Tooley’s Take

Phil Tooley takes a look at the game and its context  

Altrincham 3 Chesterfield National League

Take II of Tooley’s Take! I’d written my original piece on the morning after the night before at Altrincham, only to subsequently find out that John Pemberton and chairman Mike Goodwin had come to a mutual agreement for the manager to leave the club. 

A departing manager is always a sad thing when it’s your club. That may be a ‘sad to see him go’ scenario when success sees someone move on, as with John Duncan’s first spell, Nicky Law’s tenure and Paul Cook’s memorable time here, or a situation that has arisen due to below par results.

Unfortunately, this time, it’s the latter, and the disappointment is amplified because ‘Pembo’ is a good bloke, the sort of person you want to succeed, not just selfishly because it’s your club, but because you know the person tries to do things right and deserves the rub of the green. On hearing the news, I sent John a text to wish him the best because I genuinely warmed to him. 

As the last person to interview him after the loss at Altrincham, it was plain to see he was hurting and wondering just what he needed to do to turn things around. He was genuinely disappointed because he’s a genuine man. 

He told me; “When we get in the heat of the battle, we can’t quite see it out and that’s a difficult one to take because we can see it, we know what the problem is and we work on it, we just can’t seem to get to grips with it.

“We’ve been in every game this season, competitive in every game but we can’t put teams away when we’re having our best periods and when we’re not at our best, we get punished.” It summed up the Spireites’ eight games in the National League this season pretty well.

For caretaker John Dungworth and the person that eventually takes over, it’s clear that the team’s problems this season are at the defensive end of the park. In attack, the team has scored in every National League game, only leaders Torquay United and fifth-placed Eastleigh can also claim to have achieved that.

In the eight games in the competition to date, Chesterfield have scored first, always a target for every manager, six times, but against Hartlepool United, Wealdstone, Maidenhead United and now Altrincham, that ultimately meant little as the team was unable to capitalise on the advantage and ended the games with no points.

In the two matches where the opponents scored first, Torquay United and Stockport County, Spireites have equalised before going on to concede late on, showing there’s fight and determination present. 

Two clean sheets have been kept to date, against Woking and at Yeovil Town, the two games won to date, showing just how vital shutouts are. 

Getting the balance right between front and back is a major target for coaches. Of course, it’s not solely the back-line’s responsibility, Altrincham’s late winner had the scorer running free from deep, something you would want and expect to see covered from players in front of the final three. When they walk through the door, the new gaffer will no doubt have done some homework and will look to iron out this all too familiar issue. 

On other matters, fans will have been surprised to see the name of Corey Addai on the team sheet at Moss Lane. With Kyle Letheren calling in sick, the club had to pull out the stops to get the big keeper in on loan from Barnsley.

The 23-year-old former Arsenal youth player had been at Coventry City and had loan spells out with the likes of Mickleover Sports, AFC Telford United and Dulwich Hamlet, for whom he scored a dramatic last gasp winner direct from a free-kick in his own half against Brentwood Town in a cup game. Check it out on YouTube!

Addai had precious little to do – he had no chance with any of the goals – whilst his opposite number Tony Thompson made a couple of fine saves to deny Chesterfield. Scott Boden and Jordan Cropper’s goals were both well worked and deserved more, but it’s always going to be difficult if you concede a couple of goals in a game.   

Everyone is clearly frustrated with our points return so far and that’s the number one priority right now to change for the better and I’m sure John Dungworth and all Spireites would settle for a scrappy win against the second set of Magpies to visit the Technique on consecutive Saturdays. Two for Joy?

Phil’s Positive: Plenty of chances created, not a major problem area there

Spireites next game is on Saturday, November 21 at home to Notts County, kick-off 3pm.

Team v Maidenhead (3-5-2 to start): Addai; Yarney, Evans, Maguire; Cropper, Smith (Rowley 84), Butterfield, Weston, Buchanan (Tyler Denton 89); Boden (Rawson 86), Tom Denton. 

Subs (not used): Wharton, Hollis

Goals: Chesterfield – Boden 13, Cropper 63, Altrincham – Adarabioyo 29, Hancock 62 (pen), 89

Ref: Karl Evans

Yellows: Maguire & Yarney (Chesterfield)