By Tony Leighton
Weather-enforced postponed fixtures at Northampton Town and Cheltenham Town have ruined Chesterfield's start to the new year as the former Sky Bet League 2 leaders look to regain top spot and boost their promotion hopes.
But the unwanted spell of inactivity has not dampened the resolution of the Spireites, says in-form striker Marc Richards, who is back in the starting line-up and aiming to continue his recent scoring streak into 2014.
"After setting the pace in the first half of the season," Richards told football-league.co.uk, "we want to finish as champions. Second or third place would mean promotion and that would obviously also mean success, but we want to be top."
The division's leadership was lost on New Year's Day, when Chesterfield's game at one of Richards' old clubs Northampton Town was called off and Scunthorpe United went two points clear at the top with a 3-1 win against Rochdale.
The Spireites dropped to third, a point below Burton Albion, but they would have reclaimed the top spot with a win at Cheltenham as both the Iron's and the Brewers' scheduled Saturday League games were postponed due to the FA Cup.
"It's so frustrating to have had both of our games called off," Richards added. "Having one postponed was bad enough, but if we had played both of them and won them then we'd have been well clear at the top come Saturday night."
Frustrating as was the new year's turn of events, Richards is happy to be back in the Chesterfield side and scoring on a regular basis after suffering a succession of injury setbacks since his move from Port Vale during the 2012 close season.
Ankle and hamstring problems forced the 31-year-old striker out of action at various times last term, and in the current campaign he has been restricted to just 12 League starts due to troublesome thigh and hamstring strains.
But he has seven League goals to his name, three in the Spireites last four outings as they regain the momentum that they built at the start of the season but then temporarily lost in a run of three defeats in four winless games.
They have lost only one of their last 11 League games and Richards said: "We had a dip in form where we couldn't buy a win, but we're out of that and picking up points again - although we should have more points than we've got recently.
"We've been tight at the back but not creating too much up front. I'm pleased to be back in the goals though, after a frustrating time with niggling injuries - and hopefully I can carry on scoring to help us up into League 1."
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