A point at Walsall on Saturday was one of those ‘you would have taken it before the game had started’ points that makes it hard to fully express a level of frustration at not holding out for all three points. With some tough fixtures coming up over the next couple of months, playing well but not winning on Saturday could be costlier than simply the two points that we dropped on the day.
Getting three points here against Chesterfield would go a long way to making Saturday’s result more forgivable. For the first time since Tony Mowbray left the club, we head into the game as favourites which presents a different kind of challenge for Mark Venus. Chesterfield are on a rotten run of form but will be desperate to hold onto anything they can get here, if we can’t find a similar level of intensity, it could be a very tough night for our young side.
Venus chose to maintain tactical continuity against Walsall by restoring Andy Rose to the side in place of the injured Chris McCann and was rewarded by the former scoring the opening goal. Rose didn’t last the full 90 minutes on his return from injury but the word is that he’ll be fit enough to start this game. Rose’s aerial ability and the timing of his runs into the box gives this side another attacking dimension, which takes some of the burden off a not fully-convincing strike force.
There aren’t really any other clear and present issues with the side because it’s so settled at the moment. In goal, Lee Burge still looks he’s got errors in his game but is yet to really let the team down since returning to the side, so it makes little sense to change things in goal. Likewise, Jordan Turnbull looks constantly on the verge of a big mistake, but it seems to have aided his concentration levels in recent weeks. Chesterfield are likely to target those two, who’ll need to continue to not make the mistakes they look capable of making.
Last Time We Met
We travelled to Chesterfield’s Proact Stadium on the 28th of December last year, having been boosted after a sloppy run of form thanks to the return of James Maddison from injury. Hot off scoring a nonchalant 25-yard wonder-goal on Boxing Day against Port Vale, Maddison added a further million to his final transfer fee by scoring an excellent free-kick in the final minutes of the game to secure a point after we had conceded a sloppy headed goal from a set-piece early in the game.
Chesterfield’s visit to the Ricoh Arena earlier that season came when we were still discovering our own strength as one of the division’s best sides. Ryan Kent, Adam Armstrong and Jacob Murphy ran rings around Dean Saunders Chesterfield before finally deciding to take one off a litany of chances via Armstrong just after half-time. A routine 1-0 home win was livened up by Chesterfield’s Mani Dieseruvwe deciding to randomly punch the ball in the closing stages of the contest.
How Are They Doing?
Chesterfield started the season like a train, with the risk taken to sign Ched Evans ahead of his retrial paying off big-time for a side that had battled against relegation last season. A nightmare injury list and Evans’ court appearance has coincided with a complete loss of form over the past month or so and the Spireites have now lost their past six games in all competitions, sinking to second-bottom of the division.
For much of the season, Chesterfield boss Danny Wilson has struggled to name a full-strength team due to injuries. The most notable absences in recent weeks have been stalwart keeper Tommy Lee, who’s missed the entirety of the season, and beanpole striker Conor Wilkinson, who had taken some of the burden off Ched Evans before picking up an injury a few weeks ago. In particular, the back-line has been a hodge-podge of youngsters and players being played out of position, which is hardly conducive to arresting a downturn in form.
Although Ched Evans is yet to score since returning to the side a few weeks ago, he is clearly the main threat. Strangely enough, Evans started the season playing like a man with a point to prove, scoring goals seemingly through sheer willpower, making you feel sorry for the poor ball unlucky enough to find its way to his feet. A natural goalscorer who closes players down well and is something of a physical presence, he’s going to start scoring soon and tonight could well be when.
To focus solely on Ched Evans though, would be a foolhardy approach with Chesterfield boasting several other attacking players who can be dangerous on their day. The pacey and skilfull Gboly Ariyibi out wide is the biggest threat of Chesterfield’s supporting cast, the American is a real livewire out wide and can be absolutely unplayable on his day. The oft-frustrating Jay O’Shea can be a match-winner on his day in either a wide position or just behind the striker. While the likes of Dan Gardner, Jon Nolan and Kristian Dennis have the ability to cause us danger in differing ways.
Chesterfield’s current run of form is so bad that there has to be some kind of reaction. Not many teams lose seven games in a row and with Ched Evans likely to return to goalscoring form any time soon, Chesterfield are going to be dangerous in a hurt animal kind of way. Although they probably need to win this game to give their season a lift, they’re likely to be content with at least keeping a clean sheet and will look to prey upon our errors. With a lethal centre-forward and pace out wide, a counter-attacking approach could well be a fruitful formula for the Spireites.
We’ve shown in recent weeks that we can be a very good team but we struggle to create high quality chances and there’s a real danger that a team set up to hold us out defensively and exploit us on the counter could do a real number on us. Maybe I’m just a pessimistic person but I really think this game could be a banana peel for us. I think this will be a frustrating 1-1 draw.