PREVIEW: Chesterfield v Luton Town
The opening of the January transfer window has led to a flurry of business at The Proact Stadium as Chesterfield try desperately to arrest a slide that could them plying their trade as a non-league club next season.
After coming down from League One last term, few expected the Spireites to be in the position they are, but with over half the season gone, they are second bottom, with just Barnet below them.
Boss Jack Lester, who took over from Gary Caldwell in September, is moving swiftly to bring his own players in, with the Spireites snapping up former West Ham forward Zavon Hines from Maidstone United, while Millwall defender Sid Nelson, 22, and Barnsley midfielder Josh Kay, 21, have joined on loan deals from Millwall and Barnsley respectively.
Meanwhile, ex-Hatter Drew Talbot is back for a second spell with the club too after having his Portsmouth contract terminated by mutual consent, making just nine league appearances in 18 months.
Lester’s additions haven’t stopped there either, with Bournemouth goalkeeper Aaron Ramsdale snapped up on loan until the end of the campaign, the 19-year-old helping England win the European U19 Championship in July, starting every game.
Midfielder Joe Rowley has signed a new long term contract too, but there have been departures with winger Reece Mitchell’s contract cancelled as he headed to Torquay with Delial Brewster was loaned to Chorley.
Lester knows that the predicament his side means he has no option but to recruit, saying: “We’re in a period of transition, we’re trying to bring players in and working hard to bring in the players with the qualities of what we’re about.
“We have no choice but to use this window to improve us and build the future of this football club.”
Lester’s arrival at the club from Nottingham Forest’s academy, did lead to a period of resurgence as although he lost his first three games, the rot was stopped with a 2-0 win at Crawley Town.
A far better November saw Chesterfield win back-to-back fixtures against Exeter and Forest Green, and put together a five match unbeaten run, taking 11 points from 15 to climb off the bottom, where they had trailed by five points.
However, since then, it has all gone downhill, as losing 1-0 at Wycombe in mid-December, has seen the Spireites lose five from their last six, drawing once.
They have scored just one goal in that time, that coming in a 5-1 hammering at Stevenage, as they haven’t netted in four matches.
It means they are second bottom, just two points away from Forest Green Rovers, but worryingly, six behind fourth bottom Yeovil Town as the bottom three have started to get cut adrift.
Team news: The Hatters will be without Alan Sheehan, suspended for another two games, while Luke Gambin is a doubt after picking up a kick to his leg in midweek, with Scott Cuthbert and Alan McCormack still sidelined.
For Chesterfield, boss Lester gave this update: “Brad Barry is getting close and is about a week away. Gozie Ugwu is maybe four weeks away.
“Chris O’Grady and Kristian Dennis have niggles, we’ll have wait towards Saturday to see how they are.”
Top scorers: Hatters: Danny Hylton (17). Spireites: Kristian Dennis (14).
Man in the middle: Carl Boyeson - official has already shown nine red cards so far this term, in just 22 games, including two in a match twice, as he has also dished out 56 yellows too.
Started last season by not showing a red in his first 17 games, and then managed 10 dismissals in his final 19 fixtures.
Will be his first Luton game since the 4-1 win over Exeter in League Two during May 2016, while had the 3-0 win over Rotherham in the FA Cup in December 2009 and the 2-1 home defeat to Exeter in March 2009.
In the 2007-08 League One campaign had two matches, as Luton beat Nottingham Forest 2-1 and lost to Swindon 1-0.
Also refereed a 0-0 draw in League One at Sheffield Wednesday in 2004, plus Town’s 2-1 win at Oldham in October 2002.
Assistant referees are Alf Greenwood and Chris Isherwood, with the fourth official James Wilson.
In charge: Jack Lester – 42-year-old, who is in his first managerial role at the club he achieved legendary status during his playing days.
Came through the youth ranks at Grimsby, before he was sold to Nottingham Forest for £300,000, spending three years at the County Ground.
Went to Sheffield United in 2003, and then back to Forest for £50,000, before moving to the Spireites in 2007, enjoying a prolific six years at Saltergate, scoring 94 goals in 219 matches.
Hung up his boots in April 2013, as the club retired the number 14 jersey in his honour, before lacing up his boots once more to join Gateshead on a non-contract basis, scoring for the Tynesiders at Wembley in in their Conference play-off final defeat.
Went to Notts County as an academy coach, and then became U18s coach at Nottingham Forest in August 2014, before he was appointed Chesterfield first team boss in September 29 last year.
View from the opposition: Jack Lester speaking to the club’s official website: “It’s a league match and we’re at home, so we fancy ourselves to go and get a result.
“We’ve had a look at them and we’re confident we can go and give a good account of ourselves.
“They’ve built together a good squad and they’ve kept investing and now they’re getting their rewards.”
One to watch: Zavon Hines – 29-year-old, who started life at West Ham and had a loan spell at Coventry before spells at Burnley, Bournemouth, Bradford City, Dagenham & Redbridge and Southend before dropping down to Maidstone United.
Scored 10 goals in 25 games for the Stones, snapped up by Chesterfield in January and made his debut against Accrington last weekend.
Played for both: Gary McSheffrey – 35-year-old forward, who started life at Coventry and was loaned to Luton in August 2003, scoring nine in 19, returning the following campaign, netting once in five matches, as he made 24 appearances in total, bagging 10 goals.
Headed to Birmingham for £4m and then went to Nottingham Forest, Leeds, Coventry, before heading to Chesterfield on loan in September 2013, scoring two goals in 12 games.
Went to back to Coventry, then Doncaster and is at Eastleigh this season, netting two goals in 11 games.
Friendly faces: Defender Drew Talbot was signed by Luton from Sheffield Wednesday for £250,000 in January 2007, playing 63 games and scoring five goals, before a loan move to Chesterfield.
Made that deal permanent, going on to feature 244 times, before heading to Plymouth and then Portsmouth, but is back at the Spireites now, joining this month and playing once so far.
Luton assistant boss Paul Hart was appointed Chesterfield manager in 1988, although couldn’t stave off relegation to the old Division Three.
Led the club to the play-off final at Wembley the following season, ending in a 1-0 defeat to Cambridge, with Dion Dublin scoring, before he was sacked on New Year’s Day in 1991.
We’ve got form: Town have visited Chesterfield 19 times during their history, with their first trip back in 1900, a Division Two encounter, where they lost 2-0.
In total, Hatters have managed five wins, six draws and eight defeats in that time, scoring 19 goals and conceding 25, with their best win a 3-1 success twice, in 1966 and 2000, Gary Doherty, Julian Watts and Liam George scoring in the latter.
Last time out: Hatters were held to a 2-2 draw in their last visit, a League Two clash in December 2008.
Jamie Ward had put the hosts in front on the stroke of half time, before Tom Craddock (56) levelled.
It looked like Chesterfield would take the win with eight minutes to go, Scott Boden netting, before Ian Roper’s last gasp leveller earned Luton a point.
Hatters: Conrad Logan, Lewis Emanuel (Drew Talbot 85), Ian Roper, Michael Spillane (Claude Gnakpa 46), Jake Howells, Keith Keane, Asa Hall, Rossi Jarvis (Chris Martin 85), Tom Craddock, Paul McVeigh, Kevin Gallen.
Subs not used: Dean Brill, George Beavan.
Referee: David Webb.