Chesterfield's play-off hopes were dealt another cruel blow as they suffered their third successive defeat on the road, with Paul Cook's side surrendering a 1-0 lead to succumb to a 2-1 defeat against a valiant and combative Wycombe Wanderers.
On-loan MK Dons midfielder Jay O'Shea gave Chesterfield the lead two minutes before the half-hour mark, lashing home a powerful drive with the aid of a deflection past a helpless Jordan Archer before he almost unearthed the frame of the goal with a peach of an effort that clattered the underside of the crossbar just four minutes later. The home side hauled themselves level with arguably their first foray into the Chesterfield penalty area on the stroke of half-time, when defender Kortney Hause somehow bundled the ball over the goal-line when it looked as though Tommy Lee had been fouled following Josh Scowen's floated ball in.
Marc Richards was also denied by the crossbar immediately after the restart, but Jo Kuffour gave the home side the lead 10 minutes into the second half when he angled a wonderful lob over a stranded Lee and into the far corner before Dean Morgan rattled the crossbar with an impressive free-kick with the home side in the ascendency. The visitors huffed and puffed in search of an equaliser, but in spite of their endeavour it was not forthcoming and they failed to close the gap on seventh place having now played a game more.
Spireites manager Paul Cook revealed his disappointment that his side hadn't kicked on from their impressive 2-0 win against high-flying Port Vale following the New Year's Day defeat against his former employers Accrington, so it was perhaps no surprise that he named the same side that was victorious in Burslem at the start of December. There was just one change from the side that was beaten at The Crown Ground, as MK Dons loanee O'Shea replaced Jack Lester behind lone-striker Richards, while new signing Liam Cooper was part of an unchanged defence having signed a two-and-a-half year deal for an undisclosed fee from Hull City prior to kick-off.
Gareth Ainsworth's side had also suffered a 1-0 defeat on the turn of 2013 at the hands of 10-man Exeter City, but the player/manager has recently guided The Chairboys clear of the division's trapdoor and once again chose to name himself amongst the substitutes as both sides looked to steal a march on their League Two rivals with several of them involved in Round Three of the FA Cup.
The game began at a canter with neither side being able to retain possession sufficiently in the opening 10 minutes and Lee was the first goalkeeper to be called into any form of action when he comfortably gathered Charles Dunne's low near-post cross. The former Macclesfield Town stopper penned his future at Whittington Moor with a three-and-a-half year deal during the week and he showed how valuable he was when he got down to his left soon after to deny Morgan's effort.
Randall and Stuart Lewis then exchanged bookings for a couple of misdemeanours midway through the opening period and it took the visitors 26 minutes to conjure their first real opening after O'Shea's incisive pass found Richards, but the 30-year-old hit-man could only fire straight at Wanderers goalkeeper Archer after bursting through on goal. It was the closest either side had come to imposing themselves on the contest and the former Port Vale striker almost met Drew Talbot's teasing cross moments later.
But just two minutes before the half-hour mark, Cook's side got their noses in front courtesy of O'Shea, who, after creating space in the box with some tremendous footwork, lashed home an unstoppable drive from close range via the aid of a slight deflection. The Liverpudlian was visibly delighted, but he would have been more so with the next 10 minutes which saw his side effortlessly glide through the gears just as they did at Vale Park.
It's fair to say that since his acquisition from Stadium:MK O'Shea has been a revelation and if he wasn't entirely at home in that part of Buckhamshire, he certainly was at Adams Park as he came within a lick of paint of doubling his and Town's advantage just four minutes after opening the scoring. Sam Wood had given Lee a momentary scare when he drilled into the side-netting, but The Spireites were soon back on the offensive and the Irishman sent a delightful, curling effort onto the underside of the bar with Archer beaten all ends up.
Premier League winner Luis Boa Morte is still yet to open his account for the club, but he wanted a piece of the action too and stooped low to head a decent effort goal-wards before Richards got up to meet another invitation from the marauding Talbot either side of Nathan Smith's perfectly-timed sliding challenge. It was arguably the most comprehensive performance since the win against Micky Adams' side, but Cook's side themselves had been on the rough end of some refereeing decisions lately and they certainly looked to have had another go against them on the stroke of half-time.
Referee Mr. Linington had already spoken to Dunne and Tendayi Darikwa prior to Scowen's delivery and with a cluster of players gathered beneath Lee's crossbar, the ball somehow squirmed over the goal-line when it looked as though the goalkeeper had been impeded by the eventual goalscorer Hause. The second 45 minutes was certainly going to be a blossoming indication of the resolve and mettle amongst Cook's charges and as darkness befell High Wycombe, Archer's framework was left shaking again when Richards diverted Cooper's flick onto the face of the bar.
It was the fourth time in just over two hours of football that Town had struck the framework, but they had a familiar face to thank for staying on level terms just six minutes after the restart when Morgan somehow contrived to miscue wide with the white of Lee's eyes in his sights. The game was beginning to open up now and Archer had to get down quickly to his left to palm wide Mark Randall's downward header after Richards' hopeful looping cross.
But the home side completed the turnaround 10 minutes into the second half courtesy of Kuffour who managed to angle an audacious lob over a helpless Lee for his first strike of the season. Chesterfield had managed to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory here last season and now they would have to do the exact opposite following the 31-year-old's wonder goal and Cook's answer was to introduce Jack Lester at the expense of hobbling right-back Talbot, but the home side now had their tails up and Morgan himself thumped the crossbar with a delightful free-kick.
Former Gunner Randall then drew an uncomfortable save from Archer but after Boa Morte had managed to keep the attack alive, Lester could only swipe his first effort of the contest over. The Portuguese winger picked up his compulsory booking as Mr. Linington desperately reached for his pocket to caution the most prestigious name of his career and he was replaced shortly after in favour of on-loan Brighton and Hove Albion winger Brennan Dickenson.
The Seagulls had earlier dumped Newcastle United out of the FA Cup and Cook would have been hoping for some similar inspiration from the young Seagull before playing his final hand, introducing Danny Whitaker at the expense of Randall. The visitors pushed for an elusive leveller, but it was Joel Grant who was unfortunate not to win a penalty when he appeared to be upended by Sam Togwell with Town stretched.
Dickenson almost had the impact his manager craved seven minutes from time when Archer clawed away his dipping drive after the visitors had neatly worked the ball out to the left and Lester was denied by a superb last-ditch challenge from Hause after Richards' perfect cutback, but it was all that Town could muster and they failed to close the gap on the League Two play-off places as they remain four points adrift of Fleetwood Town having played a game more.
Chesterfield (4-2-3-1) - Lee; Talbot (Lester 57), Cooper, Hird (c), Smith; Darikwa, Togwell, Randall (Whitaker 73); Darikwa, Boa Morte (Dickenson 70), O'Shea; Richards.
Subs not used - O'Donnell, Trotman, Clay, Boden.
Bookings - Randall (21), Cooper (58), Boa Morte (65), Hird (89)
Goals - O'Shea (29)
Wycombe Wanderers - Archer; Harriman, Hause, Winfield (c), Dunne; Grant, Lewis (Stewart 90), Scowen, Wood; Morgan (Ainsworth 90), Kuffour.
Subs not used - Harrison, Spirng, Andrade, Oli, Morias.
Bookings - Lewis (8), Morgan (90)
Goals - Hause (45), Kuffour (55)
Referee - Mr. J Linington
Attendance - 3, 492 (350 away)