Kabongo Tshimanga scored twice as the Spireites won 4-1 at Barnet with Akwasi Asante and Jeff King also on target.
Nobody expected anything other than a tough challenge from the visit to North London and Barnet certainly provided that in the first period when they had the chances to score but never actually threatened Loach. The Spireites equally had opportunities but just didn’t seem to get into top gear.
What a turnaround after the interval! The introduction of Whittle paid an immediate dividend as he provided the ball for Tshimanga to put the Spireites in front. The result was never in doubt after Asante doubled the advantage and from then on the team oozed confidence.
Tshimanga notched a hat-trick in the home fixture against Barnet earlier in the season. He increased his tally to five after the latest fixture and must give Barnet nightmares as he proved unplayable yet again.
However the big memory, those present will take home with them was Jeff King’s strike from distance that was as impressive as it was unexpected and was the ‘icing on the cake’ from a win that puts the Spireites just one point from the top spot with two games in hand.
They say a week is a long time in politics; it certainly is in football. One week ago the Spireites were top of the National League, before this week’s fixture they sat four points behind the leaders, Halifax. It’s now about re-focusing, putting the Cup run behind us and, as the old adage goes, “taking each game as it comes” and looking to extend further our unbeaten League run.
The Bees are a much tougher nut to crack this season and sit safe in the table with just three home defeats to date and have shown real mettle in recent outings against tough opponents including picking up a hard-fought point at Boreham Wood.
James Rowe will have been determined to ‘bounce back’ from last weekend as soon as possible and made five changes from the team that started at Stamford Bridge; in came Calvin Miller, Jamie Grimes, cup-tied Tyrone Williams, Liam Mandeville and Akwasi Asante and starting on the bench were Laurence Maguire, Jim Kellermann, Stefan Payne, Saidou Khan and Alex Whittle.
By kick-off the fog had cleared at The Hive but left behind still but bitterly cold conditions with plenty of ‘give’ underfoot.
The Chesterfield fans had, again, followed in big numbers and greeted the team onto the pitch in good voice. The Spireites kicked off with their fans behind them and pushed forward immediately, great work from Calvin Miller and Liam Mandeville down the left brought immediate threat.
Barnet gained a free kick deep and close to the touch-line; the ball in eluded the Spireites’ defence and Barnet’s Jamie Turley was inches away from touching home at the far post.
The Bees won a free-kick just outside the area but Rob Hall’s effort flew wide of Scott Loach’s right post.
Tshimanga latched onto a great through ball and burst forward but just couldn’t control it enough to fashion a shot.
From a Wes Fonguck corner, Barnet went close after Rob Hall fired in an angle drive that, again, flew wide.
By the 30-minute mark Chesterfield knew they were in a game. Barnet were competing well and had created the main clear openings in what had become a very even contest.
Chesterfield gained a free-kick just outside the area and should have capitalised. A strong ball in from King forced a save from the home keeper and the ball back into play offered a clear header to Luke Croll who directed his effort over the crossbar.
Within a minute another great opening was spurned after Tshimanga picked up a ball from Miller and misses the target with just the keeper to beat.
It was real end-to-end as Barnet went agonisingly close with two consecutive corners.
Barnet won another free-kick just before the one minute added time. This time Hall floated it harmlessly into Loach’s arms and the half ended even.
Chesterfield made one change at the start of the second period as Whittle took over from Calvin Miller.
Barnet went close after a Rob Hall cross from the right was headed over from close range by Sam Beard.
Moments later the Spireites broke the deadlock. A Grimes ball from the back found Alex Whittle on the left who provided the perfect square ball for Tshimanga to control and slot home.
The next move should have seen a second after Jeff King stunning effort from 25 yards was turned away to safety by the alert Oxborough.
The second goal came from a King corner on the right. The home defence couldn’t clear and the ball fell for Asante to touch home at the far post for his second in two games.
The Spireites were in control after the two goal salvo that will have settled the nerves and provided a renewed confidence.
James Rowe took the opportunity to take no unnecessary risks and replaced Asante with Jim Kellermann.
Within seconds it was three and Kellermann the creator. A wonderful ball to King on the right allowed him to square for Tshimanga who was never going to fluff his lines and finished with ease.
Rowe decided to use his full quota of changes as Saidou Khan took the place of Liam Mandeville.
Chesterfield were looking to see the game out but nobody expected the finale. With a minute to go King stepped up to take a free-kick so far out nothing looked on. Instead he decided to try his luck and hit a screamer home into the top corner from at 35 yards.
There was just time for Barnet to pull a consolation back in the last of the three minutes added time as Ben Richards-Everton hit home from the edge of the box but it couldn’t take the gloss off a superb second-half show that provided the perfect return to league action.
Chesterfield: Loach, Miller (Whittle), Oyeleke, Weston, Asante (Kellermann), Mandeville (Khan), Williams, Tshimanga, King, Croll, Grimes
Unused substitutes: Maguire, Payne
Referee: Adrian Quelch
Attendance: 1,777 (including 584 Chesterfield fans)