Read via the Chesterfield Post
Chesterfield’s recent poor run of league form continued with a 2-0 defeat to Burton Albion at the Proact Stadium.
A first half brace by Brewers forward Adam McGurk handed the Spireites their third loss in four league games ahead of a busy period in the SkyBet League Two programme.
With the exception of Nathan Smith, Paul Cook had a fully fit squad at his disposal and made one change from the side that drew to Fleetwood, with Gary Roberts returning after his suspension to replace club captain Ian Evatt.
Gary McSheffrey and Jay O’Shea were again left on the bench as Eoin Doyle and Tendayi Darikwa accompanied Gary Roberts in the home side’s attack, while on-loan Sheffield united forward Chris Porter retained his position as the lone striker.
Chesterfield struggled to find a foothold in the game early on and Gary Rowett’s side, on the back of a last-minute defeat to Southend, had the first clear cut opportunity.
A corner in from the left found Chris Hussey whose header was saved instinctively by Tommy Lee, only for the ball to rebound back to the winger with the crossbar denying his second attempt at giving the visitors the lead.
The Spireites could not find their way into the game with few meaningful spells of possession and Burton continued to play on the front foot.
On 9 minutes, Northern Irish striker Adam McGurk found himself in space in Chesterfield’s half and beat three blue shirts with ease to slot the ball past Tommy Lee from the edge of the box.
Paul Cook’s side could find little in response and the lead was then doubled five minutes later.
Chris Hussey broke down the right wing and delivered a teasing cross which was met by the head of McGurk, who rose above Sam Hird and Liam Cooper in the heart of the Chesterfield defence to direct the ball goal-wards to double the lead for Burton.
In a role reversal of the first half the Spireites enjoyed against Morecambe, Chesterfield continued to struggle in possession with loose passes alongside a solid Burton defence frustrating the majority of the 6,901 in attendance.
Eoin Doyle had the home side’s first chance on goal on 17 minutes as a Ritchie Humphreys cross was spilt by Brewers keeper Jordan Pickford, only for the Irishman’s volley to deflect off defender Ian Sharps.
A quieter spell followed and both sides created little in the way of chances. Spireites midfielders Sam Morsy and Jimmy Ryan had difficulty in controlling the tempo of the game, such was the disciplined defensive performance of the away side.
Gary Roberts had Chesterfield’s best attempt in the first half with a free kick from distance, but on-loan Sunderland keeper Jordan Pickford saved comfortably on 30 minutes.
Having not trained regularly in recent weeks, Drew Talbot was substituted for Jay O’Shea at half time.
Chesterfield’s first half frailties in possession continued in the second and the ball was given away to Burton captain Lee Bell in a dangerous position. His through ball to McGurk was cut out well by Liam Cooper to deny a third goal for the away side.
Jimmy Ryan came close to halving the deficit on 50 minutes with a free kick from the edge of Burton’s box, but September’s player of the month could not keep the ball down to cause Pickford problems.
Burton continued to break up Chesterfield’s play and came close to scoring a third on 56 minutes.
Defender Phil Edwards met Chris Hussey’s corner to flick on to Ian Sharps but his subsequent volley at the back post was saved well by Tommy Lee at his near post.
Armand Gnanduillet replaced Chris Porter on 60 minutes to make his first appearance since returning from a knee injury. The Ivorian was soon involved as Jay O’Shea delivered a cross from the right but Gnanduillet’s bullet header brushed the top of the crossbar.
As the game grew more open, both sides created more meaningful chances. A free kick from distance by Burton’s widely acclaimed youngster Matty Palmer was fumbled by Lee but Jimmy Phillips could not convert the rebound.
Marc Richards then came on for Gary Roberts as Paul Cook resorted to a 4-4-2 formation. Last season’s top scorer was then involved in an intricate passage of play with Gnanduillet and Morsy which led to a soft penalty appeal, but referee David Webb adjudged there to have been little contact.
Adam McGurk’s performance earned high praise from manager Gary Rowett after the match and the 24-year-old came agonisingly close to securing his hat-trick on 80 minutes. A powerful low drive from distance beat Tommy Lee and was only denied by the woodwork.
Armand Gnanduillet then had the last notable chance of the game with a thunderous drive from thirty yards, but the keeper reacted well to tip the ball over high to his right.
After the match Paul Cook expressed his disappointment with the performance.
He said: ‘Today we did not start the game. We did not take any messages on, we could’ve been two or three down early on in the game, we could’ve been beaten four or five nil at home today by a Burton team that fully deserved to win.
‘I have a ridiculous amount of belief in our squad but we were poor today. I will not come out and criticise any of the players because I believe in managers sticking with their players.
‘That was not us today, that was a million miles away from where we want to be, and obviously going forward it must improve.
‘Our crowd today was absolutely different class. In the second half with the singing, the chanting but the players couldn’t give them a lift. But I felt Armand [Gnanduillet] came on and gave us a lift, he was fantastic and it was great for him to come on and do that.
‘One of the main ingredients in football is hunger and desire and that passion to play the game and today we were lacking in it.’
Due to other results, Chesterfield remain at the top of SkyBet League Two ahead of a busy period which sees 9 of the next 13 games until Christmas at the Proact Stadium.
Nigel Worthington’s York City visit the Proact on Tuesday night and the Spireites will be looking to bounce back to winning ways.