Goals from Josh Morris, Kevin Van Veen and Sam Mantom moved Scunthorpe United five points clear at the top of League 1 as Chesterfield’s miserable run continued.
Without a win in five league outings following Tuesday’s home defeat to Fleetwood Town, things weren’t getting any easier for Danny Wilson’s side as table-toppers Scunthorpe United arrived in North Derbyshire on Saturday afternoon for the second part of the weeks Proact double-header.
The Iron sat three points clear at the top of the League 1 table despite a midweek loss to Oldham Athletic which had ended a run of ten games unbeaten in all competitions.
And with the division’s top scorer Josh Morris in their side, already with 12 goals to his name this campaign, Scunthorpe will have been full of confidence heading into the contest.
However, there was some reason for optimism for the home supporters as their team’s joint-top scorer Ched Evans was named in the starting eleven for the first time since 10th September.
Alongside him in attack was 17-year-old Ricky German, an exciting young prospect making his first league start for the Spireites, due in part to injuries for both Kristian Dennis and Conor Wilkinson.
As most would have expected, it was the visitors who got off to the stronger start – roared on by a large and noisy away following.
However, the Iron failed to create many noteworthy opportunities in this opening quarter of an hour and as things quickly evened out, it was Chesterfield who came agonisingly close to breaking the deadlock in the 26th minute as Evans nodded Gboly Ariyibi’s looping cross just inches wide of the far post.
Scunthorpe then came close on a breakaway attack that saw Paddy Madden charge towards goal before finding Stephen Dawson, who in turn laid off Morris for a first-time strike which the attacker sliced wide for a goal kick.
It was end-to-end action as the half headed towards a conclusion and for a moment, the home fans thought their side had opened the scoring when Ariyibi’s strike deflected wide and rolled along the back of the net – unfortunately not inside the net, as many clearly first thought!
Arguably the best chance of the half arrived in it’s final minute, however, as Madden raced through one-on-one but a weak finish let the chance down as goalkeeper Ryan Fulton easily charged down the shot.
But four minutes after the restart, Scunthorpe were ahead. Morris was once again the scorer for the league-leaders as his whipped free kick missed everyone and nestled in the far corner of the net to send the travelling supporters behind the goal into elation.
The advantage was then doubled eleven minutes later. Dutch forward Kevin Van Veen charged into the box and hit a powerful strike from a tight angle that went between the legs of ‘keeper Fulton at the near post and into the net to give the visitors relative comfort.
Chesterfield battled on for the remainder of the contest, holding on to possession for long periods, but in truth the Iron’s backline rarely looked threatened by anything the hosts attempted to create.
And the Spireites’ misery was confirmed five minutes from time as the Iron made it three. It was the simplest of moves as a lofted through ball from Van Veen found substitute Sam Mantom alone in front of goal and the 24-year-old slotted a confident finish into the bottom corner.
Post-match, victorious manager Graham Alexander said: “We have belief in how good we are and that showed today. That’s what it takes.”
“It’s nice to see the players enjoying their football and putting in a performance like that.”
Meanwhile, a frustrated Danny Wilson told the press: “Overall that’s possibly what we deserved. We’ve come up against a very good side, men, and we weren’t men today.
“I’m not going to make an excuse for it. We’ve got to put players out there who will put their body on the line and we didn’t today. They did. But they’re a lot more experienced than we are. It’s not just a toughness with physicality but a toughness between the ears.”
“We will keep battling away. We will find out who are men and who will fall by the wayside. Who knows it could be me who falls by the wayside. We have to take the ultimate responsibility for it.”
Line-up: Ryan Fulton, Sam Hird, Gary Liddle, Ched Evans, Liam O’Neil (Rai Simons ’82), Jon Nolan, Dion Donohue, Tom Anderson, Jay O’Shea (Reece Mitchell ’70), Gboly Ariyibi, Ricky German (Dan Gardner ’61)
Unused Subs: Ian Evatt, Connor Dimaio, Lloyd Allinson, Liam Graham
Scunthorpe United (3)
Line-up: Luke Daniels, Murray Wallace, David Mirfin, Stephen Dawson (Richie Smallwood ’80), Paddy Madden, Kevin Van Veen, Josh Morris (Charlie Goode ’86), Neal Bishop, Duane Holmes (Sam Mantom ’73), Conor Townsend, Levi Sutton
Unused subs: Joe Anyon, Tom Hopper, Jonathon Margetts, Jamie Ness
Scorers: Josh Morris ’49, Kevin Van Veen ’60, Sam Mantom ’85
Date: 22nd October 2016
Attendance: 6,328 (1,152 away)
Competition: League 1
Referee: Mr Oliver Langford