Chesterfield Football Club - Champions elect
Chesterfield will be playing in League One next season. Not officially, of course. Not yet. But it really is just a matter of time now. Fittingly, John Sheridan’s side chose a live broadcast of a crucial game with fourth-placed Rotherham United to showcase their talent. Friday night had barely begun and Chesterfield had three goals.
By the end of it, they had enjoyed 60% of the possession, peppered Andy Warrington’s goal 19 times and scored no fewer than five times. And Rotherham had played their part, too. Although the home side dominated, there was a period of end-to-end action prior to the opening goal in which Ronnie Moore’s Millers threatened. To roll out a cliche, it was a great advert for League Two.
For the uninitiated, Chesterfield possess four outstanding attacking talents – Jack Lester and Craig Davies in attack, flanked by Deane Smalley and Dean Morgan. All four flourished as the hosts went thirteen points clear at the top of the fourth tier.
But about that advert… This was a game, particularly before the interval, that made you wonder why people bother so much with Blackburn against Birmingham, to give just one example of a typical bottom-half top-flight tussle. The technical quality on display is of a better standard and the stakes are clearly higher too. But surely there is at least equal merit in seeing a team at the top of their game, no matter the level.
All things being relative, it is a great sight for a neutral to watch confidence in full flow on a football pitch and Chesterfield’s performance was an example of how good League Two can be. It isn’t all like this, admittedly. There are numerous terrible games, but that makes it all the more worthy of comment. The hosts’ first two goals came about primarily through Rotherham errors, a miskicked clearance, wayward backpass and sleepy marking all contributory factors. There was yet to be genuine brilliance as well.
The third, in first half stoppage time, and fourth, with just under ten minutes remaining, could probably have been prevented. However, the travelling fans must have been more forgiving of these two concessions. On both occasions, Lester still had plenty to do when assuming possession. And on both occasions, he achieved it with ease.
Remarkably, within a minute or so of his second, Lester had a hat-trick. This time it was a close-range header at the back post from a deep corner. Moments later, he trotted off with his work done for the night.
A new stadium can go one of two ways. Sometimes it can feel like a white elephant – a depressing, vacuous space that merely serves as a reminder of the uniformity of the modern game. The successor to Layer Road, anyone? Chesterfield’s B2net Stadium hasn’t got the best name in the world and it may not retain this atmosphere for its entire lifespan. But what better way to christen their new home than with a campaign that deserves to be celebrated. Over 10,000 supporters took in the action when Rotherham came to town, including a large travelling support.
The headlines will go to Lester, and his first strike alone deserved them. What was also noticeable was the energy and movement of Chesterfield’s front men and the problems they posed for Moore’s back four. To their credit, the home side’s own defence also stood firm in the face of the considerable threat of Ian Thomas-Moore and Adam Le Fondre. The latter sent a reminder of his ability when firing a first-time strike from the edge of the box in the dying minutes. Tommy Lee pulled off a superb save, one of a handful that earned him an excellent clean sheet. Earlier in the second half, his acrobatics had kept out substitute Omar Daley when a goal looked certain.
After the game, Moore vented his anger. “Shambolic… diabolical… if I had a gun, I’d shoot them”, talking of his players. In contrast, Sheridan talked solely of pride in his own men and reserved special praise for Lester. In fact, he wished that his hat-trick hero was 28. Lester is 35. In October, he will be 36. In October, he will be in League One.