Phil Tooley takes a look at the game and its context
Chesterfield 1 Northampton Town 0
FA Cup First Round
Am I the only person that didn’t enjoy that?
I didn’t enjoy playing a team that wanted to play the game properly, with no dark arts. I didn’t enjoy the large away following that helped to make a proper football atmosphere at The Technique. I didn’t enjoy the level of play shown by the Spireites which more than matched that of a team pushing for promotion a division up from the hosts.
All of those elements made me feel pretty miserable, hitting me smack between the eyes, reminding me more than ever what we’ve been missing since 2018. How I long for days like this again, excellent games against excellent teams played in an excellent environment at an excellent stadium. Things really were better back then, even though we may not always have appreciated it.
I just want to enjoy being back in amongst all of that stuff we used to take for granted. The idea of competing week after week with decent teams in League Two makes the challenge and grind of getting out of the National League ever more critical.
In all seriousness, this was a terrific game between two committed teams who wanted to win. The Spireites may not have tested keeper Lee Burge in the way they pummelled Gateshead’s James Montgomery on Tuesday, but the number of times they got down the side, round the back and through Northampton’s rearguard was impressive. A smidgeon more quality could have made a huge difference to the scoreline.
I said on commentary after about five minutes that Armando Dobra looked ‘on it’ and he didn’t disappoint. Fit and fast, he caused all sorts of problems before and after his goal, which was a typical Paul Cook score. High press, force an error and capitalise on it. Another Liam Mandeville assist and another on the potential long list for Goal of the Season (it’s the tenth one I’ve got on my list already).
Everywhere you looked there were quality individual performances, all enveloped within a solid team infrastructure that held together from first whistle to last against a very tidy Northampton Town outfit, who in Pinnock and Bowie had two men in fine form who continually tested the Blues, but never to a level that caused unbearable palpitations.
The game, 25 years on from 1997 and Chesterfield’s famous FA Cup adventures, kicked off 25 hours after then manager John Duncan’s Crooked Spire hosted funeral, so a 1-0 win seemed wholly appropriate, with this home side defending well and riding their luck. Bowie and Sean’s lad Max Dyche both struck wood, but the subsequent path of both rebounds favoured Cook’s team. The team had done more than enough to earn that luck.
It was an unlucky 13 for the Cobblers, they hadn’t won in their previous dozen trips to Chesterfield going back to 1993, so history certainly favoured the home side, but Jon Brady’s team had only lost one away game in EFL2 previously; this was certainly no forgone conclusion.
Seeing off a higher sphere side at home in the FA Cup is also something that doesn’t happen ridiculously regularly. You have to go back ten years for the last example, when Paul Cook Part One saw his team destroy a relegation-doomed Hartlepool United 6-1 just eight days after his appointment. Before that, a Tom Curtis penalty against Nottingham Forest in a game you may remember was the previous instance. It’s rare!
The attendance was also impressive, the second highest FA Cup crowd at Whittington Moor, only the 2014 third round replay against Scunthorpe United, with Derby County the known hosts of the next round awaiting, has attracted more, helping to create the wonderful atmosphere this weekend’s game was played in.
A wonderful life was celebrated on Friday whilst Saturday reminded us how amazing football can be when both sides want to make a match and play in the right manner. We will miss John Duncan enormously, and we were all reminded how massively we miss the Football League and all it entails. It will be the most fitting tribute to John if this season sees a spectacular Spireites sojourn into the latter stages of the world’s oldest competition.
Let’s all go to Wealdstone and ensure the performance level remains high.
Phil’s Positive: A fine team performance against a side exactly a division above the Spireites, whose only away defeat in EFL2 was at Walsall. Paul Cook’s charges certainly looked every bit a team more than capable of competing with the likes of Northampton Town. And we are Ball #38 in Monday’s draw.
The Spireites’ next game is on Tuesday, November 8 at Wealdstone, kick-off 7.45pm. Full coverage on 1866 Sport from 7pm.
Chesterfield (4-1-4-1 to start): Fitzsimons; King, Williams, Grimes, Horton; Jones; Mandeville (Uchegbulam 90+2), Oldaker, Whelan (Akinola 68), Dobra (Cooper 83); Quigley (Tshimanga 68). Subs (not used): Chadwick, Horton, Clarke, Sheckleford, Gyasi.
Goal: Dobra 14 (Chesterfield)
Bookings: Williams, Dobra, Akinola plus manager Cook (Chesterfield)
Attendance: 5,886 (754 from Northampton)
Netcoms IT 1866 Sport Man of the Match: Armando Dobra (chosen by Jamie Hewitt)