Quick links

League Two

John Sheridan's mister men help Chesterfield remain upwardly mobile

Chesterfield's resurrection has long been obvious and it would take a miracle for promotion not to confirm it by Easter.

John Sheridan's mister men help Chesterfield remain upwardly mobile The Spireites have towered above League Two for most of the season and are 11 points clear of the second‑placed Wycombe Wanderers and 15 ahead of the pursuers in the play-off places. With four of their last seven matches at home, odds are that John Sheridan's side will secure the title at their swish new ground.

The B2net Stadium was inaugurated at the start of this season but, at a cost of £13m and with a capacity of more than 10,000, it was intended for use at a higher level. Sheridan has ensured the club have a side befitting that ambition.

Ten years ago Chesterfield rose from the fourth to the third tier but amid much ill will, since their rise came despite a nine-point penalty for financial matters. The misdemeanours of the club's then owner, Darren Brown, eventually caught up with them and Chesterfield wound up back in the bottom level and on the brink of ruin.

A supporters' trust led a takeover and began the climb back. In 2009 the former Sheffield Wednesday chairman Dave Allen became the majority shareholder and put £4m towards the cost of the new stadium. He also appointed the former Wednesday midfielder Sheridan as manager.

If Chesterfield have their books in order this time, they are also, thanks to Sheridan, going up the right way on the pitch. Much like the League One leaders, Brighton & Hove Albion, Chesterfield are topping the table while pleasing purists, proving the English nether regions are no longer simply about long balls and mighty tackles.

Battles must still be fought, however, as is the case at all levels, and Sheridan suggested it was a lack of fighting qualities in the side that prevented him from lifting the club up in his first season. He declared before this campaign that he wanted a team full of "misters". Free signings and loanees upped the mister and slickness quotients and Chesterfield are looking good.

The most notable newcomer has been Craig Davies. The Welshman is 25 and has been around the block. But he has only ever thrived under Sheridan, who previously managed him at Oldham. He did not prosper at Brighton, which is why they did not demand a fee when Sheridan signed him for Chesterfield last summer.

Davies has since scored 21 goals in 34 league games, his speed, strength and touch making him a constant menace to defences. Against Barnet he was instrumental in his team's opening goal, firing a low shot that the home goalkeeper Sam Walker could only parry into the path of his strike partner, Dean Smalley, who tapped in from close range to claim his 10th goal since joining on loan from Oldham in November.

Davies scored the second goal himself, an instinctive swivel and shot into the top corner from 20 yards. The thing about Davies and Smalley is that, like almost a dozen other squad members, they are either out of contract or set to return to their parent clubs in the summer. The winger Dean Morgan, whose power, passing and penetration have all come to the fore under Sheridan, is another in that situation, having been given only a one-year deal when signed after being let go by MK Dons.

"My mind is focused only on achieving promotion and we haven't done that yet, so I'm not worrying about the players' situations," said Sheridan, either because he is confident that his key players will sign new deals or because, having already proven his prowess at polishing others' cast-offs, he believes he can find replacements.

Tommy Lee arrived before Sheridan but he too has been one of the team's outstanding players this term and has a contract that expires in the summer. He also demonstrated at Barnet the reason why Sheridan will not publicly agree that Chesterfield are certainties to go up – the manner in which the hitherto impeccable goalkeeper conceded two goals underlined that freakish collapses do happen.

Having dominated the first period Chesterfield looked certain to win after Davies put them 2-0 up within seconds of the resumption but the Barnet substitute Sam Deering then beat Lee with a shot from 25 yards.

The north London team, under a new manager, Martin Allen, and fighting to avoid relegation, then exerted extreme pressure but Chesterfield looked to have withstood it until, in the third minute of added time, Deering crossed from the corner flag and Lee, convinced the ball was headed wide, simply watched it fly into the net.

"We all makes mistakes," Sheridan said. "But I've said all along that this is an evenly matched league and it is the most consistent team that will win it. So far we've been the most consistent team."

Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article was written by Paul Doyle, for The Guardian on Monday 28th March 2011 08.01 Europe/London

guardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010

Register for HITC Sport - Daily Dispatch