Spireites Rock The Robins
A tremendous all-round performance from Chesterfield gave Paul Cook back-to-back wins in the league for the first time since he took over in October.
Chris Atkinson continued his goal scoring run to break the deadlock after the quarter-hour mark. The midfielder finished off a neat move with a drilled effort into the bottom corner from just inside the penalty area. The lead was doubled on the stroke of half time when Sam Togwell headed in Tendayi Darikwa's shot which cannoned back off the crossbar into the path of the industrious midfielder.
The visitors threatened a comeback in the second half when Kaid Mohamed powerfully headed his side back into the match after 57 minutes, however Marc Richards quickly cancelled it out with a pile driver just two minutes later. That was the striker's second goal of the season on his first start since lining up against Paul Cook's Accrington Stanley in September. The points were firmly secured when Richards' replacement, Jack Lester, scored with his first touch.
With a host of players back off the treatment table and the addition of two loan signings, Cook had some difficult decsions to make ahead of kick-off. In came Marc Richards at the expense of Scott Boden in the only change from the team that started the 2-1 win over Oxford United at the weekend. The striker made a successful return to first-team action against the Us, where he cleverly set up Chris Atkinson to fire home the winner.
New loan signings Jay O'Shea and Conor Townsend took up their place on the substitutes bench, which once again looked very strong. The game came too quickly for midfielder Mark Randall who failed to recover from a gash on the shin. The former Arsenal playmaker had been putting in some impressive displays before picking up that injury.
The Spireites made up for their poor start against Oxford by dominating the opening exchanges of this encounter. Dickenson and Darikwa showed their intention from the first whistle, attacking the full backs at every opportunity which forced Cheltenham onto the back foot. The Brighton winger saw his free-kick drop to Darikwa 35 yards out after just five minutes but Tendayi was yet to find his range and instead found the car park.
Another opportunity wasn't too far behind though, this time Darikwa was the provider. His cross found the onrushing Drew Talbot 12 yards out but the delivery was slightly behind him and the header soured over Brown's crossbar.
Chesterfield had a golden opportunity after 8 minutes, and should have taken the lead. Brennan Dickenson picked up the ball just outside the box and showed a tremendous piece of skill to beat Keith Lowe, but the winger lacked composure at the vital time and blazed over the bar.
The deadlock was finally broken after 15 minutes, Marc Richards and Darikwa played a neat one-two on the right hand side of the Cheltenham box, Tendayi looked up and pulled it back for Chris Atkinson who fired the ball into the bottom corner from just inside the box.
The goal seemed to spur the home side on even more and the pressure was continually being heaped on the visitors. Dickenson was proving to be a real thron in Keith Lowe's side, he relentlessly attacked the full back and was inches away from finding the head of Richards with a vicious ball in from the left.
Liam Cooper almost inadvertently gifted the Robins an undeserved equaliser on 35 minutes. Marlon Pack's free-kick was whipped towards the back post, the on-loan defender rose highest to clear but the ball came off the back of his head and bounced in front of Tommy Lee's net a few yards out. Fortunately Richards showed his predatory instinct to pounce on the loose ball and hack it away.
That chance appeared to galvanise the away side somewhat and they began to look a threat for the first time in the match. Chris Zebroski managed to find some space on the edge of the Spireites box but his shot lacked any conviction and trickled out for a goal-kick. Chesterfield responded and could have doubled their advantage with 5 minutes remaining in the first-half. Darikwa evaded the offside trap down the right and his deflected cross fell kindly for Brennan Dickenson who's first-time effort forced a smart stop from Scott Brown in the Cheltenham goal.
Just as it looked as though the Spireites would go into the interval with just a one-goal advantage, Sam Togwell doubled the lead with a diving header on the stroke of half time. Marc Richards broke through the centre of the pitch and played a neat pass through to Danny Whitaker who intelligently pulled it back to Darikwa. The winger saw his fantastic effort crash off the bar and into the path of Togwell who stooped to head home.
Mark Yeates introduced the lively Jermaine McGlashan at the break in an attempt to find a way back into the game but it was the home side who again started the brighter. An early break allowed Dickenson to once again test the defence but he opted to find Whitaker who was unlucky not to play Darikwa through on goal with a neat touch. Moments later Drew Talbot was found in acres of space inside the area, his powerful effort appeared to take a deflection as it flew just wide of the top corner but to the home crowd's frustration, the referee saw different.
The home fans were certainly being warmed up on a chilly November evening at the Proact Stadium. Exciting, attacking football was flowing towards the Kop and Danny Whitaker almost hammered in a third from 20 yards after a good spell of possession. The blood would have certainly have chilled though had Jermaine McGlashan's theatrics earned his side a penalty, luckily Mr.Salisbury wasn't having any of it.
With the hour mark approaching, two goals in as many minutes saw the second-half burst into life. First Cheltenham clawed a goal back through Kaid Mohamed. The Welshman rose highest from a corner to powerfully head the ball into the bottom corner and give the travelling Robins hope. The visitors fightback was short-lived though as just moments later the ball sat up perfectly for Marc Richards on the edge of the box, and the striker emphatically dispatched his second goal of the season and Chesterfield's third of the night to restore the two-goal advantage.
Marc Richards was withdrawn with 15 minutes remaining and was treated to a standing ovation by the home faithful. His replacement got the same treatment and they didn't need to retake their seats for long. Jack Lester secured the points with his first touch, bundling home a Luis Boa Morte corner from no more than a yard. Que the talismanic striker's song from all side's of the ground.
In the dying minutes Lester had a great opportunity to add another but he was hauled down on the edge of the box by Bennett, the defender was perhaps was fortunate not to see red. The Spireites saw the game out in a professional manner and the side, who sat in third position at the start of the night, rarely threatened what would have been a miraculous comeback.
The Spireites travel to Plymouth Argyle at the weekend and on the back of that performance, you wouldn't want to bet against them coming home with maximum points.
Attendance: 4,333 (128 away)
Chesterfield (4-2-3-1) - Lee;Talbot, Hird (c), Cooper, Smith; Atkinson, Togwell; Darikwa, Whitaker (Clay 63), Dickenson (Boa Morte); Richards (Lester 74)
Subs: O'Donnell, Forbes, Townsend, Clay (Whitaker), Boa Morte (Dickenson 70), O'Shea, Lester (Richards 74).
Cheltenham (4-2-3-1) - Brown; Lowe, Bennett (c), Elliott, Jones; Carter (McGlashan 45), Pack; Mohamed, Penn, Zebroski; Goudling (Harrad 67)
Subs: Deering, Duffy, McGlashan (Carter 45), Roberts, Harrad (Goulding 67), Andrew, Hanks.