Wrexham's win on Saturday cataputed us a full 8 places up the table as this topsy-turvy season continues to refuse to settle down. While Wrexham's position fluctuates with the gaps in our fixture list, Chesterfield are steadily building up from a poor start, and targetting a tilt at the play-off slots themselves.
The departure of John Pemberton in November ended their worrying opening to the season, and things have looked more promising since. Impressive wins over the likes of Sutton United and Solihull Moors have shown what they are capable of.
Will Evans v Jordan Ponticelli
With 300-odd senior appearances to his credit at the likes of Chesterfield, Alderhot, Hereford and Eastleigh, Evans is well-established as a proven performer at National League level. An imposing centre back, he willdominate strikers who attempt to take him on on his terms. Difficult to beat in the air and strong in the tackle, taking him on in a trial of strength is not to be advised.
However, Wrexham have looked to take him out of his comfort zone in recent visits t Chesterfield. Two season ago, with Evans surprisingly lining up at right back, he was given real problems by the movement on Rekeil Pyke, picking up a yellow card and being withdrawn at half time as The Spireites were forced into a reshuffle.
In last season's league clash, Evans was in his more familiar central defensive position, but Wrexham took him out of his comfort zone by isolating him and playing balls in behind for JJ Hooper and Ponticelli to attack. This led to both Wrexham goals: the first was an own goal by Evans as he stretched towards his own goal to head the ball, nd the second saw Ponticelli race cler to beat Shwan Jalal.
That was Ponticelli's first Wrexham goal: he scored again the following weekend bu hasn't since: will he be able to repeat it tomorrow and get back to scoring ways?
HEAD TO HEAD
We have a score to settle with Chesterfield. While I wouldn’t want to compare our league defeat there last season with the nightmare of 1997, when they beat us in the FA Cup quarter-final, it really hurt.
We outplayed the Spireites and led twice, first through an own goal and then Jordan Ponticelli, but they came back to clinch the win in the 94th minute as a shot crashed into the underside of the bar and dropped down just over the line.
We’d already played an FA Cup tie at Chesterfield earlier in the campaign, drawing thanks to a Bobby Grant goal and then going through thanks to a JJ Hooper winner in the replay.
Our league match at The Racecourse was a disaster though. We dominated them and victory looked certain, but the opening goal wouldn’t come and then Michael Chambers put Chesterfield ahead with an own goal. It knocked the wind out of our sails and we collapsed completely.
We were offered a swift opportunity for revenge though, as four days later we travelled east for an FA Cup tie which ended in a draw as Mike Fondop’s deft opener was cancelled out by Bobby Grant. The following Tuesday we progressed thanks to a fine finish from JJ Hooper.
Our biggest away win over Chesterfield was in September 1976, when Billy Ashcroft hit four goals in a 6-0 win. His feat was matched in January 2005, when Juan Ugarte hit all our goals in a 4-2 win.
Wrexham v Chesterfield is a venerable fixture which stretches back to 1921-2, our first in the Football League. We got off to a flying start too, winning 6-1 at home with Ted Regan and Bill Cotton each grabbing a hat trick.
Cotton scored in 3 of our first 4 games against Chesterfield, but is one goal behind our top scorers in in the fixture, Karl Connolly and Billy Ashcroft (below), each of whom managed eight goals against The Spireites.
Ashcroft got four of his goals in our biggest away win against Chesterfield, when we won 6-0 in September 1976. Of course, he’s not the only Wrexham player to manage that feat, as the last time we won there, a 4-2 victory in January 2005, Juan Ugarte struck all our goals.
Chesterfield are ancient as well as recent foes. We’ve faced them 116 times, and of course a certain clash in the FA Cup is the most famous of all those encounters.
Our defeat at Saltergate in 1997 was a bitter blow. We were so close to reaching the FA Cup semi-finals for the first time, but a second half mix-up between Andy Marriott and Deryn Brace presented The Spireites with the only goal and a clash with Middlesbrough at Old Trafford.
That wasn’t the first time we’ve faced Chesterfield in the FA Cup though. In fact, we knocked them out of the competition the previous season. Goals from Steve Watkin and Barry Hunter gave us a comfortable half time lead, but Kevin Davies pulled a goal back ten minutes after the break to bring the game back to life. Karl Connolly restored our breathing space though, and Davies’ last minute goal couldn’t change matters.
We had less luck in 1968, when Ray Charnley’s goal couldn’t prevent us losing 2-1 in Chesterfield in the second round of the cup, gaining revenge for our first round win two seasons earlier. Ian Oldfield, Geoff Lloyd and Dave Carrick got the goals as we beat them 3-2 in front of a crowd of over ten thousand.
Our in-form wing back Reece Hall-Johnson plays his 100th league match tomorrow, while James Horsfield makes his 75th career appearance.