Phil Tooley takes a look at the game and its context
Altrincham 1 Chesterfield 2 National League Match #6
Mixed emotions; a six-star Bank Holiday weekend, but two stars didn’t make it through to half-time at Moss Lane. First Akwasi Asante limped off and he was followed, just before the break, by Armando Dobra. It will be an agonising wait for those two and their many fans as we await medical diagnoses. Fingers crossed.
On a park where the Spireites had lost their only two previous games, they started well with a couple of efforts scooped off the line by a Robins rearguard well marshalled by summer-time Town target Toby Mullarkey. But with just nine minutes played, Asante had to exit the field and was replaced by Kabongo Tshimanga, a move that forced Paul Cook to change shape from one up to two, and for most of the rest of the half, Altrincham managed to deny Kabby any space and the visitors’ chances fell to others, but no-one could quite take advantage.
As the fourth official held up the ‘extra five’ board, Dobra went down and had to leave the pitch just as Altrincham had won a free-kick, that was subsequently delivered in, knocked down and who else but Mullarkey was on hand to left-foot it home.
Not sure what the gaffer said at the break, but a minute after it and we’re all-square again. Jeff King delivered a deep free-kick and Tyrone Williams powered home a header for his first goal in Chesterfield colours. In the blink of an eye, Williams was in again and his identikit header looked goal-bound, but Tshimanga, like great poachers do, touched it with something, anything, to claim the goal.
“I’ll be having a word with him on the coach,” Williams told me after the game. “He nicked that off me, but when Kabby runs away celebrating, we all follow him!”
Behind to lead in an away match for the first time since winning 2-1 at King’s Lynn in April last year. It’s been a while since we’ve seen character like this is the side, and that character was severely tested by the forced changes, which also saw Jes Uchegbulam come on for an extended run and he showed pace and promise. Still plenty to work on, but the raw material certainly looks to be present, correct and coachable.
Joe Quigley battled on as he has done all season, holding up, flicking on and setting up others. No goals yet, but his value to the team is considerable, same as Darren Oldaker, who seemed to be omnipresent in every area. Midfield partner Ollie Banks delivered several trademark balls, but his most memorable contribution of the afternoon was a fantastic inside the box tackle late on to snuff out a potential equalising move.
A total of 12 goals in six games this season, scored by seven different players, the same number of players that have notched up assists, with Williams becoming the seventh man in both of those fields, shows that the Spireites are far from one-trick ponies. There are undoubtedly plenty of thoroughbreds in there, none of them seeming to be temperamental, and all of them being willing workhorses as well.
Just the traits needed going into the Championship Stakes at Boundary Park on Saturday when Sheridan and Cook go head-to-head, the only two men to deliver top of the league finishes to Whittington Moor. The previous seven head-to-heads see the current Chesterfield boss leading 4-3, no draws, but Shez is 2-1 up against Cookie as a Spireite, all of those three games being played against Plymouth Argyle. Interestingly, five of the seven games have been won by the away team, bodes well for the weekend.
The Spireites will go into that match as divisional top-dogs, Oldham’s start to their National League career has so far been even-stevens, W2 D2 L2, their two wins both being at home against Aldershot Town and Dorking Wanderers whilst they lost 2-1 there against surprise package Wealdstone.
Ollie Banks, ex-Oldham, and Dan Gardner, ex-Chesterfield, formerly team-mates in these parts, will battle for midfield supremacy whilst Mike Fondop will be hoping to bag his first goal of the season in what promises to be another great atmosphere with plenty of away fans.
A couple of days off now for the players will give the backroom staff a bit of time to model their side for Oldham, deciding whether to go with the favoured 4-2-3-1, with decisions to be made as to who replace the injured lads, or switch to Plan B with Joe and Kabby attacking, and bring in one other into a wide midfield position.
Whatever the decision, if the team shows the resilience and character witnessed at Moss Lane, the travelling fans will have plenty to enthuse about.
Phil’s Positive: Three points from a battle. Altrincham did well to prevent us playing flowing Cookball whilst they also managed to maintain an attacking threat throughout. There’ll be plenty more games like this, but the team has shown they can squeeze a good result from games that we may be stifled in.
The Spireites’ next game is at John Sheridan’s Oldham Athletic on Saturday, September 3, kick-off 3pm. Can’t get, or even going? Full match build-up on 1866 Sport Live starts at 2pm, so listen via the App, Smart Speaker or online. I’ll be joined in the commentary box by an ex-Spireites player.
Team v Altrincham (4-2-3-1 to start): Covolan; King, Williams, Grimes, Horton; Oldaker, Banks; Mandeville, Dobra (Uchegbulam 45+4), Asante (Tshimanga 9) (Jones 90+1); Quigley.
Subs (not used): Maguire, Cooper
Goals: Williams 46, Tshimanga 50 (Chesterfield), Mullarkey 45+2 (Altrincham)
Referee: Paul Marsden
Booked: Horton, Banks Uchegbulam (Chesterfield), Lundstram, Hulme (Altrincham)
Attendance: 3,169 (1,256 from Chesterfield)
1866 Sport Man of the Match: Tyrone Williams (chosen by Jack Clarke)