rearranged fixture against Harrogate at the Proact on Tuesday night.
Pemberton has spoken about how his players have had to deal with being in the relegation zone for most of the season whereas other teams have not experienced it yet so perhaps the pressure is starting to take hold of the clubs around them.
A point on Tuesday will be enough for the Spireites to climb out of the drop zone and a win could see them jump four places to 17th.
That incentive should put an extra spring in the step of the players when they walk out at the Proact in midweek.
It is quite remarkable that Chesterfield have won four out of six under Pemberton but have not been able to escape the relegation places because other teams around them have also picked up form. Pemberton admitted after the Ebbsfleet win that not being out of the bottom four was “mentally quite tough” to take for his players.
Town dropped into the relegation zone after being thrashed 5-1 at home by Hartlepool United on November 26.
So what a relief and psychological boost it will be for everybody at the club if they can escape it for the first time in more than three months.
But Tuesday will be Chesterfield’s toughest test so far under Pemberton given the North Yorkshire club is flying high in second spot in the division and are unbeaten in five in all competitions.
Having said that, they were taken to extra-time at the weekend in the FA Trophy win against AFC Fylde on Saturday so there could be a few tired legs among Simon Weaver’s squad.
The Blues can also take encouragement from the fact Wrexham and Aldershot Town picked up points against them at the end of January/start of February although Harrogate have since won four on the bounce, scoring 11 goals.
Harrogate are the highest-placed team that Chesterfield will have faced under Pemberton so it will be a good test to see how far they have come in the last two months.
The Spireites’ only defeat under Pemberton came against play-off chasing Notts County so they will be keen to show they can compete with the team challenging for promotion.
Town still have the top four to play as well as Stockport County (7th), Dover Athletic (8th) and Woking (9th) so they do not have the easiest of run-ins and they have only beaten one of the current top 13 (Notts County).
In some ways Chesterfield can look at Tuesday night as a ‘free hit’ in that not many people will be expecting them to get anything.
But knowing how Pemberton operates there is not a chance he will accept that sort of mentality and allow his players to relax and let complacency creep in.
It is also worth mentioning that the Blues are unbeaten in five home games which is some turnaround given they lost five consecutive games on their own turf under previous boss John Sheridan.
Full credit must go to Pemberton for the job he has done so far.
If the Spireites are to avoid a third relegation in four years then they will need a couple of ‘surprise’ wins and Tuesday night comes into that category.