Preview: Chesterfield

It was hardly a classic performance at Carlisle on Saturday, but we held onto the win after scoring a goal out of nowhere. It was a vital three points to keep us in the top seven and we have a chance now in this upcoming game against Chesterfield to push towards the automatic promotion places.

It was a game won via sharp finish from Marc McNulty, who’s run of form has been perfectly timed to mitigate the loss of Jodi Jones. Still though, as his penalty miss demonstrated, you wouldn’t back him to score at any opportunity. Whether this run of form for McNulty continues or not, it’s crucial that we start seeing goals from midfield and our other forwards.

As for this upcoming game against Chesterfield, it’s a case of Mark Robins playing squad Tetris to piece together a cogent starting XI from the remaining fit players available. In addition to the injuries to Jodi Jones, Liam Kelly (although there are rumours he could be back fit imminently) and Tony Andreu, Peter Vincenti is out for at least two months, Rod McDonald missed the Carlisle game through illness and the birth of his child, Jordan Willis limped off in the Carlisle game, along with Stuart Beavon and Duckens Nazon, while Devon Kelly-Evans picked up cramp in the final minutes of the game.

Possible Line-Up

While it may be wise to hand the young bodies of Jordan Shipley and Tom Bayliss a rest, Robins doesn’t really have the luxury of being able to rest players who are still capable of ambulatory movement.

Maxime Biamou is almost certain to start after coming off the bench against Carlisle, he is likely to be partnered by Marc McNulty, although Robins has stated that Jordan Ponticelli is likely to get a look-in during this run of festive fixtures. That could see McNulty deployed on the right, given the lack of other fit wide options at the moment. The midfield is likely to be similar to the one that started against Carlisle, while the back-up central defensive pairing of Tom Davies and Dominic Hyam could be set to continue into this game.

Last Time We Met

There’s not much to say about our last meeting against Chesterfield, a boring 0-0 draw early in the season, other than it was a game where Marc McNulty had several great chances to give us the win – he may have scored one of those had the game been played now.

How Are They Doing?

Chesterfield’s poor season thus far serves to highlight how well Mark Robins has done for us this season in avoiding a hangover from relegation. Similar to us, Chesterfield’s squad was almost entirely reconstructed over the summer and there were some very good players signed, however, they started the season in disastrous form and have struggled to recover from it.

For a while, Jack Lester’s arrival as manager seemed to engender an improvement in performances, but they have only won one of their past five games – including a 5-1 defeat to an out-of-form Stevenage side. Despite his club legend status, it was a bold move to appoint an inexperienced manager with the club in a tailspin after relegation, Lester may be fortunate that there are at least two worse sides than Chesterfield in the division this season.

The only positive to come from Chesterfield’s season thus far has been the form of Kristian Dennis in front of goal. An out-and-out goalscorer, Dennis can get in behind defences and really comes alive in the penalty area. With 12 goals to his name this season, Dennis is the joint-fourth highest scorer in the division.

One of the main negatives though has been the form of their, literally, big summer signing Chris O’Grady. The vastly experienced target-man has looked like his best years are quite a way behind him, which has massively thrown off Chesterfield’s plans for this season. O’Grady was brought in, taking up a sizeable chunk of their wage budget, to play the figurehead role in attack for their younger, more mobile forwards and midfielders to play around, it simply hasn’t worked out.

Possible Line-Up

Of those mobile forwards and midfielders, few have been in particularly good form this season, although youngster Joe Rowley looks to have a bright future ahead of him. A technically skilful forward with a fair degree of pace, Rowley was reportedly being looked at by Premier League clubs over the summer.

In goal, Chesterfield have had to contend with an injury to first-choice keeper Joe Anyon and the retirement of stalwart Tommy Lee. Sheffield United youngster Jake Eastwood has been brought in and done fairly well since his arrival though. They have also lost key centre-back Ian Evatt to injury in recent weeks, forcing full-back Scott Wiseman to fill in.

Prediction

Leaving aside the excuses of the long away trip to Carlisle that we’ve had to do so soon before this game, as well as the lack of fit players currently available, this is a massive opportunity to record back-to-back wins and assert our position among the automatic promotion contenders. Chesterfield are in poor form, and have only won once away from home all season. The only thing to be concerned about heading into this game is our terrible record against bottom half sides this season.

Nonetheless, I can see us squeezing to the win here, by a 1-0 scoreline.

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