On Saturday 27th October 2012 I went to the Proact Stadium to watch Chesterfield play Edgar Davids’ Barnet in League 2.
After a last minute defeat to Fleetwood Town in mid-week, the Chesterfield board had finally appointed a new manager in the form of former Sligo Rovers and Accrington Stanley boss Paul Cook. The Spireites were sat in 13th position and despite caretaker manager Tommy Wright’s best efforts, two consecutive home defeats to Dagenham and Redbridge and Fleetwood Town appeared to have cost him the chance of taking on the role permanently.
Cook’s reign in charge of the Spireites began against the football league’s bottom placed team, Barnet. The Bees had picked up just a single victory all season but were unbeaten since Dutch footballing legend Edgar Davids had started playing for the club. The former Ajax, AC Milan, Juventus, Barcelona, Internazionale, Tottenham Hostpur and Crystal Palace player had joined Barnet as a player coach and after watching a 4-1 defeat to Plymouth Argyle from the touchline, had decided to make his first competitive appearences in two years. Since then, Barnet had beaten Northampton Town 4-0 and held Wycombe Wanderers to a goalless draw so there was clearly a buzz around the club since Davids joined.
Chesterfield’s team was selected by Tommy Wright, although new manager Paul Cook did sit in the dugout during the game rather than watching from the stands. The 4-5-1 formation, with Jack Lester as the lone striker, continued despite its lack of effectiveness in the previous games while he only change to the side that had lost to the Cod Army was Nathan Smith replacing the injured Luis Boa Morte. The only change to the Barnet starting eleven that had drawn with Wycombe Wanderers in their last game was Mark Byrne replacing Anthony Edgar.
Th new manager Paul Cook was introduced to the supporters before the game and he received a good reception from over 5,000 Chesterfield fans inside the stadium. It was the home side who had the first clear chance of the game when some neat play found Jack Lester, who curled his effort just wide of the target.
Edgar Davids had a chance at the other end when he directed a header straight in to the arms of Richard O’Donnell. However, this was as close as the Bees came in the opening 45 minutes as Chesterfield dominated the play.
A good spell saw the Spireites force three top quality saves out of Barnet goalkeeper Graham Stack in quick succession. First, Danny Whitaker fired a shot towards the target which was palmed away by Stack before two shots from Sam Togwell at the end of well worked corners were tipped over by the former Hibernian stopper. However, the Spireites still couldn’t find the net and close range headers from both Sam Hird and Jack Lester failed to open the scoring.
The bombardment of Barnet’s goal continued in the early periods of the second half as Chesterfield desperatley searched for a goal to break the deadlock. However, it looked like things simply weren’t going to go the way of the home side. Drew Talbot’s cross found Danny Whitaker at the far post but his first time strike flew over the crossbar when it looked easier to score before Chris Atkinson fired a shot just wide of the target from distance.
Three substitutions were made by assistants Tommy Wright and Mark Crossley in an attempt to win the game, but these appeared to weaken the team as Sam Togwell and Tendayi Darikwa, two players who were playing well in midfield, were taken off and replaced by Micah Evans and Craig Westcarr. Mark Randall also took the place of Nathan Smith, who had made his first start after a long absence due to injury.
The Spireites had another good opportunity to find a winning goal when Liam Ridehalgh played a low ball across the six yard box, but neither substitute Westcarr not Lester could get on the end of it to put the home side ahead.
In the final minute of the game, Andy Yiadom charged towards goal and was tripped in the area by Talbot, leaving the referee with little choice but to point to the spot. Mark Byrne stepped up and calmy sent the goalkeeper the wrong way to put the Bees ahead with just seconds to go.
Westcarr almost salvaged a deserved point for Chesterfield in stoppage time, but he failed to get a good enough contact on the ball and it was smothered by goalkeeper Stack.
The scoreline was very harsh on the home side who had dominated the game, but a lack of clinical finishing had cost the Spireites dearly. The result saw Chesterfield fall 16th in the League 2 table after three consecutive home defeats while Barnet are now unbeaten in three games but remain bottom.
After the game, I got pictures with Barnet’s Jordan Brown, John Oster, Sam Cowler, Clovis Kamdjo and Jonathan Fortune as well as Chesterfield captain Sam Hird. Finally, before heading home I spotted Edgar Davids coming out of the main entrance and I got a photo with the 1995 Champions League winner and former Holland international.
It has been a very disappointing start to the new campaign and this is probably the worst position I have seen a Chesterfield side in while I have been watching football. Hopefully, there will be a change of fortune once Paul Cook takes control of the side fully and the Spireites can begin to push for an instant return to the third tier.
Chesterfield 0–1 Barnet
Byrne ’90 (pen)O’Donnell, Smith (Randall ’61), Forbes, Hird, Darikwa (Evans ’77), Ridehalgh, Talbot, Togwell (Westcarr ’74), Whitaker, Atkinson, Lester Stack, Fuller, Brown, Stephens, Pearce, Kamdjo, Byrne, Yiadom, Oster (Edgar ’21), Davids, Hyde (Nurse ’83) Attendance: 5,611