Crisis of confidence in Black October

Sunday 20th October 2013 13:16

Paul Cook: Hoping to reverse Chesterfield's poor form

Paul Cook: Hoping to reverse Chesterfield's poor form

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Chesterfield FanZoner Tom Bates is not losing faith in manager Paul Cook despite a poor run of form from the Spireites in October.

Recently the wheels seem to have come off Paul Cook's bandwagon, with the Spireites winning just ONE point from the last twelve available following the disastrous 0-2 home defeat to mid-table Burton Albion, and with three defeats and a draw in the last four league outings they currently occupy one of the relegation places in the 'current form' table.

Yet a month ago Chesterfield were one of only four clubs remaining unbeaten in the entire Football League and sat five points clear at the top of League Two after winning the top-of-the-table clash against Oxford Utd 1-0 away at the Kassam Stadium.

Cook was lauded by the football pundits, having recently won the Manager of the Month award, and the press were full of praise for the impressive style of attacking football being played by a team tipped by many as prospective champions.

So what went wrong?

It all began to go awry in the 0-1 home defeat to local rivals Mansfield Town in a game where Cook's earlier comments about his concern over a 'blunt attack' came home to roost.

Chesterfield did everything but score; strikes ruled out for offside, several attempts hitting the woodwork and a match-winning display from the Stags 'keeper made it an extremely frustrating day for Cook & his men, especially when Roberts was red-carded in injury time!

Perhaps this first defeat of the season at home to local arch-rivals Mansfield, and the loss of star man and leading scorer Roberts serving his automatic three-match ban would sap some of the Spireites growing confidence?

Morecambe would serve as a good test, but with Drew Talbot struggling, Cook gave a first run-out of the season to club captain Ian Evatt, doubtless hoping to bolster a defence which was the best in the division and had conceded just four goals in ten games.

As if to prove that the previous week's home defeat had been merely a blip, the Spireites were out of the blocks early and raced into a seemingly unassailable three-goal lead by half time. Then all went woefully wrong and they conceded four goals in 30 second-half minutes - as many as they had conceded all season - and lost by the odd goal in seven.

Credit the Shrimpers for an astonishing second-half come-back, but oh what a shambles in the Spireites defence, which wasn't helped by the midfield repeatedly conceding possession and allowing Morecambe to run at them.

The problems appeared to have been resolved at Fleetwood when Chesterfield, playing some attractive football, took an early lead and had created enough chances to have sealed the points long before substitute Jon Parkin joined the action and poked home a last minute equaliser. The Spireites never really looked troubled until late in the second half when Ian Evatt conceded a penalty which Hughes fortunately missed, but this seemed to inspire the home side to pile on some late pressure which eventually gave them a share of the spoils.

Whilst a point away at second-placed Fleetwood may seem a good result, the fact remains that the Spireites had all three points until the 89th minute when yet another defensive lapse from a set-piece cost them dearly.

Despite two defeats and a draw in their last three league games the Spireites found themselves still atop the division, but with the chasing pack closing in rapidly.

However, with Ian Evatt dropped to the bench, and both Talbot and Roberts back, they had a chance to redeem themselves and maintain their status with Saturday's visit of mid-table Burton Albion. The Spireites were at full strength, and with both the injury-prone Richards & the recovering Gnanduillet on the bench alongside Evatt, they surely, on paper at least, had too much strength-in-depth for the visiting Brewers?

Not a bit of it. Albion were the better side and ran out comfortable winners!

Two early goals from Adam McGurk went without reply, despite much huffing and puffing from Cook's previously lamented 'blunt attack', which on the day proved to be just that.

The early season midfield fluidity was virtually non-existent and the defence was at times flat-footed, and the longer the game went on the more we seemed destined not to score.

Remarkably despite a sequence of lost; lost; drawn; lost, the Spireites still sit at the top of League Two, but so precariously that defeat at home to lowly York City - which was almost unthinkable a month ago - and a poor result away at Bristol Rovers the following week could see them toppled - and even out of the play-off places by the end of the month!

This current slump in form will surely put Paul Cook's managerial credentials to the test, and he will need to find a solution to his much vaunted team's loss of form and lack of firepower in order to maintain his avowed aim of promotion this season.

But I remain hopeful that this Black October for the Spireites is simply down to loss of confidence after losing their 'unbeaten' tag, and convinced that Cook is the man for the job - also that his team has plenty of goals in it and the quality to win this division.

However, with the distinct possibility that he will lose Tandayi Darikwa when the transfer window opens in January, much will depend on how - and if - he spends the money. Perhaps if there's a 'missing link' it's a striker who can give him 20 goals a season?

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