IF any of the Yorkshire quartet challenging for a play-off place in League One are going to prevail come May 3, a place in the top six is clearly not going to do be achieved on the back of turning their respective homes into a footballing fortress.
Bradford City, in squandering a golden opportunity to return to the top six, suffered a seventh loss at Valley Parade to leave the locals every bit as miserable at the final whistle as the weather.
It is a tally of defeats on home soil that is one inferior to both Barnsley and Sheffield United, and two better off than Doncaster Rovers. All four could yet see home troubles cost them.
Last night, the Bantams could have few complaints with the latest of those disappointing home results after a lacklustre performance that did little to warm the 12,551 crowd on a night when rain and sleet peppered the players.
Byron Harrison’s strike in first-half stoppage time, which came courtesy of an awful blunder by Gary Mackenzie, settled a poor contest as Chesterfield claimed the play-off place that Bantams fans had been eyeing so hungrily before kick-off.
Once behind, Phil Parkinson’s men did huff and puff. But, a late chance for Tony McMahon apart, they rarely threatened an equaliser to leave little margin for error from an Easter double-header that will see a trip to Doncaster’s Keepmoat followed by a home clash against second-placed Preston North End.
All in all, therefore, an evening to forget at Valley Parade, which ahead of kick-off had gone through the sort of changeable weather more commonly associated with Melbourne.
This Bradford version of ‘four seasons in one day’ saw bright sunshine give way to a monsoon before morphing into a strong wind that should have had its very own health warning.
All this came in the space of five minutes and until stoppage time at the end of the first half, the weather had been the biggest talking point of the evening.
Then, though, came the quite catastrophic mistake by MacKenzie that handed Chesterfield an undeserved interval lead.
A header from Rory McArdle came to the Scot, who until that moment had been a beacon of reliability at the back since his loan move from Blackpool on the final day of the winter transfer window.
However, rather than clearing City’s lines as he should have, MacKenzie attempted to head the ball back to Ben Williams.
It proved to be a woeful effort, falling way short of the Bantams goalkeeper. Harrison, only starting because of an injury picked up by Armand Gnanduillet during the warm-up, was quick to seize on the blunder and, within a couple of seconds, the Spireites were ahead.
Bradford, of course, had no-one to blame for falling behind but themselves.
Nevertheless, the tepid offerings of both sides in a dire first 45 minutes had, in reality, deserved nothing but a blank scoreline at the interval.
Gary Roberts, once of Huddersfield Town, did have an audacious shot from 45 yards that sailed harmlessly over Williams’s crossbar, while Jon Stead had a couple of half-chances at the other end. Those apart, though, very little of note happened until MacKenzie’s mistake gave the visitors an unlikely lead.
Five minutes after the restart, Chesterfield had the ball in the Bradford net once again when Sam Hird fired in only for a linesman’s flag to rescue the home side.
Finally, Bradford awoke from their slumber. And, although it was still some way short of the exciting play that had so lit up the run to the FA Cup quarter-finals, City did at least start to ask questions of the Chesterfield defence.
MacKenzie was the first to threaten just before the hour with a close-range shot that Keighley-born Tommy Lee blocked after Darby had diverted Christopher Routis’s header into his path.
Then, as the hosts continued to press, Stead appeared to be impeded by Ian Evatt while trying to reach a driven Billy Knott cross.
Stead also fired a cross straight into the hands of Lee, who then claimed a looping James Hanson header comfortably
Neat play on the edge of the box seemed to have created an opening for Mark Yeates but Chesterfield were just too quick and Evatt cleared.
Francois Zoko, the third of Parkinson’s substitutions, then went down in the area only for referee Jeremy Simpson to brandish a yellow card at the striker for diving. City’s best chance was still to come, 90 minutes having been played when Knott weaved his way down the left and into the area.
His cut-back to Tony McMahon was perfect but the recent arrival from Blackpool’s shot was brilliantly saved on the line by Lee.
With that went any hope of a City equaliser and, instead, it was the 521 Spireites’ fans who headed home amid the sleet and rain in joyous mood.
Bradford City: Williams; Darby (Zoko 83), MacKenzie (Yeates 71), McArdle, Meredith; Routis (McMahon 75), Liddle, Knott; Clarke; Hanson, Stead. Unused substitutes: Urwin, Dolan, Webb-Foster, Mottley-Henry.
Chesterfield: Lee; Darikwa, Hird, Evatt, Talbot; Roberts (O’Shea 75), Ryan, Morsy, Humphreys; Harrison (Disenuvwe 72), Clucas. Unused substitutes: Flatt, Jones, Raglan, Banks, Ariyibi.
Referee: J Simpson (Lancashire).