Tooley’s Take

Phil Tooley takes a look at the game and its context  

Eastleigh 2 Chesterfield 1 National League Match #13

What a tough day. A third straight defeat on the day it was announced that John Duncan had passed away at the relatively young age of 73. 

JD was the first Spireites manager I genuinely feel I could call a friend. He allowed me to travel on the team coach during his first spell as manager, letting me join his card school alongside Kevin Randall, another great friend. After returning to Chesterfield, I feel we became friends as opposed to close acquaintances, and that friendship grew even more after he ended his managerial career and worked for the League Managers’ Association. 

His and Kevin’s vital help when CFSS sought to take the club out of administration in 2002 enabled the club to survive and when they both asked me to compile their subsequent Testimonial Brochures, I was unfeasibly proud. John continued to support our efforts to get a Former Players’ Association off the ground and the players that played for him were always the most willing to help and return to Town for events. Chesterfield has lost a great adopted hero. 

The game at Eastleigh was overshadowed by the news. I’d been told before the game, but a formal announcement was not made until after the match, making it a challenging afternoon for many reasons. 

Sadly, the defensive showing by Chesterfield, conceding two sloppy set-piece goals in stoppage time at the end of each half, was so far away from John’s ideology, it made the afternoon defeat even harder to stomach. 

Paul Cook made changes to the side that had lost the previous two games and the guys who came in generally did pretty well. Joe Cook made a first appearance at this level and showed great promise, succumbing to cramp after giving his all for over an hour. Tim Akinola, of whom we’d seen solid glimpses, was another who played well, turning over the ball many times and playing positive passes when he had the ball. George Cooper also ended his appearance with many more plusses than minus points in what was a team performance that improved on Maidstone and Dagenham, but the collective still managed to concede when all looked reasonably solid, with both goals coming at very bad times. 

When Liam Mandeville levelled early in the second half (dubious goals panel may say keeper own goal), I expected victory, and the second half showed plenty of promise, but not quite enough quality where it counts. When Brennan Camp headed home, unmarked, from a left wing corner on 90+2, any level of improvement (which there was) was forgotten by Spireites supporters and the game was immediately tabbed by many as ‘not good enough, again.’ Harsh, but in a results driven environment, not something you could easily defend (rather like corners and free-kicks at Silverlake). 

It hurts all the more that Notts score three away and win whilst Wrexham concede five at home and still bag the points. Still plenty of time to go, but we can’t allow the gap to the top spot to open too much more.

Covolan, Miller and Clarke (plus Gyasi, who has a broken collar bone), all missed out through injury whilst Oldaker was rested. So it’s good news that the Spireites aren’t back in NL action for a couple of weeks, time to be able to lick our wounds and hopefully progress to the FA Cup first round, building some confidence en route. 

It’s been a shocker of a week, but nothing that a comfortable, drama-free win at Anstey Nomads and a Big W against Bromley won’t help to erase the memories. But nothing will ever erase the memories of winning at Hereford United and Darlington in four days, lifting the championship  trophy at Saltergate, 21 games unbeaten, Mansfield Town 5-2, Bury at Wembley, Wrexham at home and Middlesbrough at Old Trafford. We all have to endure the bad times to fully appreciate the good times, and I’d rather have Paul Cook in charge than anyone else to guide us back to the good times. 

Phil’s Positive: The performance of inexperienced first-time starters Joe Cook and Tim Akinola showed they are more than capable of stepping up to influence games from the off. 

The Spireites’ next game is at Anstey Nomads in the FA Cup fourth qualifying round on Saturday, October 15, kick-off 12.30pm. The game will be broadcast on the BBC’s iPlayer & red button service. 

Team v Eastleigh (4-2-3-1 to start): Fitzsimons; King, Cook (Williams 62), Grimes, Horton; Akinola, Banks; Mandeville, Asante (Uchegbulam 69), Cooper (Quigley 72); Tshimanga.

Subs (not used): Jones, Clements

Goals: Mandeville 49 (Chesterfield), Cisse 45+2, Camp 90+2(Eastleigh)

Referee: Lewis Smith

Booked: Cooper, Grimes (Chesterfield), Hesketh (Eastleigh)

Attendance: 2,541 (412 from Chesterfield)

Netcoms IT 1866 Sport Man of the Match: Tom Akinola (chosen by Josh Marsh)