York Stuffed By Spireites
It's often said that the hallmark of a good side is one that can bounce back convincingly following a defeat and Paul Cook's youthful Chesterfield did that with aplomb after a scintillating performance gave his side a handsome 3-0 win over a strong York City and a belated Christmas present to savour for the biggest crowd of the season at The Proact.
The hosts took the lead within 60 seconds of the restart via the most unlikely source, as right-back Drew Talbot ghosted in unmarked to stab home his first goal of the campaign from Mark Randall's delightful free kick and become the 17th different goalscorer for the Spireites this season in the process. Second-half substitute Danny Whitaker doubled Town's advantage with his second touch of the game in the 75th minute, before racing onto a short back pass two minutes later to eventually supply Tendayi Darikwa and ensure all three points remained in Derbyshire.
The victory moves Chesterfield to within one point of seventh placed Fleetwood Town, with Jim Bentley's Morecambe the visitors on Saturday as the Spireites' assault on the play-off places continues to gather momentum under the former Accrington Stanley boss heading into the new year.
The Spireites went into the first of back-to-back home games over the festive period following a disastrous trip to Essex last Friday evening, one which saw influential striker Marc Richards withdrawn with a tight hamstring before three second-half goals from the Shrimpers condemned Paul Cook's side to their heaviest defeat of the season so far. As a result, the Liverpudlian made one change from the side that were soundly beaten at Roots Hall, with Hull City loanee Conor Townsend making his first start on the left-hand side at the expense of Marc Richards and MK Dons loanee Jay O'Shea was given the nod as the spearhead in attack.
The two sides shared a 2-2 draw at a sun-drenched Bootham Crescent back in September courtesy of Jason Walker's audacious 95th minute volley and with yesterday's festivities having subsided, a bumper crowd packed into Whittington Moor on a dreary afternoon for their annual fix of Boxing Day football. The game began at a frantic pace too, with skipper Sam Hird sliding in to deny the onrushing Patrick McLaughlin before Irishman O'Shea fired an early warning sign at Michael Ingham from 20-yards.
But as the heavens opened, the game began to settle down with neither side able to establish a foothold in the opening 10 minutes. Soon after though, Dublin-born midfielder O'Shea, who has proved an astute acquisition since his transition from Stadium:mk, once again set about causing the visitors problems with a neat turn on the edge of the box but he was eventually hounded out by two Minstermen when he looked set to pull the trigger.
Midway through the first period, he was in the thick of it again when he won a free-kick after being hauled down from Nathan Smith's throw-in and former Sunderland stopper Ingham was once again called into action; clawing Hird's header around the post at full stretch after Randall's teasing ball. Tommy Lee was not without incident himself though and he would have been relieved to see the sprightly McLaughlin's header skip narrowly wide of the upright as City reminded the hosts of their presence.
Both sides were very evenly matched as the half-hour mark loomed - Gary Mills' side now looking assured in possession and the hosts attempting to press them high up the pitch - but it was Lee who had to get down quickly to prevent Michael Potts' low drive trickling beneath him and into the far corner. He had to be alert again to thwart Matty Blair at the near post after the former Kidderminster winger fizzed in a vicious effort seven minutes before the break and Luis Boa Morte lashed over after he had managed to spring the offside trap.
But as the half-time whistle blew, the game was still yet to explode into the Christmas cracker that had been anticipated and Cook would need to garner more from his young troops with their play-off hopes still in the balance approaching the new year. But whatever the enigmatic gaffer said in the dressing room at the break, it appeared to have an immediate effect as Town broke the deadlock through a bookie's favourite; Talbot.
The 26-year-old has been employed in a whole host of positions this season, including centre forward at the Globe Arena in October, and he showed his instincts in front of goal having dropped back to full back by prodding home his first goal of the campaign from another sumptuous Randall delivery to completely knock the stuffing out of York. The Minstermen were backed by a vociferous following behind the goal, however, and they were left apoplectic when Liam Cooper challenged Walker in the penalty box only for referee Mr. Sarginson to award a goal kick.
Last season's Conference play-off winners had been in good form on the road since their return to the Football League and in spite of them trailing, it wasn't difficult to see why as Mills' side sought to get themselves back in the ascendency, but it was Tendayi Darikwa who came closest to finding the net for the hosts when he firstly misjudged Talbot's bouncing cross before narrowly curling one wide.
Boa Morte was the next to bear down on goal after O'Shea's incisive through ball, but the former Portuguese international saw the chance snuffed out after he tried to get the ball onto his favoured left foot before Whitaker stepped off the bench to slam home with his second touch and ensure the Spireites recovered from Friday's disappointing reversal against in-form Southend United.
It proved to be the end of York's brief resistance and the former Oldham Athletic winger capitalised on a short back pass just two minutes later to eventually supply Darikwa after Boa Morte's indecisiveness in front of goal had cost him his first strike in royal blue. A culmination of poor finishing from the visitors and another wonder save from Lee ensured a hard-fought clean sheet for Cook's side, who will be eagerly counting down the days until the Shrimps travel to Whittington Moor on Saturday.
Chesterfield (4-2-3-1) - Lee; Talbot, Hird (c), Cooper, Smith; Togwell, Randall (Clay 61); Townsend (Whitaker 75), Darikwa, O'Shea; Boa Morte (Dickenson 84).
Subs not used - O'Donnell, Boden, Wafula, Trotman.
Bookings - N/A
Goals - Talbot (46), Whitaker (75), Darikwa (77)
York City (4-3-3) - Ingham; Parslow, Smith (c), Doig, Fyfield; Potts (Oyebanjo 79), Kerr, McLaughlin; Rodman (Reed 66), Blair, Walker.
Subs not used - Musselwhite, McGurk, Bullock, Smith, Allen.
Bookings - N/A
Goals - N/A
Referee - Mr. Christopher Sarginson
Attendance - 7, 322 (1, 052 away)