The Spireites finished the 1983-84 fourth tier season in
mid-table. This represented a degree of
success for the new Manager John Duncan and a Board battling to cut the
debt. However few had any great
expectations for the coming campaign in the newly sponsored Canon League Division Four.
Duncan had assembled a very sound defence in Gary Bellamy,
Steve Baines, Les Hunter and Shaun O’Neill and this provided a sound start to
the season. John Matthews was added to
the midfield and Ernie Moss returned for a third spell to partner Bob Newton
(in the home games at least). The Derbyshire
wicket-keeper Chris Marples was also to join as first choice custodian once his
cricket duties ended.
The season started well and continued that way. The team was in the top three from the first published table until Christmas. There were also some impressive wins, notably scoring four at Scunthorpe, seeing five different scorers against Exeter and plundering four vesus Tranmere.
There was a hiccup over Christmas with just one win in four. This included a visit to Swindon when the New Year’s Day match beat a big freeze. Unfortunately many of the players had celebrated the night before in the expectation of a postponement. For those players the 4-0 defeat was one to forget and some were in no condition to remember it!
Brian Ferguson replaced the injured Bellamy in defence and Mick henderson was brought in to add some steel to midfield. Phil Walker had begun to share the attacking partnership with Newton playing most of the away games in place of Moss.
By March a 3-0 win over Halifax saw Chesterfield back up to third before the fixtures pitched the team into away games against the two sides above them over just three days. Steve Spooner netted the only goal at Hereford who stood second on goal difference to leave the Spireites ywo points behind Darlington before the visit the following Saturday.
Apart from one week Chesterfield retained the top spot until the end of the season. Promotion was ensured without playing when Chester beat Hereford on a Friday night. The Championship followed at the away game at Peterborough's London Road in front of a thousand mainly fancy-dress clad Spireites. On Radio Sheffield Robert Jackson interupted "Flowers in the Rain" to confirm Chesterfield's triumph.
This allowed a 7000 crowd to attend the Rochdale game at saltergate knowing that the Canon League Trophy was to be presented to skipper Steve Baines.
As the trophy was handed over in the Director's Box at the
Recreation Ground those present were oblivious to a tragedy happening at a
football ground fifty miles north. At
Bradford’s Valley Parade the home club was set to receive the Third Division
trophy. However a fire under the main
stand led to 56 fans never coming home.
The ramifications of this disaster meant overdue changes to all stadia. This was the last season that Saltergate would look like this.