Tooley’s Take

Phil Tooley takes a look at the game and its context  

Solihull Moors 3 Chesterfield 1

National League play-off semi-final

Tuesday’s win over FC Halifax Town in the play-off eliminator had me scratching my head about who was my Man of the Match, such was the quality of the teamwork on display. Plenty of players not in the running for the honour at Solihull Moors. No way could the award go to Tshimanga, Asante, Rowe, Clarke, Oyeleke, Carline, Weston, Gunning, Hollis or Croll. Ten outfield players absent through injury, or in Croll’s case, a lack of match fitness. Those ten players averaged only 13 NL starts between them this season, easily the single most debilitating factor of the campaign. 

That said, hope was there at kick-off time, the belief grew early on when Joe Quigley converted Liam Mandeville’s cross and if the team could have kept out the highest scoring home team in the division for more than the seven minutes they did, it could have been very different. Quigley did really well in the first half, scored, held up play well, wasn’t off-side and won plenty of flick-ons, showing that he is capable of carrying out the lone striker’s role. 

Sadly, the Spireites defence didn’t have their finest game of the season, carved open for the equaliser and then losing out to two central defenders from set-plays. We knew they’d be coming, we knew they’d be tough to defend, we knew the organisation at the back needed to be exemplary. Sadly, we succumbed, and after a reasonably good first half, couldn’t quite match that level after the break, particularly after the third goal went in. 

Calvin Miller also put in a more than decent first half shift, and he had some positive moments in the second, adding to his excellent Shay show, but like with many others, that acceptable level of performance didn’t come to the fore anywhere near enough in the crucial run-in that could have earned the Spireites a healthier finishing spot. 

Credit to Solihull, a much better footballing side under Neal Ardley, and whilst they still know how to carry out the unique dark arts of the National League pretty well, there was much less of that on display in this contest than in any previous meeting with the Moors. As a match at this level, there was some good football on display from both sides, Town created chances, Solihull took theirs. 

All in all, a few minutes of elation and far too many minutes of frustration at the end of one of the most bizarre Chesterfield seasons I’ve ever witnessed, and I’ve seen a few. 

Last time round, Paul Cook came in after several games had been played, he sussed out what was needed, what magical ingredients were missing, he filled the gaps and I back him to do the same again this summer and into next season. As he said in the immediate aftermath of the Damson jam, the hard work starts now. Changes are inevitable, but over the last two seasons, the club has started to understand this non-league lark much better, and that can only be a positive as we look forwards, crest fallen but still strong. 

Maidstone, Dorking, York, Gateshead, Oldham and Scunthorpe join us for the new campaign as we bid farewell to Stockport, Dover, Weymouth, King’s Lynn plus either Grimsby or Solihull. Back to 24 teams and back on the long road back to the EFL.

I’ve thoroughly enjoyed bringing you the action via 1866 Sport this season and penning this column after every match. Many thanks for the comments (good and bad); we all care deeply for the Spireites, we all have our own views and thankfully, they differ tremendously. If they didn’t, discussing the game would be a bit tedious. Fingers crossed, as Arnie says, I’ll be back. 

Holidays beckon now to recharge the batteries and be back at The Technique before we know it, cheering and crying at various points on what will be another unpredictable, often bumpy, hopefully successful campaign. We went one better this season than last, even though at this stage, that seems like no consolation whatsoever.  

Phil’s Positive: Paul Cook now has a summer to shape a squad in his image and challenge for the top spot next season.

The Spireites’ next game? I’m sure some pre-season fixtures will be announced soon, and it’ll not be long until the new season’s fixtures are out. Enjoy the summer. 

Team v Solihull (4-2-3-1 to start): Loach; King, Williams, Grimes, Maguire (Whittle 61); Whelan, Kellermann (Rowley 61); Khan, Mandeville (Denton 82), Miller; Quigley

Subs not used: McCourt, Tyson

Goals: Quigley 8 (Chesterfield), Dallas 15, Gudger 35, Howe 60 (Solihull)

Referee: Thomas Kirk

Booked: Gudger, McDonnell, Boyes (Solihull)

Attendance: 4,026 – a record crowd for Solihull Moors at Damson Park (600 from Chesterfield)