On Saturday 14th September 2013, I went to the Proact Stadium to watch Chesterfield play AFC Wimbledon in League 2.
This afternoon’s contest at the Proact Stadium saw the teams in 1st and 3rd positions go head to head. Chesterfield came into the game sitting at the top of the pile in League 2, two points clear of their nearest rivals Oxford United. The Spireites were still unbeaten having won five of their first six league games and still had a 100% home record so far this season. Third placed AFC Wimbledon had also made a great start to the new campaign with four wins from six including victories in their last three matches so on paper this looked to be a high quality match up.
Both managers Paul Cook and Neal Ardley named unchanged sides for this game after victories against Accrington Stanley and York City respectively. The big talking point of the last week for Chesterfield had been the signing of free agent Gary McSheffrey, who was amongst the Spireites substitutes. The 31 year old former Coventry and Birmingham City man McSheffrey signed a four month deal at the Proact after being released by the Sky Blues, adding to the already excellent Chesterfield squad.
Unlike last weeks opposition Accrington, Wimbledon allowed the Spireites much more room to play their own passing game and this worked to the home sides advantage greatly as they controlled much of the first half. Marc Richards had the ball in the net inside the first 10 minutes when he got on the end of Ritchie Humphrey’s cross but the celebrations were quickly cut short by the assistant’s offside ruling.
Another Humphreys cross led to Gary Roberts forcing Wimbledon keeper Kevin Warner to make a low save to keep it goalless. Tommy Lee was then forced into his first stop of the game when Charlton loanee Michael Smith hit a goalbound effort that the goalkeeper tipped wide.
Chesterfield took the lead on the half hour courtesy of a Roberts strike. Jay O’Shea and Tendayi Darikwa combined neatly on the wing before the irishman’s cross found Roberts, who hit a low first time shot past the goalkeeper.
The second period carried on in much the same fashion with the home side in control. Richards really should have doubled the lead when Darikwa broke down the wing and crossed, finding the forward unmarked at the far post but he somehow managed to put his effort wide with the open goal gaping.
It was 2-0 eight minutes into the second half when a quick free kick led to Sam Hird getting on the end of Roberts’ cross and directing the ball home with a powerful header.
Roberts was causing all sorts of problems for the opposition who just couldn’t handle him. He set up another great opportunity when his pass cut through the back line and left Darikwa through on goal, who hit a shot that beat Warner but smashed off the post.
With 13 minutes to go Gary McSheffrey was handed his Chesterfield debut, replacing Darikwa on the wing. The former Premiership player struggled to make much of an impact on the game in his short time on the pitch, but I am sure with his experience he will be a big player for the Spireites in the coming months.
The game was brought to an end and Chesterfield moved four points clear at the top of the table, quite a feat after just seven games. The result also kept alive the Spireites 100% home record, something they will be looking to keep up with local rivals Mansfield Town the next home opposition! The defeat saw AFC Wimbledon fall to 7th position but they could have no complaints as they simply lost to a better side on the day.
It had been a hugely impressive performance from Chesterfield, possibly the best of the season so far, with the only complaint being that they didn’t score more! However, with two big games coming up in the next weeks – against 2nd placedOxford United and then local rivals Mansfield, it will be interesting to see how the league leaders do in these tough tests ahead.
Chesterfield 2–0 AFC Wimbledon
Roberts ’30, Hird ’53
Lee, Hird, Cooper, Humphreys, Talbot, Morsy, Darikwa (McSheffrey ’77), O’Shea (Gnanduillet ’87), Roberts, Ryan, Richards (Doyle ’72)
Warner, Fuller, Frampton, Bennett, Fenlon, Francomb (Strutton ’79), S Moore, Pell, Porter (Midson ’63), Smith, L Moore (Arthur ’63)