Dean Saunders was sacked by Chesterfield only six months after his appointment as the side fell to a fourth consecutive defeat at the hands of struggling Swindon Town.
Despite a big shake-up to the starting eleven following a third consecutive defeat in midweek, things improved little for the Spireites and they found themselves 2-0 down inside 14 minutes through goals from Nicky Ajose and Louis Thompson.
Chesterfield ended the first half strongly but any hopes of staging a comeback were quickly killed off as Jon Obika added a third shortly after the restart, before Ajose scored his second and Swindon’s fourth late on to secure a comfortable victory and seal Saunders’ fate.
A grand total of five changes saw an injection of youth with 32 years shaved off the Chesterfield starting eleven from midweek as Rai Simons, Gboly Ariyibi, Ollie Banks, Liam O’Neil and Charlie Raglan were brought in as replacements for the largely more experienced Sylvan Ebanks-Blake, Dan Gardner, Chris Herd, Sam Hird and Richard Wood.
The decision to shake things up had been somewhat forced on manager Saunders following a hugely disappointing performance at Doncaster Rovers on Tuesday night. On the back of two previous defeats, the Spireites made it a miserable three in a row as they fell to a 3-0 defeat without registering a single shot on target all evening.
Despite these switches however it appeared to be more of the same for the disgruntled home supporters as Swindon Town, who had lost their last six away games, moved 2-0 ahead in just 14 minutes.
The Robins were on the front foot from the word go and it was former Chesterfield loanee Ajose who met Bradley Barry’s drilled low cross to hammer home from close range and give the visitors the lead after only three minutes.
Swindon went on to dominate the early stages, although Simons did create a great chance to level in the twelfth minute – snatching possession from the defence before cutting back to the onrushing Banks, whose first time strike was kept out by a last-ditch defensive block.
However, two minutes later it was the visitors who had found the net yet again. Tommy Lee looked to have Thompson’s powerful near-post effort covered, but somehow the ball found the net right in front of an angry Kop stand despite the goalkeeper getting a touch to the ball.
After the worst possible start, Chesterfield finally began to grow into the contest and largely dominated remainder of the half. Crosses from the full backs looked to be the Spireites’ biggest threat and it was a ball that saw the two combine which provided their best opportunity of the first period – O’Neil picked out Dan Jones in acres of space at the far post but he was unable to keep his effort down.
A positive end to the first 45 minutes, which also say Jay O’Shea hit the crossbar, left many feeling like a second half turnaround was a possibility. But any hints of optimism quickly evaporated as Obika added a third to Swindon’s tally in the 48th minutes to seemingly kill off the contest.
Injury saw Jones stretchered off the field shortly before the hour as things went from bad to worse for the Derbyshire club. They did still create the occasional good opportunity, most notably an excellent link up between Simons and substitute Mani Dieseruvwe that saw the latter denied by an instinctive save.
But it wasn’t enough and in reality it was Swindon who could’ve scored even more as they continually got into dangerous shooting positions – only a last-ditch tackle from Raglan and then a miscued finish from Obika keeping it at 3-0.
And with ten minutes to play, the Robins finally had their fourth. Once again it was Ajose who fired past Lee to further the home side’s misery and signal the start of the first prominent “Saunders Out!” chant from the few home supporters who had remained until the end.
Barry nearly fulfilled the away supporters’ wishes of “we want five” when his magnificent effort smashed off the far post, but in the end they were more than happy to settle for four and a third league win in four outings.
In what ultimately proved to be his final post-match interview as Chesterfield boss, Saunders responded to questions about his position with an honest assessment:
“You can’t lose 4-0 at home. I understand the supporters frustration. It’s not personal towards me. I’m the manager and if you lose 4-0 at home then you’re going to get criticism. But I’m as frustrated as they are.
“I put pressure on myself everyday. I knew it wasn’t going to be easy shoes to fill when Paul Cook left because everyone liked him and I knew a lot of the players we lost were going to leave. I just wanted to get enough points to get time to build a team and I think we need to consolidate this season and then maybe kick on next year.”
However, he was to be given no more time as Chesterfield released a statement hours after the final whistle stating that they had parted company with Saunders just 199 days and 20 league games into his reign.
The Spireites now look ahead to next Saturday’s FA Cup second round game against Walsall. Only time will tell who will be in charge for that game at the Proact Stadium.
Line-up: Lee, O’Neil, Raglan, Morsy, Evatt, Jones (Herd ’57), Banks, O’Shea, Novak (Dieseruvwe ’51), Ariyibi, Simons
Unused subs: Chapman, Hird, Ebanks-Blake, Gardner, Wood
Swindon Town (4)
Line-up: Vigouroux, Ottewill (Brophy ’82), Robert (Balmy ’86), Turnbull, Ajose, Obika, Rodgers, Barry, Gladwin, Thompson (Iandolo ’78), El-Abd
Unused subs: Hylton, Belford, Ojamaa, Stewart
Scorers: Ajose ‘3 ’80, Thompson ’14, Obika ’48
Date: 28th November 2015
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