Tooley’s Take

Phil Tooley takes a look at the game and its context  

Oldham Athletic 0 Chesterfield 2 National League Match #7

4-2-3-1-derful! Cookie’s preferred formation and tactical approach worked perfectly as the Spireites notched up a rare win at Boundary Park. Since the team’s first visit there in 1908, only once has the team bagged maximum points, it’s that rare! 

The shape of the team is all about getting the ball forward quickly and creating chances. Town went into the game having forged 27% more shots on target than any other team in the National League and there were plenty more chances created against John Sheridan’s Oldham Athletic, though the opening goal scored after just 35 seconds by the resurgent Joe Quigley was a function of the press rather than the pass. 

Keeper Magnus Norman, with ‘Quigs’ in close proximity, mis-controlled and the big man pounced to become the eighth different man on the scoresheet this season in only the seventh game. All about press, a vital element of Cookball. 

Calvin Miller, on the park for the first time this season, showed the value of the squad game by being instrumental in the Spireites’ quick-fire second. Persistence, vision and delivery all came together to tee-up Jeff King to left-foot in his second goal of the season to create a new club record. 

You know I like a stat, and as my Sunday morning tea cooled down a bit, I checked out an obscure one, and my hunch proved to be bang on. Two at Dorking, two at Notts, two at Alty, two at Oldham. Not the sort of away goal scoring pattern you get too often, so I began to trawl through the fixtures right back to the 19thcentury to see if there were any other examples of at least two goals scored in the first four away fixtures of a season. Bang on, there were three-timers though. 

Guess when the last one was? Cookball Part One, Bury W2-0, Rochdale D2-2 and Portsmouth W2-0 before Oxford W1-0 in our championship season of 2013/14. The next away game, the team scored three in the first half, at Morecambe, but the less said about the second half there, the better (note to self, erase that game from the memory).

The whirlwind start at Oldham, played in front of another great following (over 2,700 away fans in a week) gave the visitors the right to minimise risk, whilst it forced Oldham to switch to playing longer balls which, in general, the as yet unchanged back four gobbled up, playing a line high enough to keep the lineman’s flag in regular offside action. 

The vital positions in any 4-2-3-1, the trio behind the front man, looked a worry going into the game. Asante and Dobra, vital cogs, both out so Miller (first minutes of the season) and Clarke (first start for 364 days) came in. Whilst no-one doubts their ability, the lack of fuel in their tanks was a concern. An hour in, it was completely obvious that the manager and his staff ensure squad fitness is not an issue. Two fantastic performances in the circumstances. 

When the pair inevitably had to be replaced around the hour-mark, Jes Uchegbulam and new boy Tim Akinola came on, and there was no drop in performance, no drop in intensity, no drop in control. Four attacking midfielders without a start this season come in and nothing seems to have given. That’s a big wow for me. 

Oldham had their moments. There was a first half spell of around 15 minutes when the notched up a few corners, ex-Spireite Mike Fondop could have done better with a couple of headers, but after another familiar face, Dan Gardner, was forced off with an injury after just 32 minutes, the threat level reduced and Town were able to play solid, low-risk, no-risk, keep ball and, when the moment was right, get the ball into the danger area, which happened plenty of times, enough to make you think the Latics got off lightly. 

Then, towards the end, a bit of Plan B, with Michael Gyasi coming on for a few minutes of 4-4-2 and his pace could easily have led to a third goal. 

Whilst we all love to see our favourites muller the opposition, life’s not like that. For me this was as controlled an away performance as you can realistically expect or hope for. Start on the front foot, nick a two-goal lead and then be sensible and manage the game (not as in timewasting) at the tempo and in the style you want to play, eliminate the need to take needless risks and force the opponents to compromise their game plan. That was this game in a nutshell. 

Was it the most memorable away win of recent times? Far from it. Was it a game we’ll all be saying ‘I was there’ in years to come? Certainly not. Was it the sort of performance you need to rack up to be successful? Spot on! This was controlled Cookball, not as expansive as we love to see and purr about, but it’s the sort of Cookball that wins titles. Nuff said. 

Big six games coming up, all against teams currently outside the top ten, with everyone bar Manny Oyeleke set to be available at some stage in that run. Get your tickets for Gateshead where hopefully we’ll be in purring mode. We owe them one after they completed a win double over us in 2018/19, the season they were relegated. Before that, the last three homes against the Heed, back in the 1950s when they were a Div 3 (North) side, all ended in wins for the Spireites, 5-3, 6-0 and 3-0. Yes please. 

Phil’s Positive: None of the replacements that came in for Asante and Dobra or the subs that came on for Clarke, Miller and Oldaker made the team look weaker. Squad game, strong squad. Akwasi, Armando and Kabby not at Boundary Park, just drink that in! 

The Spireites’ next game is at home to Gateshead on Saturday, September 10, 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. 

Team v Oldham (4-2-3-1 to start): Covolan; King, Williams, Grimes, Horton; Oldaker (Gyasi 83), Banks; Mandeville, Clarke (Akinola 65), Miller (Uchegbulam 60); Quigley.

Subs (not used): Maguire, Jones

Goals: Quigley 1, King 7 (Chesterfield)

Referee: Lewis Smith

Booked: King (Chesterfield), Roberts, Clarke, Threlkeld, Tollitt (Oldham)

Attendance: 7,852 (1,469 from Chesterfield)

Netcoms IT 1866 Sport Man of the Match: Jeff King (chosen by Phil Picken)