On Saturday 3rd May 2014, I went to the Proact Stadium to watch Chesterfield play Fleetwood Town in the final game of the 2013/14 season.
A beautiful, sunny afternoon in Chesterfield played host to the final league game of the 2013/14 campaign. The previous weekend’s results meant that all three automatic were already filled, Scunthorpe United and Rochdale earning their promotion to League 1 on Saturday with the Spireites’ 2-0 victory at Burton the following day confirmed that they would join them.
There was still much to play for however, as just a single point separated the three sides in the battle for the league title. Chesterfield knew that a win against today’s opposition Fleetwood Town, who had already guaranteed themselves a play off spot, would earn them a second league title in four years. However, anything less and the title could be heading to Glanford Park or Spotland depending on results across the country.
The match was close to a sellout with just over 9,000 supporters crammed inside the Proact Stadium. Home fans filled all four sides of the ground and you could feel the anticipation build as kick off time slowly approached.
But the Spireites’ title hopes got off to the worst possible start as they fell behind after just 13 minutes. Matty Blair showed some great skill to turn past a number of defenders before slotting the ball past Tommy Lee.
The early goal appeared to leave the home side a bit shell-shocked and the remainder of the half was rather flat. Chesterfield had a number of half chances, Eoin Doyle, Jimmy Ryan and Gary Roberts all directing efforts wide of the target. However, they rarely looked like threatening and it was Fleetwood that headed in at the break with an advantage.
With Scunthorpe and Rochdale both leading their matches at half time, the Spireites had dropped to third on the live-league table and looked like they were throwing the title away. But Paul Cook’s half time talk clearly gave the players a lift and they came out in the second period looking like a different team.
Just six minutes after the restart, parity was restored courtesy of an unlikely hero in defender Sam Hird. Jay O’Shea whipped the ball into the box and Hird managed to head the ball past Chris Maxwell to put the Spireites back on level terms.
Four minutes later and it was 2-1 to Chesterfield. Almost perfectly it was Gary Roberts, League 2’s player of the year, who found the net with a wonderful strike to send the home fans ecstatic and put Chesterfield back in top spot with little more than half an hour to play.
There was a brief moment of panic for the home supporters when Jon Parkin seemingly played Blair through on goal for the visitors, but an absolutely outstanding tackle from Nathan Smith ensured that danger was averted.
From then on it was Chesterfield who dominated the play. With little to play for, the Cod Army seemed to be saving themselves for the upcoming play off campaign while the Spireites desperately looked to add to their lead and confirm the title.
O’Shea came agonisingly close to making it three with a curled effort that flew inches over the crossbar before Roberts and Dan Gardner both also went close to finding the net. However, while they failed to add to their lead it didn’t matter as a 2-1 victory meant that Chesterfield were League 2 champions once again!
A small pitch invasion greeted the final whistle before fans quickly cleared the pitch to allow the presentations to take place. The manager and all the players were announced to the fans, receiving a fantastic reception from the joyful supporters as they collected their winners medals. The League 2 trophy was then lifted by captain Ian Evatt before being taken on a lap of honour by the squad.
The celebrations then spilled onto the pitch once again as fans enjoyed a great moment in the club’s history. There has rarely been a dull moment over the past few years with three pieces of silverware (2x League 2 and a JPT) in four years! This season alone has seen a trip to Wembley and the league title for the club, making it probably the most successful in Chesterfield’s history.
Next season is certainly one to look forward to already. On their return to the third tier, the Spireites will face local rivals Sheffield United, Barnsley, Doncaster Rovers (who were relegated by a 90th minute Birmingham City goal), Notts County, Bradford City and maybe even Rotherham. Along with games against the likes of Bristol City and Coventry City, there will be some great matches at the Proact Stadium next season. Of course my season ticket is already renewed and I cannot wait to be back!
Chesterfield 2–1 Fleetwood Town
Blair ’13, Hird ’51, Roberts ’55
Lee, Talbot (Gardner ’57), Smith, Humphreys, Evatt, Hird, Doyle (Richards ’81), Roberts (Togwell ’85), Darikwa, O’Shea, Ryan
Maxwell, Hogan, Taylor, Schumacher, Cresswell, Jordan, Evans, Murdoch, Parkin, Blair, Morris (Hughes ’73)