Tooley’s Take

Phil Tooley takes a look at the game and its context  

Chesterfield 3 Bradford City 0 Pre-season friendly 

This was a pre-season friendly. It’s about fitness, transferring training ground work into a match format, avoiding injury. The result isn’t the primary objective, and whatever the scoreboard displays is of minor importance when compared to all of the other objectives. All very true, all bang-on. 

But this performance, if it can be counted as some sort of pointer to what to expect, ironically reminded me of the Pointer Sisters singing ‘I’m so excited, and I just can’t hide it; I’m about to lose control and I think I like it …….’ #Cookball is back!

I know it was a friendly, but the Bantams, 7-1 joint favourites with Stockport County for the League Two title, are a week ahead of Town in the pre-season calendar, starting their competitive programme next Saturday. They beat Sunderland 2-0 in the week and in their previous build-up match, won 4-1 at National League newcomers York City, whose team included Alex Whittle and Scott Boden. They take these matches pretty seriously, manager Mark Hughes has never shirked a challenge in his long and impressive career. 

The first half was terrific. How many times did the home side turnover possession in the City half? I can exclusively reveal the number after painstaking analytical work. It was gazillions. 

Our Brazilian sweeper-keeper had to make one great save, and both linesmen got arm ache ruling out goals for off-side, whilst the Spireites should have done better in the final third on numerous occasions, but the team was up against a higher sphere, solid side, playing their final friendly. A tough ask. 

Hughes changed it round at the break, with far fewer play-out-from-the-back moves, and that forced shift in tactics was a moral victory in its own right for Cook & Co, and Chesterfield immediately worked out how to exploit it, with Ollie Banks and Branden Horton the chief pick-pockets and Joe Quigley (well, at least I think it was him, or was it an imposter?) the destroyer. Banks, Horton & Quigley sounds like a firm of accountants, let’s hope we need an abacus or similar to keep tally of their successful combinations this season. 

Assist King Jeff kept his hand in with a beauty of a ball for Liam Mandeville to carry on his welcome output increase with a fine shot moments after the second goal and, with 59 on the clock, we all knew we were about to move to Sub City, a great opportunity to see more of the new recruits, but the inevitable staccato-stop-start action meant the game didn’t flow quite as smoothly as before, but nevertheless, we had a high class showcase about how to see out a game and avoid any potential banana skins. 

Press, Pass is back. Quick Ball is back. Playing in a system that is tactically sound whilst also giving the players an opportunity to express themselves is back. Those lucky enough to have been there (apart from 278 in the crowd) were treated to a lesson in how to transfer training ground theory into a joyous matchday experience and if you’re not one of the 3,500+ who’ve signed up to a season of this, if you possibly can, join in, you’ll not regret it!

I missed the Matlock Town match as I was on my holidays, where I took in three matches, two in the Netherlands and one in Belgium, all friendlies. The games involved Pro-League Standard Liege, Bundesliga’s Borussia Monchengladbach, Dutch second tier side MVV Maastricht as well as Standard’s U23 side, plus a couple of non-league teams. None of the teams I watched played with the intensity and desire I witnessed at The Technique, Town would have comfortably beaten them all based on what I’ve seen.

I know it was only a friendly, I know it counts for zip, but when you leave the ground and your main thought is that it’ll be an interesting selection dilemma when Kabby is available again, you know things are moving in a pretty good direction! Bring on the party at Boston, with or without tea. 

Phil’s Positive: #Cookball is back! No need to say more …….

The Spireites’ next game is on Friday, July 29 at Boston United. The pre-season friendly kicks-off at 7pm. Not able to go? Listen in to 1866 Sport, the programme starts at 6.30pm. 

Team v Bradford (4-2-3-1 to start): Covolan; King (Sheckleford 60), Williams (Cook 72), Grimes (Maguire 72), Horton (Clements 60); Oldaker (Trialist 64), Banks (Whelan 64); Mandeville (Triallist 64), Dobra (Cooper 60), Asante (Trialist 72); Quigley (Gyasi 60).

Goals: Quigley 49, 58, Mandeville 59 (Chesterfield)

Referee: Danny Middleton   

Booked: Williams, King (Chesterfield), Osadebe (Bradford)

Attendance: 2,408 (278 from Bradford)