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Paul Cook has insisted that his side are ‘where we want to be’ as Chesterfield sit top of SkyBet League Two halfway through the 2013/14 campaign.
The Chesterfield manager reflected on a hard fought draw against Dagenham and Redbridge which saw Daggers captain Abu Agogo cancel out a Marc Richards penalty after Sam Hird was dismissed in the first half, to put further strain on an already stretched Chesterfield squad.
The 46-year-old said: ‘I thought for the first 15 minutes we were doing ok, we were creating chances, we looked like we’d go on and win the game quite comfortably and then we just have that self destruct button where every decision you could make in the game we made wrong.
‘We got into that sloppy mode where we thought we’d be alright and you just can’t play like that. It took us to half time to have some quite choice words with the players about livening up and doing the correct things and I though in the second half they gave a performance that saw them get a great ovation off the pitch and I think that was down to the desire and the work ethic of the group in the second half.’
Cook was sent to the stands by referee Richard Clark at half time, a decision which angered the Chesterfield boss.
Cook said: ‘I got sent to the stands for asking the referee at half time to make big decisions. I think the linesman again has made the call on the sending off and I don’t understand that, I really don’t.
Sam Hird was dismissed in the 37th minute for a trip on Dagenham forward Rhys Murphy, and the Spireites boss expressed his frustration with the nature of the decision.
‘When the ball is transferred as quickly as it is, it’s impossible for the linesman to be up with play, the ball is transferred 40 yards quickly, the linesman is behind the game, the referee is making up the same ground as the linesman and the linesman made the call. I told the referee in no uncertain terms that I prefer him to make the big decisions in the game.’
Alongside the suspensions picked up by Hird and Ian Evatt, who received his fifth yellow card of the season, Cook disclosed that Marc Richards could be a doubt for the trip to Northampton on New Year’s Day with a potential hamstring injury.
Cook revealed: ‘We’re not so sure about Marc Richards. He’s gone home with a sore hamstring last night so we’re waiting on him to come in now this morning [Monday] to see how he is.’
The Chesterfield manager could not be drawn on the imminently expiring contracts of Jamie Devitt and Gary McSheffrey, but admitted that he will be looking to strengthen the squad in January.
He said: ‘I think the system [four four two] requires another striker and I think on the bench we’d like another striker to be able to put on, but when we put the squad together, it was on the basis of playing with one up top.
‘As we started the season it was hard to keep Armand [Gnanduillet] and Doyle and Richards happy. Certainly now that we’ve gone with two up top we’ve been a bit stretched in other areas which has resulted in all three lads being on the pitch.
‘When you want to change a game you’d like to introduce some pace and energy in someone who can score goals but that’s what January can bring now. We can look at the squad and if we are to bring one or two players in it must make us better.’
The Spireites remained at the helm of SkyBet League Two on goal difference despite successive home draws against Hartlepool and Dagenham, and Cook declared that his side are on track to achieve their start of season objectives.
He said: ‘I think we’re doing ok, we’re where we want to be. We set off at the start of the season to try and be promoted, that was the target, whether it be via the play offs or obviously automatically being the preferred choice.
‘We’re half way through the season now: we think we can get better, we think we can get more points and we think if we added one or two to make us better and stronger the second half of the season can be better than the first half. If that was to be the case I think we’d all end the season very happy.’
Chesterfield travel to Sixfields on New Year’s Day to face caretaker manager Andy King’s Northampton, who sit at the foot of the table having won only two of their last ten league games.
Cook stressed that the league’s strugglers are not to be underestimated: ‘We expect a very tough game. Andy King will have his players well up for the game and they’ll see it as a home game to try and get three points and to try and get themselves off the bottom of the league.
‘We’ve got to go there now and regroup, we’re going to be without a few players again, certainly with the suspensions and one or two injuries. We’ve got to go down there and make sure we put a performance in with as much work ethic as the second half against Dagenham, but obviously with a bit more quality.’
Chesterfield will be looking to start 2014 with a return to winning ways ahead of a trip to Cheltenham before the visit of Bury.