Phil Tooley takes a look at the game and its context
Chesterfield 2 Wrexham 0 National League Match #3
I’ve been staring at a blank screen, cup of tea in hand, wondering where to start! Not because there’s nothing to say about the game, on the contrary, there’s far too much and deciding what the most salient point to start with is nigh on impossible.
Maybe the fact that Paul Cook’s side made the odds-on favourites for promotion look pretty ordinary, or that the performance reminded us that football is a team game and every one in the Spireites team achieved a level of individual play that they should be proud of but, more importantly, the 11 (plus two) illustrations of ability all fitted perfectly into a textbook team ethic.
Or that with 15, or 20, or 30, or 45 minutes left, it never felt like the two-goal advantage eked out in the opening quarter of the match would be challenged. Or that Wrexham’s many (and expected) corners or set-plays overly challenged the keeper and his colleagues.
Or that long-throw expert Ben Tozer was only given the opportunity to launch on three of four occasions due to extremely sensible final third defending, or that Jeff King and Ollie Banks scored terrific goals.
Or that five goals this season have been scored by five different players, or that back-to-back clean sheets in the NL, with both games won, hasn’t happened since last November.
Or that we’ve still not conceded a goal when 11 men have been on the park, or that the support from the stands was magnificent. Just where do I start?
There are a few games in Chesterfield’s National League history that were terrific. Last season’s 3-1 win over Notts County (I missed it due to Covid but listened in), and a 1-0 win at Meadow Lane the season before, the 4-1 win at current table-toppers Barnet, plus the 6-0 win over the same team at The Technique, the 2-0 triumph at Solihull Moors and the 1-0 victory at Sutton United were all top banana sort of games. But on reflection, taking into account overall performance, opposition, level of dominance and lack of frayed nerve endings, the award for the National League #1 show so far (and I suspect it will be beaten this season) goes to Chesterfield 2 Wrexham 0.
Hot on the heels of a hot day’s win over Aldershot Town, the hosts’ energy was incredible, confirmed by the fact that there were no Town subs before the 82nd minute and there was no need to risk bringing on long-term injury recoverees Tshimanga or Clarke.
My co-commentator on 1866 Sport, young defender Joe Cook, gave his Man of the Match award to Jeff King, scorer of a fantastic opener, assisted by Liam Mandeville, but he felt he could have made a case for all 11 starters. Williams, Banks (whose goal was another cracker), Dobra, Grimes and more had all put in shows that deserved recognition, whilst my call would have gone to the tireless DJ Oldaker, miles of running and a couple of great tackles in key locations at key times. Please lads, make every selection for the rest of the season as tough. It was a joy to have to rule-out so many individual showings that were above and beyond what is expected.
But, as the gaffer would say, all of that garnered just three points, same as what’s up for grabs in the next 43 encounters. Can’t argue with that logic, but sorry Paul, for the 6,000 plus Town fans there and the thousands listening in or hanging on the club’s Twitter account, the reward was much greater than three points.
In a phenomenal atmosphere with a huge away following, Town saw off the team every non-aligned observer feels will walk away with the title, last season’s leading NL scorer had no meaningful openings, Tozer’s missiles were nullified and the Dragons left the park having had their fire extinguished by more than the pre-match torrential rain that fell onto the Whitt Moor carpet.
Big Gun Game #1 ended well, but now it’s onto Big Gun Game #2, at Meadow Lane on Saturday tea-time. Notts needed a late own goal to earn a point at Gateshead on Tuesday, following on from an away draw at Boreham Wood on Saturday and an opening day 3-0 home win over Maidenhead United, so two unbeaten sides come together for another ‘should-be-in-the-EFL’ encounter.
Three games in, too early to get excited, but it’s never too early to recognise that the manager has recruited well, moulded a team and got players doing what they’ve been doing in training. This season, Could it be Magic? I’ll Take That!
Phil’s Positive: Best 90 minutes in the National League? If not, pretty close to it.
The Spireites’ next game is at Notts County on Saturday, August 20, the televised match kicks off at 5.20pm. Can’t get, no access to BT Sport or even going? Full match build-up on 1866 Sport Live starts at 4.30pm, so listen via the App, Smart Speaker or online.
Team v Wrexham (4-2-3-1 to start): Fitzsimons; King, Williams, Grimes, Horton; Oldaker, Banks; Mandeville, Dobra (Cooper 82), Asante (Jones 82); Quigley.
Subs (not used): Maguire, Tshimanga, Clarke
Goals: King 10, Banks 23 (Chesterfield)
Referee: Steve Copeland
Booked: King (Chesterfield), O’Connor, Palmer (Wrexham)
Attendance: 8,057 (1,852 from Wrexham)
1866 Sport Man of the Match: Jeff King (chosen by Joe Cook)