View from the press box

Students from the University of Derby are given regular opportunities to gain valuable experience as part of the media team. Freddy Cardy was in the press box at Vicarage Road and he gives his take on the game…

If ever there was a defeat that simply did not feel like a defeat, it was this one. Tom Dele-Bashiru’s clever run and finish knocked Chesterfield out of the FA Cup with only ninety seconds left on the clock at Vicarage Road, but it was the Spireites fans who sang the loudest after the full-time whistle.

It was also the Spireites fans, 3,984 to be precise, who provided the majority of the Vicarage Road atmosphere on Saturday afternoon. They had plenty to sing about, having watched their side bounce back from defeat to Solihull Moors on Boxing Day by coming back from two goals down to beat the same opposition six days later.

Chesterfield came into their FA Cup third round tie with a seven point advantage over second place Bromley, with two games in hand to come for the Spireites. Perhaps it was fitting that whilst Chesterfield were going toe-to-toe with Championship opposition, Bromley were held to a draw by Maidenhead United, and third place Barnet lost against Altrincham.

Paul Cook’s side have been head and shoulders above their closest competitors at the top of the National League table, and his team are a League Two side in the making, at least. Chesterfield have never been better placed to return to the Football League, both on and off the pitch, and have competed with EFL opposition whenever they have had the opportunity.

In Chesterfield’s last three FA Cup campaigns, the Spireites have knocked out higher-tier opponents and reached the third round of the competition. This season, they became the first team to inflict defeat on League One table-toppers Portsmouth, before beating Leyton Orient by an identical 1-0 scoreline.

Add the 5-0 win over Southern League side Kettering Town in the fourth round of qualifying, and it was 346 minutes before Chesterfield conceded for the first time in this season’s FA Cup run.

It was Chesterfield who struck first at Vicarage Road, with Joe Quigley heading home from Ryheem Sheckleford’s deep cross in the 28th minute. Chesterfield’s defence were to thank, having withstood a difficult start against a Championship opposition who were moving the ball around swiftly and creating opportunities.

Captain Jamie Grimes was serving the second game of his suspension after being sent off on Boxing Day, but his deputy at centre-back, Miguel Freckleton, did not mistime a tackle or block for the duration of the cup tie. Ryan Boot kept his place in Chesterfield’s ‘cup’ team, and once again proved his worth between the sticks with some important saves.

Watford, as expected, dominated the ball and used it well, but lacked a cutting edge in the final third until the introduction of top scorer Mileta Rajovic, who equalised for the Hornets with a clever near post run and header. Chesterfield could have regained their lead through Michael Jacobs moments later, and looked destined to earn a replay until Dele-Bashiru’s moment of brilliance.

The exceptional part of Chesterfield’s latest giant-killing FA Cup run is that the Spireites have won game after game in a competition that has played second fiddle to their National League priorities.

However, a winning team will keep winning in league or cup, and Paul Cook has built a winning machine. It’s no wonder those Spireites supporters celebrated as if their side had won after the final whistle had blown, because this has already been a season to remember for those in blue.