Read via the Chesterfield Post
Chesterfield returned to winning ways with a convincing 4-0 victory over ten-man Bury at the Proact.
Manager Paul Cook declared the performance ‘the best of the season’ as the Spireites recorded their biggest victory of the campaign so far.
Gary Roberts took the lead for Chesterfield before the visitors had Danny Mayor dismissed by the referee just before half time. Tom Soares turned into his own net controversially before a Jay O’Shea wonder goal and a late strike for debutant Dan Gardner sealed the three points.
Cook made seven changes to the team that faced Dagenham and Redbridge, with injured trio Gary Roberts, Jimmy Ryan and Sam Morsy all returning to the starting line-up as the Liverpudlian reverted to his preferred 4-2-3-1 formation.
Morsy partnered Ryan in the heart of the home side’s midfield after the former’s lengthy spell on the sidelines following a knee ligament injury suffered in October.
Roberts and Marc Richards returned to the starting 11 following their respective hamstring injuries, while Nathan Smith made his first start since the end of August.
Liam Cooper partnered Matty Brown in the absence of Ian Evatt and Sam Hird, who both served their respective one match suspensions.
David Flitcroft made no changes to the side that beat Hartlepool 3-0 at Victoria Park, with the former Manchester United prospect Daniel Nardiello starting at the head of The Shakers’ attack after extending his loan deal from Rotherham United.
Chesterfield started brightly and Gary Roberts came close to taking the lead after six minutes. Clever footwork from Jay O’Shea created space down the right hand side and the Irishman found Roberts on the opposite flank with a clever pass, only for the latter’s shot across goal to fly narrowly wide of Brian Jensen’s far post.
The Shakers’ Nathan Cameron fouled Richards and a quick free kick by Ryan found Drew Talbot down the right flank, but the captain’s low delivery across the face of goal evaded the outstretched toe of Richards after ten minutes.
The visitors could create little in response and Roberts broke the deadlock with 15 minutes on the clock.
Another break down the right by O’Shea saw the winger cut inside and deliver a threatening cross with his left. A deflection off Cameron found Roberts at the back post who volleyed home, for his fifth league goal of the season.
The onslaught of Chesterfield pressure continued as Ollie Banks found Roberts with an ambitious through ball. The goalscorer squared to O’Shea who teed up Morsy on the edge of the box, but his weak effort was blocked well by midfielder Andy Procter.
Chesterfield showed glimpses of the form that earned them an early lead at the top of League Two, and limited Bury to two notable chances before the break.
Clever movement by Nardiello afforded strike partner Anton Forrester room to drive into Tommy Lee’s box, but the on-loan Blackburn forward saw his low effort parried to safety.
Moments later, Nardiello was again involved as he found himself in space by the byline. His mazy run beat Talbot before seeing a low effort matched by Lee, who saved well down to his right.
Richards came close to doubling The Spireites’ lead on 26 minutes. A free kick by Brown was flicked on well by Banks into the path of Roberts down the left, his in swinging cross caught defender Nathan Cameron out of position and fell to Richards at the back post, but the subsequent volley deflected inches over the bar.
Both sides created chances on the counter attack in what was becoming an open game, before Bury were reduced to ten men as midfielder Danny Mayor was sent off by referee Tony Harrington for a late an high challenge on Brown.
A tactical reshuffle for the visitors saw former England Under-21 International Tom Soares replace Cameron at half time.
The second half soon burst into life as Banks had a valid penalty claim waved away by the referee, after a collision with Frederic Veseli.
Ritchie Humphreys replaced Nathan Smith as Chesterfield looked to exploit the one man advantage and double the lead.
An intricate passage of play in the final third between Roberts, Banks and O’Shea, reminiscent of that which saw Chesterfield set the pace at the top of League Two at the start of the season, saw efforts from Banks and O’Shea test Jensen, but neither could find the target.
Bury looked to sure up their defence in an attempt to keep the scoreline respectable. Another break by O’Shea down the left hand side saw the former Birmingham City man find the path of the onrushing Morsy, but his shot was deflected out for a corner on the hour mark.
Excellent link up play between Roberts and Banks led to O’Shea finding himself in space down the left flank. His bursting run towards the box resulted in a thunderbolt of a strike that looped over Jensen into the top corner from 25 yards, on 63 minutes.
Bury looked to pull a goal back and counter attacked well from the restart. Nardiello received the ball on the edge of the box and shot on the turn, but his effort lacked the power needed to beat Lee, and the highly rated ‘keeper saved comfortable to his left.
Chesterfield had the ball in the back of the net for a third time after Jimmy Ryan’s cross was met by the head of Richards before Jensen’s parry fell into the path of Roberts who calmly slotted the ball into the corner, but the linesman adjudged Richards to have been offside in the build up.
Banks made way for Armand Gnanduillet on 69 minutes and the substitute was instantly involved. A short corner led to Humphreys delivering an in swinging cross which was flicked on by Gnanduillllet to the back post where Soares could not direct his clearing header, which ended up in the back of his own net.
The linesman raised his flag to the bemusement of the Chesterfield players, prompting the referee to consult his official before overruling the decision and awarding the goal, leaving David Flitcroft incensed in his technical area.
Roberts made way for new signing Dan Gardner to make his debut for Chesterfield after signing from FC Halifax on 78 minutes.
Gardner almost scored with his first attempt only moments after taking to the pitch. Jay O’Shea’s shot from distance was parried by Jensen into the path of the debutant but his shot was saved well by the veteran keeper.
The pair linked up again as O’Shea crossed to find Gardner at the back post but the 24-year-old could not find the target with his low header.
Five minutes before the final whistle Chesterfield counter attacked from a Bury corner with Gardner running half the length of the pitch before shooting from the edge of the box, his effort deflected off the shoulder of Jensen to loop into the back of the net to cap off a dream debut.
Gardner almost turned provider in the final action of the game as his cross from the right prompted an audacious over head kick attempt by Gnanduillet but the Ivorian could not convert.
After the match, Paul Cook reflected on his side’s biggest victory of the campaign so far.
The Chesterfield manager said: ‘We played well today. It was really pleasing to get three points because that’s what it’s all about.
‘We move onto a crucial stage of the season and three points becomes vital with every game, but certainly our performance today was very good against a very strong Bury side.
‘We played well today. It’s not right to single players out because to a man we’ve done well.
‘I’m very proud of the lads tonight because it was probably our strongest performance of the season.’
Dan Gardner reflected on a dream start in a Chesterfield shirt, he said: ‘I couldn’t ask for anything more really. To even get on the pitch never mind score a goal but I enjoyed it and I could have probably had one or two more goals, but I’ll take one, definitely.’
The win leaves Chesterfield third in the SkyBet League Two table, three points adrift of leaders Scunthorpe United with a game in hand.
The Spireites travel to Roots Hall to face Phil Brown’s Southend United on Saturday 18th January, before the rearranged trip to Northampton the following Saturday.