Preview: Chesterfield

It’s a fine line between genius and stupidity.

Often that line is drawn retrospectively based on the outcome of the situation rather than the merits of the decision. Reda Johnson’s penalty miss against Worcester was deemed a moment of utter brainlessness, Franck Moussa shooting from 30 yards out in the final minute against Preston a year ago was seen as an act of genius. Flip the outcomes and Franck Moussa was the idiot who wasted possession after good move and Reda Johnson was the fearless captain who saved the club from its most embarrassing result.

Both those incidents were impulsive acts, most likely made with the lizard, amygdala area of the brain. Tony Mowbray’s decision on Tuesday night to bring in an extra two strikers whilst the team was ahead was a much more considered move. Yet because of the fact that the team didn’t win, it has fallen into the category of  lunacy, and arguably rightly so.

Tony Mowbray would have been deemed a genius had it not been for an incident that I will forever call 'the Proschmiss'
Tony Mowbray would have been deemed a genius had it not been for an incident that I will forever call ‘the Proschmiss’

But then there was some reasoning behind the ‘madness’ from what I saw. The team had reverted to type at the start of the second half and were allowing Bradford to dictate the game, it seemed a matter of time before Bradford would score at least once, probably twice. The move changed the nervous atmosphere of the game, the team pushed up and started putting Bradford’s defence under pressure. It was a calculated move against a team that as firstly tired and secondly had its main threat through long balls.

Yet the goal we conceded, a brilliant free kick from Mark Yeates, came as a result of the team pushing further up the pitch. Bradford broke on us after Webster headed the ball straight to them and Aaron Martin, sensing danger, lunged into a tackle that he didn’t necessarily have to make. The move to four strikers also failed to work as Mowbray must have been hoping for was the poor service the four were getting, leaving the team ragged and wide open for our opposition.

I am though happy with the performance on Tuesday night, even if the result leaves us in a precarious situation given Leyton Orient’s game in hand over us. We failed to get the points by trying to be proactive and score a second goal rather than hoping our opponents don’t score against us. With better finishing, we would probably have won that game and if we can keep that up, we should eventually either get lucky or simple overawe a more timid opponent.

Having now assessed his squad, Tony Mowbray is starting to make decisive moves to improve it. Luke Williams has been swiftly shunted out after failing to find a niche here. It’s possible that at least three out of the remaining five loanees may follow Williams out the exit door whilst Mowbray finds some much-needed experience to add to the squad.

Whilst Mowbray searches his rolodex, he may be tempted to stick with Tuesday night’s team although Aaron Phillips and Jim O’Brien may be doubts after having to be subbed off early against Bradford. The return of Jordan Willis is welcome after another disastrous Matthew Pennington performance at right-back, although Chris Stokes on the left didn’t cover himself in glory either. Andy Webster could be recalled, as could Conor Thomas, there are decisions to be made even with the current set of options.

Possible Line-Up: (4-4-2) Burge; Willis, Webster, Martin, Stokes; O’Brien, Fleck, Barton, Odelusi; Tudgay, Nouble.

Last Time We Met

There’s not a lot to say about our last game against Chesterfield which came at the Ricoh Arena during the festive period. It was incredibly cold, Frank Nouble won a penalty only for the referee to decide it was a free-kick, Chesterfield were depleted by injuries and set themselves up not to lose and it finished 0-0.

How Are They Doing?

Chesterfield are one of 19 teams in League One chasing the play-offs. Like most in this division, they have blown hot and cold throughout the season but because most have been equally as cold as they have been hot at times, Chesterfield have remained within touching distance of the top six despite some indifferent recent form.

The sale of Eoin Doyle to Cardiff will have been a blow for Paul Cook’s side, even if it was hard to shake the feeling that the forward was in the form of his life at Chesterfield have cashed in on him whilst his stock was at its highest point. Ex-Sky Blue full-back Cook has generally kept Chesterfield going at an even pace after Doyle left and Sheffield Wednesday loanee Caolan Lavery has stepped into Doyle’s boots rather respectably with three goals in seven games.

Chesterfield’s top-scorer remaining at the club is Sam Clucas, who has played the majority of the season at left-back. The Spireites right-back Tendayi Darikwa is one to watch, a pacey player who started off as an attacking midfielder and was scouted by Premier League clubs earlier on. Darikwa is surprisingly solid defensively given how recently he used to be an attacker and has ousted club favourite Drew Talbot from the squad entirely.

In less than two seasons, Gary Roberts has made himself a legend at Chesterfield.
In less than two seasons, Gary Roberts has made himself a legend at Chesterfield.

Chesterfield’s star turn remains Gary Roberts playing behind just behind the striker. Our past two games have been decided by the opposition set-piece taker and Roberts is yet another wizard from dead balls that we’ll have to be wary of. More than that, Roberts’ direct running and ability to drift into space makes him someone who is hard to contain, even in his advancing years.

Chesterfield possess even more quality in midfield in the forms of Sam Morsy and Jimmy Ryan. Morsy is a metronomic passer who can dictate games at League One level, just like in our previous meeting with Chesterfield though, Morsy is unavailable. Ryan is more box-to-box and can be lethal from long-range, which will present another challenge for Lee Burge to overcome.

Tommy Lee in goal is another stand-out performer for Chesterfield, meaning that even if Tudgay/Nouble/Proschmiss can find the target this time, they still might not be able to score.

Possible Line-Up: (4-2-3-1) Lee; Darikwa, Hird, Evatt, Clucas; Ryan, Humphreys; Ariyibi, Roberts, O’Shea; Lavery


This will be our first away game under Tony Mowbray, it will be interesting to see if he adopts the same ‘gung-ho’ strategy that he has approached his home games with. Chesterfield are a team that likes to counter-attack and they could therefore relish the chance to take on a Coventry City side lacking confidence following an attacking game-plan half-heartedly.

Given that Leyton Orient below us will now be feeling that they have the upper-hand in the relegation battle, a win here is important to kick-start Tony Mowbray’s reign. There is still time for us to find ourselves in a comfortable position come the end of April if we can put a few results together but we need to start that run now. After some relatively encouraging performances thus far, I am predicting a 2-1 win for the Sky Blues.

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