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VERDICT: Chesterfield 1 Bury 0
PERHAPS it’s a worrying sign that after six straight defeats, Richie Barker is struggling to find a solution to his side's nosediving form.
The Shakers are plum out of luck at present, and no-one is feeling that more acutely than the likeable Yorkshireman, who has made no secret of his dilemma.
Just three players who celebrated sealing promotion at the B2net Stadium in April started this game, and while the performance was certainly an improvement on the debacle against Rochdale three days earlier, all the Shakers’ good work was undone by some slack defending on 64 minutes, which let Leon Clarke in for the game’s only goal.
Mark Cullen should have restored parity with a miss that is likely to haunt him for some time. But what impact it has on his manager might well be a different story.
Barker appears to have the support of his superiors at present, and well he might, considering the mass evacuation of top stars such as Ryan Lowe and Damien Mozika. Injuries to Steven Schumacher and Mark Hughes have also taken their toll.
But, as he trudged from the dressing room that had been so buoyant just five months ago, the embattled manager freely admits time is running out for all concerned to show they are up to the task.
“I’m not sure if the players are down, but I’m down because I’m not sure what else I can do,” he said. “I’ll send another team out against Hartlepool on Saturday. We’ll come in and have a cool down, have Thursday off and then go again on Friday and I’ll try to lift them again.
“But sometimes you make your own luck, so we’ve got to produce something somewhere along the line.
“Ever since the two boys (Lowe and Mozika) left, without harping on about it, we’ve not had anything.
“Mark Hughes was excellent until his injury, Steven Schumacher was great in the game before his injury, but what can I do? I can’t keep going on about it.”
Barker’s post-match press conference seemed more a therapy session, as he reflected on a game with few opportunities between two sides looking short of League One pedigree.
The pace and power of Chesterfield’s muscular front two of Clarke and Craig Westcarr caused problems, but they had been marshalled well until the second-half lapse.
A high ball drew both Ashley Eastham and Phil Picken, and when Mark Allott picked up the pieces, his clever ball opened up a gap for Clarke – last seen grappling with Paulo Di Canio at Swindon – to inflict a knock-out blow of a very different kind.
The Spireites nearly made it two as Westcarr skewed a shot wide moments later – but Cullen’s incredible miss from four yards with the goal gaping is one that has to be seen to be believed.
“We did deserve something and that probably sums our luck up at the minute,” Barker said.
“We had a few good chances, they did too, but we’ve been done by a pub goal.
“We don’t seem to be able to score those goals, and it sums it up when you see that Mark can’t sort his feet out from not even six yards out, and it ricocheted back into the keeper’s hands.
“We can’t sit here and say he’s missed it on purpose because he hasn’t. Sometimes they hit you on the shin and bobble into bottom corner.”
Chesterfield: Lee 6 (Fleming 83), Talbot 6, Grounds 6, Smith 6, Ford 6 (Holden 75), Allott 8, Mendy 6, Boden 7, Johnson 7 (Randall 90), Clarke 8, Westcarr 7. Not used: Clay, Bowery.
Shakers: Carson 6, Picken 6, Eastham 6, Sodje 7, Skarz 6, Michael Jones 5 (John-Lewis 77), Byrne 5 (Coke 68), Sweeney 5, Worrall 6, Bishop 8, Harrad 6 (Cullen 5, 68). Not used: Belford, Andrai Jones.
Referee: Craig Pawson.
Attendance: 5,727 (218 Bury fans).