The fiercest recent rivalry for the Spireites has been that with Mansfield Town. While you can argue that politics has no place in football the Miners’ Strike of the eighties certainly added some vitriol to the contests between the two north midlands clubs. It was a decade after the social conflict that the two teams met to contest a place at Wembley for the Division 3 promotion play-off.
That 1994-5 season saw Chesterfield start in undistinguished form until Christmas when Phil Robinson and Tony Lormor were signed. A more attacking and, for a John Duncan team, adventurous style saw the Spireites move strongly up the table.
A strong finish to the season meant the Blues looked likely automatic promotion certainties until a home loss in the penultimate game to champions Carlisle dropped them into third place and the play-offs. Of course in practically any other season third place in the fourth tier was an automatic place!
With Chesterfield in third it meant they were to play sixth-place Mansfield with the first game at Field Mill. That game, in front of 6500, saw a keenly fought 1-1 draw. In truth Mansfield fought back after Robinson gave Chesterfield the lead and were unlucky not to take a lead to the Recreation ground for the second leg. The second-leg was one of Saltergate’s greatest nights!
More than eight thousand packed into the Rec on that Wednesday evening to see the Stags take an early lead from a Paul Holland header. Tony Lormor replied for the home side before a disastrous mistake by skipper Nicky Law allowed Steve Wilkinson to net the visitors’ second. In the second-half Jon Howard, making a rare start in place of the injured Wunderkind Kevin Davies, headed the equaliser.
Keeper Andy Beasley was then carried off to give loanee Billy Stewart his debut. After Lampkin was sent off for Mansfield, Wilkinson almost won it in the last minute when Stewart made a hash of a cross.
Extra-time saw Mansfield self-destruct and Nicky Law redeem his earlier error. In a show of captaincy and mental strength the skipper scored twice. The first was a brave penalty and then, after Peters was sent off for an assault on Andy Morris, he added a strong header from a corner. The extra-time rout was completed by a Howard header. The final score gives Spireites an excuse to ask their neighbours for a time check five minutes before the hour for evermore!
This took Chesterfield to Wembley in the play-offs for the second occasion. This time they made no mistake with a comfortable victory over Bury. Billy Stewart played in place of the injured Beasley in the final (with the retired Jim Brown on the bench!) Not only did Billy sign-on as unemployed two days after his Wembley victory but, with a certain amount of class, he handed his winners medal to Andy Beasley.