PNE opponents Cook-ing up a double

Sam Morsy has played a vital role for Chesterfield
Sam Morsy has played a vital role for Chesterfield
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Chesterfield go into the play-off semi-finals against Preston North End chasing a second successive promotion.

They topped League Two a year ago to clinch automatic promotion and will now have a shot at getting into the Championship via the end-of-season knockout.

League One’s sixth place changed hands a number of times over the second half of the campaign but it was the Spireites who eventually nailed it down.

A run of five wins, three draws and just a single defeat in their last nine matches saw them book their play-off slot.

Had they beaten Sheffield United on Sunday rather than draw 1-1, Paul Cook’s men would have finished fifth.

Nevertheless, ex-Southport and Accrington boss Cook is delighted with how his side have done this season.

He is now looking forward to the two games with North End, the first leg of which comes at the Proact Stadium.

The return is on Sunday lunchtime at Deepdale.

Cook said: “Preston had been on such a good run, 18 unbeaten.

“Simon Grayson and his staff have assembled an outstanding team.

“MK Dons achieved 90-odd points and they deserved to go up.

“In my opinion three teams deserved to go up – the two that did plus Preston, but that’s the nature of the game.

“Preston will pick themselves up and turn up in force on Thursday.

“We’re in a cup semi-final now and I’m delighted the second leg is on Sunday lunchtime – that’s much better for our supporters than a Monday night.

“Sometimes I don’t know what the people who organise these things are doing – they don’t give fans the credit they deserve.”

Cook was pleased with how Chesterfield hit back to claim a point in their derby clash with Sheffield United.

After falling behind to a Marc McNulty goal in the first half, Ian Evatt headed them level soon after the interval.

Said Cook: “We were outstanding at Bramall Lane, we were a credit to the club, as were our supporters and that’s how you’ve got to play football.

“Sometimes you don’t always win.

“I felt Sheffield United scored very much against the run of play, but that’s football and what pleased me most was that we have the ability to not lose games when there’s not much in them.

“If that was the first leg of the play-offs we’d be going back to our stadium 1-1 with all to play for so I think the players deserve a massive pat on the back this season.

“You can look back on the season and everyone can say it’s been a very successful one for the club and that makes me very proud.”

The Spireites shook off the departure of top scorer Eoin Doyle to Cardiff in January to maintain their play-off push.

Doyle, who was a target for PNE, scored 21 league goals before his big-money move.

It could be that Sam Morsy follows Doyle to Wales in the summer, the midfielder having been linked with Cardiff.

Morsy has been a key figure in Chesterfield’s rise over the last two seasons.

With Doyle gone, Sam Clucas is top scorer in the current squad with nine league goals and three more in the FA Cup.

Jay O’Shea has nine goals to his name, seven of them in the league.

Clucas, signed early in the season from Mansfield, will be part of a three-man forward line against Preston, together with O’Shay and Danny Gardner. This season’s league games between Chesterfield and North End were both feisty affairs.

The sides drew 3-3 at Deepdale in September, PNE letting a 3-0 advantage slip.

Goals from Alan Browne, Joe Garner and Josh Brownhill looked to have put them in total command. But a hat-trick from Doyle gave the visitors a point, the equaliser coming in the 90th minute from the penalty spot.

At the Proact Stadium in February, a Garner double gave Preston a 2-0 victory.

It was the striker’s first start after the shin injury which had sidelined him for 10 weeks. They played against 10 men for 88 minutes of that game, Sam Hird sent off for bringing down Garner when he was clear on goal.

That was the second game in what turned into an 18-match unbeaten run, one which ended at Colchester.