Chesterfield are staring down the barrel of a second successive relegation ahead of Saturday’s crucial home local derby with Mansfield Town.
Stags’ bitter rivals are five points from safety at the foot of the table with six games to play, though have games in hand on all their rivals as they bid to retain their Football League status.
And the way they battled back from 2-0 down at Morecambe last night to snatch a priceless 2-2 draw shows they do still have the stomach for the fight ahead.
Their plight is a shock as this season was supposed to see the Spireites make a promotion push to ‘bounce back’ into League One at the first attempt, but the catastrophic summer recruitment put paid to that.
Chesterfield got off to a desperately poor start and although the arrival of a new manager in Jack Lester appeared to kick-start the season, with a six game unbeaten run including that 2-2 draw with the Stags, injuries to key, experienced players have cost the club dearly.
All too often an inexperienced Spireites side has crumbled under pressure, often late in games against bigger, more physical sides.
They’ve shown rare glimpses of their ability, comfortably beating Luton and Swindon and putting Notts County to the sword live on Sky.
But in their biggest games of the season against relegation rivals Port Vale and Grimsby, they simply failed to perform.
Previous boss Gary Caldwell wanted to play a 3-5-2 formation, passing teams to death. He called it the hardest way to win football games, but was adamant it won titles. Instead he was sacked.
Since Lester arrived, Chesterfield have mostly gone with a 4-2-3-1 formation and what he’s asked his players for is fast, attacking and aggressive football.
When it works, their pressing game stifles teams and they play attractive stuff.
When it doesn’t work, they look incapable of opening teams up and struggle to defend direct football.
Kristian Dennis has been their main goal threat this season with 19 goals to his name.
But with only six in his last 20 appearances, he isn’t in the red-hot form that saw him score in six consecutive League matches earlier in the season.
That reflects Chesterfield’s form as a team, as well. When he gets service, he scores.
He’s the man you’d most like a chance to fall to, if you’re a Spireites supporter. He can score with either foot and has headed home a couple as well this season.
From their injury list, Ian Evatt is nearing a return to action after suffering a knee injury and going under the knife after Christmas.
Jordan Sinnott, too, is close to first team football following a serious ankle problem.