Set-piece prow­ess the key for Cook

The Football League Paper - - LEAGUE ONE - By James Owens

CH­ESTER­FIELD boss Paul Cook was the most sur­prised man in the Proact Sta­dium as Ch­ester­field snatched a late win against Wal­sall with a rare set-piece goal from Sam Hird.

The Spire­ites’ win sees them move to within two points of the play-off places ahead of their crunch match with fel­low pro­mo­tion chasers Brad­ford on Tues­day.

But Cook ac­knowl­edged that it had been a far-from vin­tage dis­play from his side as they saw off Dean Smith’s vis­i­tors.

“We were poor, we never got go­ing,” Cook ad­mit­ted.

“It was a chore, and our sup­port­ers were ter­rific. The Kop kept us go­ing sec­ond half, great credit to them. That is when you need a 12th man, be­cause we huffed and puffed, but we never got go­ing.”

The Spire­ites had strug­gled to cre­ate clear chances in the first half, de­spite dom­i­nat­ing pos­ses­sion.

And the hosts were lucky not to go in trail­ing af­ter Manch­ester City loa­nee Jordy Hi­wula got the bet­ter of Ian Evatt in the dy­ing sec­onds of the first half, only to see his header go just wide.

The hosts picked up where they had left off af­ter the break, look­ing to test Wal­sall aeri­ally with a suc­ces­sion of crosses and cor­ners. But again, Cook’s side strug­gled to turn pres­sure into op­por­tu­ni­ties.

It was the Sad­dlers who came clos­est with the dead ball, with James Cham­bers see­ing his header from a cor­ner tipped ag­o­nis­ingly onto the bar by Spire­ites stop­per Tommy Lee in the 66th minute.

So it was a bit­ter blow for Dean Smith’s men when Hird con­nected em­phat­i­cally with Jimmy Ryan’s floated far post cor­ner four min­utes from time, send­ing a down­ward header be­yond for­mer Ch­ester­field man Richard O’Don­nell in the Wal­sall goal.

“They don’t lis­ten to me from set pieces!”, Cook joked af­ter­wards. “As you can imag­ine, I’m not on the set pieces, be­cause they’re all rub­bish, I let some­one else do them!”

But the for­mer Ac­cring­ton boss re­vealed he had in­structed his play­ers in his half-time team talk to look to ex­ploit their height ad­van­tage over Wal­sall more ag­gres­sively.

“We had a mas­sive phys­i­cal ad­van­tage on Wal­sall, so there was no need to drill balls in and stuff like that,” Cook ex­plained.

“It was just about hit­ting an area, and peo­ple at­tack­ing it with a de­sire to score.”

And Cook ad­mit­ted that his side’s hard-fought win gives them ev­ery chance of chal­leng­ing for back-to-back pro­mo­tions, with just eight games left to play.

“At 5 o’clock, you’re so happy to get the three points, be­cause not only does it prob­a­bly en­sure our sta­tus in the di­vi­sion, which is al­ways huge, but we can now look through the last games, and just imag­ine: ‘what if?’”

Cook’s op­po­site num­ber in­sisted his Johnstone’s Paint Tro­phy fi­nal­ists de­served some­thing from the game, as they look to se­cure their own fu­ture in League One.

“It was a very solid per­for­mance. We just didn’t get the re­sult with it,” Smith re­flected.

“We’ve hit the cross­bar through Cham­bers, we didn’t re­ally fol­low in un­til af­ter, and I think there’s a tap in there for some­body if they an­tic­i­pate a lit­tle bit bet­ter.

“I thought in the first half, Ch­ester­field put some re­ally good balls in be­hind us, which we had to de­fend, and we prob­a­bly didn’t use that as well as we could have our­selves.

“But when we changed the sys­tem later, I thought we looked like the main ag­gres­sors, and like we’d go on and win the game.”

“All you can do is rub your­selves down, re-group, and get to­gether. I’ll cer­tainly take that per­for­mance.The re­sult is dis­ap­point­ing.”

PIC­TURES: Ac­tion Images

BIG LEAP: Ch­ester­field’s Drew Tal­bot in ac­tion with Wal­sall’s Ben Purkiss

ALL SMILES: Sam Hird cel­e­brates af­ter scor­ing his goal for Ch­ester­field

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