Chesterfield suffered their first defeat of 2015, going down 3-1 to a formidable Swindon Town side who remain strong at the top of League 1.Jack Stephens gave the Robins a first-half lead with a clever headed finish, before the Spireites hit back almost immediately when Sam Clucas twisted and turned and expertly curled the ball into the bottom corner.
John Swift then restored Swindon’s lead with a close range finish, and despite a solid second half performance from Chesterfield, a calm Andy Williams effort sealed the three points just two minutes after the break.
The Spireites headed to Wiltshire to test themselves against table-toppers Swindon Town on a frost-ridden winter's afternoon, with Paul Cook’s side looking to continue their fine run of form which has seen them lose just once in their last 14 competitive fixtures.
The Robins impressively dispatched with Coventry City in their last league fixture by three goals to nil, and the hosts came close to resuming their goals streak in the opening seconds as Michael Smith broke down the right before teeing up the prolific Andy Williams in the middle, but he could only steer wide of Tommy Lee’s post.
Following on from Williams’ missed opportunity, it did not take the promotion chasers much longer to find the back of Lee’s net, as a teasing set piece from the impressive Toffolo allowed Stephens a clear run at the ball as he glanced a header into the bottom corner.
Chesterfield often react well to an early deficit and this afternoon was no exception at the County Ground, as the man in form, Clucas, notched his third goal in five days when he was threaded in down the right after good work from the battling Armand Gnanduillet, and the wide man cut inside and slotted the ball past a helpless Wes Foderingham.
It was then over to the Robins to react effectively after Clucas’ leveller, and Swindon duly obliged just four minutes later as Williams broke through the Spireites’ last line of defence, but as the forward fluffed his lines, Swift was on hand to bundle the ball home and restore the Wiltshire side’s advantage.
Although the Spireites were yet to reach their best in the game, they still possessed a strong threat going forward, and this time it was Jimmy Ryan who came within inches of drawing the visitors level, as Gary Roberts’ free-kick found the onrushing Ryan who met the ball full on the volley only for his stunning effort to rattle the crossbar and bounce down on the line.
Similarly to Swindon’s opener, Toffolo again had the chance to pile pressure on the Chesterfield defence with a set-piece in a wide position just before the break, and it was a picture perfect delivery once again but fortunately for Chesterfield Stephens this time could only direct his header wide.
The Spireites resumed the contest after the restart and were hoping for a better beginning to the half than the first, but within two minutes Chesterfield had found themselves 3-1 down and with a mountain to climb.
A Robins breakaway saw the hosts outnumbering Cook’s side in the final third, and following a clever Louis Thompson through ball, Williams with all the time in the world calmly sent Lee the wrong way.
Thompson was the man who grabbed the assist for Swindon’s third, and the captain turned from provider to defender as he saved his side from immediately being pegged back from the Spireites, as after Gnanduillet rose highest in the hosts’ penalty area, Thompson in the nick of time was there to stab off of the line.
A persistent Gnanduillet continued to be an aerial threat against a relatively small Town side, and following an accurate Roberts delivery, the Frenchman perhaps should have guided his header on target as opposed to over the crossbar.
Despite the score line, the second half showing from the Spireites was a much improved performance, and as Gnanduillet demonstrated in the cup tie versus Scunthorpe, the big man struck a vicious set piece from range goalwards the ball whisked narrowly wide.
Dead ball situations were having a say in the outcome of the game, and if it was not for a smart Lee save from a free-kick from substitute Anton Rodgers, the lead would have been stretched further.
With the game lost the Spireites also suffered a further knockback with Gary Roberts pulling up late on with what appeared to be a hamstring strain, the club will be hoping for good news on their talisman ahead of their FA Cup fourth round trip to Derby County next Saturday.
Swindon Town: Foderingham (gk) - Thompson (c), Byrne, Stephens, Rossi-Branco, Turnbull Toffolo (Barthram 90’), Thompson, Swift (Rodgers 71’); Williams, Smith (Obika 66’)
Subs not used: Belford (gk), Barker, Hylton
Chesterfield: Lee (gk) - Darikwa, Raglan, Hird, Jones - Clucas (Gardner 78’), Ryan, Morsy (c), Roberts (Dieseruvwe 80’) - Doyle (O’Shea 78’), Gnanduillet
Unused subs: Wright (gk), Humphreys, Evatt, Ariyibi
Swindon Town: Stephens 17’, Swift 24’ Williams 47’
Chesterfield: Clucas 20’
Attendance: 7,981 (407 away fans)