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Tuesday, 18 March 2014

Season in review: Chesterfield

Final Standing: 15th


Contrasting fortunes is the most apt way of describing Chesterfield’s season which went from a potential play-off side to a relegation candidate within half a season. The Spireites suffered from a serious bout of second-seasonitis which almost saw them relegated but for the final day heroics against fellow relegation candidate Wolverhampton Wanderers.  The final day relegation rescue couldn’t mask a disappointing campaign where the Spireites severely underachieved with a 15th placed finish but they may be a victim of their own success last season finishing in fifth spot.

Chesterfield started brightly with wins over Queens Park Rangers and Reading however the Spireites didn’t hit a patch of consistency until they produced shock wins over Division Three champions Brighton Hove Albion and promotion chasing Rotherham United with 9 wins in first 19 matches, with prospects of securing a top six finish in their second consecutive season. 

However Chesterfield’s season fell apart when they only managed 4 wins in their last 19 matches epitomised by the lifeless performance against Scunthorpe United losing 1-0 who they beat 4-0 in the reverse fixture earlier in the season. The Spireites poor league form coincided with their dismal defensive record conceding 22 goals in 12 matches (12 in four matches) however manager Glory Days managed to steady the ship with two consecutive clean sheets including a 1-0 victory against Wolverhampton Wanderers on the final day to secure their Division Three status.  
Most Valuable Player: Leon Britton 

Leon BRITTON Photo

In a dismal season for the Spireites, one of the few shining lights has been Leon Britton. The English metronome has consistently been one of the best performers this season with his sound long and short passing, good defensive positioning and providing a great link between defence and attack. Constantly being compared with Xavi Hernandez for his passing completion percentage, Britton is so much more than statistical anomaly with his leadership on the field and a great tactical awareness in the game.  

Standing at 168cm, some pundits may think that Britton wouldn’t be suited to play the all important defensive midfield role however the English midfielder is determined to prove the doubters wrong. Since arriving from Walsall in a three way deal which saw Nemanja Matic move in the opposite direction, many have questioned Britton’s ability to replace the big Serbian who was known for his strength, height and tackling.  However Britton has consistently shown that he is not only up to the task of providing in a solid base of the midfield but he can also provide a creative spark and a scoring threat with 7 goals and 5 assists.

While the likes of Rodrigo, Adam Lallana and Pablo Hernandez may get all the attention, the consistent Britton may often be overshadowed but that doesn’t diminish the important role he plays for the team.
Golden Boot: Alberto Paloschi 11 goals (28 games)

Alberto PALOSCHI Photo

Last season’s golden boot winner Alberto Paloschi reigned supreme once again by leading the scoring charts for the second consecutive season but despite a relatively solid campaign, it was one of disappointment. The 24 year old striker was coming off his best ever goal scoring record last season where he bagged 15 goals in 29 matches and not only that he became the main man in the lone striker role, taking the mantle from the departed Hugo Rodallega.

His marvellous form continued into this season where he registered 9 goals in quick success so much so that he was the Division’s leading goal scorer however like Chesterfield, Paloschi suffered from a bad second half of the season. He was largely blamed for the Spireites significant decline coinciding with his own goal drought which remains at 16 matches, some opposing fans even venomously dubbed Paloschi as Chesterfield’s Inzhaghi who was known for his offside goals. It seemed that every time the Italian striker had scored to get rid of his hoodoo, there would be an inevitable raising of the linesman’s flag.

Although Paloschi looked noticeably shaken by his inability to find the back of the net, the biggest indictment of his struggles was when manager Glory Days opted to pick young Angelo Henriquez in step of him in a crucial relegation battle against Plymouth Argyle.

Despite his recent goal drought, Paloschi has contributed 49 goals in his last four seasons, each season registering a double digit goal tally and with new signing Rickie Lambert out for 5 weeks, the Italian striker has a small window to impress and if his past is any indication, he may shine when he has it all to do.   

Most Assists: Mehmet Ekici 11 assists (31 games)

Mehmet EKICI Photo

In a season where most Chesterfield players underperformed, Turkish midfielder Mehmet Ekici maintained a high standard.  The mercurial Turkish playmaker continued his remarkable rise in the Chesterfield ranks with another splendid season culminating in 11 assists, what makes his record even more impressive is he has carried the ‘creative responsibility’ when Serbian winger Miraleum Sulejmani departed for Portugal.

The 23 year old showed his capabilities of taking over a match with his man of the match effort against Rotherham United with three assist and one goal. In only his third season at the club, Ekici has become a quintessential part of the Chesterfield midfield with his calmness on the ball; an eye for a pass and his dead ball abilities has helped the Turkish international increased his importance to the Spireites.

Fans Favourite: Rodrigo 8 goals, 6 assists (17 games)

 Moreno RODRIGO Photo

It’s hard to go past Rodrigo after his final day heroics saved Chesterfield from relegation but the Spanish starlet has struggle to make an impression on the first team, mainly due to injuries and inconsistent performances.

Much fanfare came with the signing of the highly coveted Rodrigo from Northampton Town which was considered a major coup for the little Derbyshire side. Rodrigo added another dimension to the Spireites attack with his pace, direct dribbling skills and control to apply an incisive finish, most notably grabbing a crucial brace against Division Three winners Brighton and Hove Albion in a shock upset.  However as Chesterfield’s results started to decline, Rodrigo came into his own by scoring in two crunch relegation six pointers,  a vital brace against relegated Dagenham and Redbridge and an even more crucial goal against Wolverhampton Wanderers on the final day.   

Coming into the final match of the season, Chesterfield were struggling to find a solution in front of goal with Alberto Paloschi goal drought continuing to15 matches and Angelo Henriquez showed against Plymouth Argyle that he still  too raw to start in a game of a high magnitude. It was a race against the clock to get Rodrigo fit for the final game after he suffered a twisted ankle which saw him miss three matches.

There was an air of excitement when Rodrigo’s name was in the starting XI against Wolverhampton and he duly delivered with a lovely 48th minute header supplied by a delicious cross by fellow newcomer Pablo Hernandez which gave Chesterfield the vital three points lifting the Spireites out of relegation and condemning the reigning English Shield champions to Division Four.  
Surprise Packet: Luca Antonelli (28 matches)


Stability and consistency are all apart of manager Glory Days philosophy so when the ever present wingback Lorenzo De Silvestri departed for Division one side West Ham United, questions were raised whether the stability of the defence would suffer. Although Chesterfield’s record was terrible compared to previous seasons, fullback Luca Antonelli maintained his consistent performances and cemented the left back position.

Since arriving from KSC Lokeren in Belgium four seasons ago, Antonelli who has the versatility to play on the left hand side as a winger or fullback has struggled with consistency so much to the point that Italian counterpart Lorenzo De Silvestri usurped him from the starting left back spot. At his best, Antonelli would be a daring, pacy and defensively solid, in particular his two assists in the promotion play-off final against Rotherham United however at his worst, he can be a defensively liability leaving large gaps behind him but the 27 year old has worked hard to improve his positioning along with incorporating his attacking instincts, he has now finally found the right balance.


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