Tooley’s Take

Phil Tooley takes a look at the game and its context  

FC Halifax Town 1 Chesterfield 0

National League Match #20

The Spireites were a Shay-ed of the side that perfectly tidied up on the Wombles’ patch a week ago. Same team, different dynamic, meaning we need to pop Elmer Bernstein’s magnificent record back in the sleeve and make do and mend with the memory of the joy of six. 

Not since 1967 has any Spireites side won seven on the spin, and even before Matty Warburton’s late free-kick sliced open the rearguard for sub Harker to tap in and enable the home fans to toast victory, it didn’t feel as though the winning run was going to continue. Dough!

Half an hour or more of crisp passing, possession domination and defensive comfort gave every Chesterfield follower a false sense of security, Paul Cook even felt his side were a little ‘arrogant,’ but despite the pretty play, home keeper Sam Johnson was, like the 1,227 travelling fans, merely a spectator. 

Then, as half-time approached, suddenly the Shaymen got into the game. Not because they’d moved any mountains or gone all Ebenezer Goode (look them up!), but because the visitors suddenly seemed to forget their drills, abandon the slide rule passing and allow the hosts to wrench control of the game as a result of some shoddy workmanship (Magnificent Mike excepted). 

The gaffer told me afterwards that he felt the team had made ‘100 bad decisions in the final five minutes of the first half’. Home fans buoyed, Spireites fans had that sinking feeling. 

With the crisp passing somewhat crumbled, Halifax upped their game but, like the Spireites before the break, they too looked pretty toothless in the final third, and the season’s first scoreless draw (and our first blank) looked odds-on and, as things stand now, we’d all have taken that. 

Warburton and Harker came off the bench to combine and give FC Halifax Town a fifth consecutive home win, with the scorer notching his fourth of the season, every one of which has been a winning goal. The frustration for Spireites being the free-kick concession was pretty needless (there were far too many free-kicks given away throughout). 

For a team that has been averaging two goals a game all season, conceding one wouldn’t normally be a problem, but with just a Jamie Grimes on-target header worthy of note and just one corner won, Chesterfield never really looked like getting off the mark in this one. 

Unchanged for the sixth time, the same 11 had been doing the business, but this was clearly a collective off-day which led to a game of few chances, with just the one being taken, something that almost certainly won’t be the case against the refreshing gung-ho approach of our next opponents, Dorking Wanderers (and then a few days later, we’re in Wales). 

What does Cookie need to do ahead of those games? First of all, whilst Jonesy may be the rock at the moment, the gaffer doesn’t need to panic. Gateshead, Northampton Town, Torquay United, Solihull Moors and AFC Wimbledon have been brushed aside by the exact same 11 men (and almost the same subs), so major surgery does not seem to be needed. However, with a bench like yesterday, of Tshimanga, Akinola, Asante, Uchegbulam and Palmer, plus the recovering Banks, there are plenty of options for a tweak or two. 

We all know supporting Town is never easy, but the 40 points earned from 20 games is four more in the bag than at the same stage of Paul Cook’s 2013/14 championship season, and let’s just all remind ourselves that the recent record, in all competitions, is just one defeat in ten. 

Flat it may have been, but I’m expecting a pumped up Chesterfield to put plenty of pressure on Dorking next weekend and reignite the good year we’re having (I’m tired of puns now). 

Phil’s Positive: Despite all of the doom and gloom, weeping and wailing, I’ll always take P10 W8 D1 L1! 

The Spireites’ next game is on Saturday, December 10, when we welcome Dorking Wanderers to our town for the first time, kick-off 3pm, 1866 Sport will be live at the stadium from 2pm. 

Chesterfield (4-1-4-1 to start): Fitzsimons; King, Williams, Grimes, Clements; Jones; Mandeville, Oldaker, Whelan (Akinola 74), Dobra(Uchegbulam 82); Quigley (Tshimanga 74). Subs (not used): Palmer, Asante.

Goals: Harker 81 (Halifax)

Referee: Andrew Miller

Bookings: Williams, Grimes, King (Chesterfield), Arthur, Stott, Capello (Halifax)

Attendance: 2,938 (1,227 from Chesterfield)

Netcoms IT 1866 Sport Man of the Match: Mike Jones (chosen by Steve Payne)