Millwall make their first ever visit to the Proact Stadium on Saturday and Danny Wilson is hoping that his Chesterfield side can bounce back against the 2004 FA Cup finalists after defeat to Wigan Athletic last weekend.
The 3-1 loss at the DW Stadium was Wilson’s first as Chesterfield manager, but he remained upbeat when reflecting on the game:
“On paper it was a loss. But I think in the position we’re in at the moment, performances are important. If it’d been a 3-0 or a 3-1 hammering then you’d be thinking ‘crikey, there’s something wrong here’ – but it wasn’t like that.”
The 56-year-old, who has lived in the town for many years, has quickly become a popular figure amongst Spireites supporters with regular chants of “one of our own” coming from the rejuvenated fans.
“I don’t think any manager can underestimate the power of the fans. They’ve been fantastic in these first few games. If it’s like that until the end of the season then we can’t ask for anymore and we have to deliver.”
Having played over 100 games for the club in the1980’s, his legendary status in Chesterfield was already somewhat secure. But the turnaround in form since taking the job on Christmas Eve, epitomised by a 7-1 victory over Shrewsbury Town, has further cemented this.
But despite the turnaround of recent fortunes, Wilson confirms that the priority of the club, who remain only four points above the drop zone, is to secure third tier status for next season.
“We have to make sure we stay in the division. That’s not to say a surge isn’t possible and if we can put a run together then who knows what could happen. Anybody can beat anybody in this division.”
League 1 is closely contested this season and the games don’t get any easier as Chesterfield prepare to face a second consecutive club relegated from the Championship only last season.
Millwall currently sit in 8th position, just a single point off the play-off positions, and have been scoring with regularity – Steve Morison, Lee Gregory and Aiden O’Brien already notching 21 league goals between them.
Lions supporter Danny O’Connor sums up the feeling among the Lions supporters: “This season is turning out exactly how I expected for The Lions – consistently inconsistent. For every demolition (4-0 v Southend!), there’s an embarrassing defeat (0-3 v Gillingham!). But with a new team and a new manager, ‘wall legend Neil Harris, it’s to be expected. After the circus under Steve Lomas and Ian Holloway in recent years it’s just nice to win a game or two!”
But as one of the biggest names in this division, Millwall will certainly be hoping for an immediate return to the second tier and Chesterfield, who have a full squad to select from besides long term injuries and departed Armand Gnanduillet, know a very difficult task awaits.
Wilson said: “We expect them to be uncompromising, physical and very committed to the cause. That’s Millwall. They have players who can make the difference and are very good attacking wise. They have players who can score goals and we have to be mindful of that, but at the same time I know we can do the same.
I’m sure they’ll think they can win here and we think we can beat them. Just as we do with any team we come up against in the division.”
But the history books suggest that the Spireites have nothing to fear. Saturday offers the chance of a league double over their opponents following August’s 2-0 victory at the New Den courtesy of a Jay O’Shea brace. And fans with slightly longer memories will know that they have been defeated by the Lions only once in the last ten outings, stretching back to April 1997.
In fact, the last time the London club visited Chesterfield was just shy of a decade ago. The result? A 5-1 home win. No doubt the home fans would be happy with a similar result this weekend!