A drab affair between two of the relegation threatened sides in SkyBet League One was settled by a sweet Dan Gardner strike in the second half. The Chesterfield midfielder picked out the top corner to secure a huge set of three points for Ritchie Humphreys’ men and they are now level on points with Bury who sit just above the relegation zone. Coventry City drop to the bottom of the division, however, and they are four points from safety.
Many had dubbed this game a proverbial ‘six-pointer’ and it was seen as 90 minutes that could potentially go some way to changing our fortunes. Unfortunately, we failed to capitalise on the opportunity against a set of fellow strugglers. With other results going against us as well, this could prove to be a very costly defeat come the end of April. Considering our recent performances against Peterborough United and Bolton Wanderers, two very capable outfits, I was expecting us to take the game to Chesterfield. We failed to do that and it was frustrating to watch.
The four dropped points from those two fixtures are now even harder to take. It was imperative that we didn’t lose this game as a minimum expectation, but we deserved nothing and credit has to go to the hosts. Despite them wasting a lot of passes, particularly in the first half, I sensed that they would be the team to go ahead if the chance presented itself. Without threatening too much they were first to every loose ball and their defence didn’t give Stuart Beavon a sniff all afternoon – he was feeding on scraps.
It was a a moment of quality from Gardner that proved decisive, but our defending in the build-up was poor. A simple long ball clipped wide started the move and we failed to win the aerial challenge. Jordan Willis and Nathan Clarke then watched as an attacker drifted inside before teeing him off to let fly from range. If one of our back four had decided to press then that shot is blocked and the danger is momentarily alleviated at least. Instead, it has nestled into the top corner and we are on the back foot.
Once we fell behind I was never convinced that we were going to find a route back into the game. Bar a Marcus Tudgay strike being ruled offside, our front line struggled to create any meaningful chances. We only found the target on four occasions but the strikes were all tame and Ryan Fulton smothered them easily. Beavon did chase lost causes but he was marshalled very effectively by the likes of Ian Evatt. Alongside the 32-year-old striker, Tudgay was isolated through a combination of poor service and a lack of movement. At no point did we look like finding the net and that is a huge reason for concern.
Under Russell Slade that was arguably our most inept performance and that may sound ridiculous considering we lost 4-1 at Bristol Rovers, but that was a strange game. Today we forced the final ball frequently and it was mopped up almost every time, putting pressure on our midfield as a result. Nobody really stood up to the challenge and my recent optimism has dwindled somewhat. You simply can’t afford to carry too many passengers and that was the case during this match. The individuals need to perform at a higher level and we need to be stronger as a collective if we are to stand any chance of staying up.
We now face a Fleetwood Town side who occupy a play-off place next time out and it will be another tough test. Our home form isn’t too bad but we need to start winning games very quickly. Only picking up four victories from 26 matches is horrendous and as we already knew, the final 20 encounters are all crucial games. I still feel more confident under Slade, but today’s performance showed me that we still need to strengthen our squad in a number of key areas. It really is becoming desperate now…
Lee Burge – 4
Kevin Foley – 5
Jordan Willis – 5
Nathan Clarke – 5
Ryan Haynes – 4
Callum Reilly – 4
Andy Rose – 4
George Thomas – 6
Kyel Reid – 5
Marcus Tudgay – 4
Stuart Beavon – 5
Ben Stevenson -5
Dion Kelly-Evans – 5
Chesterfield: Fulton, Hird (C), Evatt, Gardner, Evans, O’Neil, Nolan, Donohue, Dennis, Anderson (Aryibi 69), O’Shea.
Unused Substitutes: Allinson, Ebanks-Blake, Mitchell, Dimaio, Maguire, Simons.
Coventry City: Burge, Foley (Di. Kelly-Evans 83), Willis (C), Clarke, Haynes, Reilly (Stevenson 74), Rose, G. Thomas, Reid, Tudgay, Beavon.
Unused Substitutes: Charles-Cook, Turnbull, Dev. Kelly-Evans, Gadzhev, Lameiras.
Attendance: 5,896 (1,016 away)