Phil Tooley takes a look at the game and its context
Chesterfield 0 Woking 0 National League Match #44
Slim Chance v No Chance. I’d take the former every time. The Spireites may have limped over the play-off line, the battalion of players maybe severely depleted, the firepower may well have too many blanks, but on Tuesday next week, the team will be at The Shay. New day, new contest, new hope.
The game against Woking was tense, nervy and pretty unmemorable but for me, the fact that it was a pressure game, especially after news came through that the Daggers had taken the lead over Wrexham after 55 minutes, and Paul Cook’s men wore the badge well was the most significant element of the afternoon. The play-offs are all about pressure and Chesterfield showed that there’s something in their locker that could just be clung onto to enable the season to be extended even further.
The first clean sheet in ten was huge, and don’t be in doubt, Woking were a tough opponent. On their travels they’ve won the same number of away games as Halifax and Grimsby and they were able to play at The Technique with a freedom that only comes about when there’s no pressure.
Before the break, a couple of Woking chances whilst Saidou Khan headed against the bar. After the re-start, the Spireites stepped up, keeper Ross made a fine double save to keep out Danny Rowe and Liam Mandeville and there were decent periods of sustained pressure from the hosts, but that elusive goal wouldn’t come again, that’s three straight blanks.
When it became obvious that Dagenham & Redbridge were doing their job and were not going to drop any points, Chesterfield had to balance the desire to win with the pragmatism of not losing, and they just about nailed that balance without any major anxieties fuelled by the myriad of last gasp disappointments this season. It was never easy, but it rarely looked in doubt.
Will that level of performance bring success next week? Probably not, but the performance lift compared to the terrible trip to Torquay was there to for all see, and if that progress can be built on in training, and an equivalent uplift can be coaxed out of the players, then who knows?
The manager told me after the game that it’s 4-2-3-1 all the way from here on in. Rowe looked sound in the middle of the attacking three, picking out the sort of passes we know can open up any defence at this level, whilst Tom Denton and Nathan Tyson offer contrasting problems up top. Tyson in particular looked very sharp after replacing the big man to become only the fourth 40-year-old to play for the club and he may still have a big part to play this season.
At the back, Tyrone Williams is showing his worth, whilst both full-backs got into the final third plenty of times and on another day could easily be the creators of the vital chances.
But the undoubted stars of the show were the supporters. The second highest amount of home fans at any game on Whitt Moor (Gillingham in the Championship clincher in 2011 had a few more), the highest ever home crowd on a Sunday (beating the FA Cup quarter-final against Wrexham at Saltergate), and an attendance higher that the League One play-off semi-final against Preston North End. WOW! And it was positivity from the off. Quiet times of course, but the supporters were predominantly on the front foot, and it was a joy to see. Bottle that please.
If the Spireites at The Shay repeat that performance, and the players up their output to a similar level, there could yet be a positive outcome to a somewhat bizarre season. Like Neil Diamond wrote for The Monkees (and Vic Reeves), I’m a Believer, even though there may be a trace of doubt in my mind!
Phil’s Positive: We’ve got a ticket for the raffle. Whatever happens, the prize can’t be won by Dagenham & Redbridge, Torquay United, Boreham Wood or Bromley.
The Spireites’ next game is on Tuesday, May 24, kick-off 7.45pm at FC Halifax Town. Can’t get to the match? Listen in on 1866 Sport from 7.00pm.
Team v Woking (4-2-3-1 to start): Loach; King, Williams, Grimes, Whittle; Weston (McCourt 64), Kellermann; Khan, Rowe, Mandeville; Denton (Tyson 68)
Subs not used: Maguire, Whelan, Miller
Referee: Steven Copeland
Booked: Kellermann, McCourt (Chesterfield)
Attendance: 9,013 (187 from Woking)