Tooley’s Take

Phil Tooley takes a look at the game and its context  

Weymouth 1 Chesterfield 2 National League

It’s almost inevitable that the team lifts its first performance under a new manager, but it’s far from inevitable that a continuous and sustained improvement will follow that initial boost. 

Chesterfield’s performance in the club’s first ever visit to Weymouth was certainly improved and the team undoubtedly looked fired up and at ease against a Terras side that offered up some solid resistance. Coming from behind to win for the first time since February was another bonus, especially when playing against a debutant goalkeeper who performed heroically in his first match at this level – well done Gerard Benfield. 

The Spireites’ own debutant, Akwasi Asante, had a more than solid start, converting Tom Denton’s nod down to level in first half stoppage time after the team had fallen behind five minutes earlier to a Sean Shields screamer.

The 28-year-old Dutchman was the man that Benfield will remember the most; the keeper made four top saves to deny his opponent, a couple at very close quarters which clearly caused some pain. I don’t recall an Asante effort that was off target, every time he shot, he made the keeper work. You can’t ask for much more than that. 

Provider Denton turned scorer when he bullet headed in Jordan Cropper’s pinpoint cross to win it, and even at that stage with 30 minutes left, it felt like it would be a win, such was Chesterfield’s control of the game at that stage. 

Weymouth liked to play the ball out from the back, but with the visitors operating an enthusiastic high press, they were forced into being hurried and frequently making errors which led to possession overturns. Joe Rowley and the man that replaced him, Liam Mandeville, showed just how effective, both defensively and from an attacking perspective, that No.10 role can be. 

Will Evans’ switch to right centre back and the return of Haydn Hollis in the middle of three gave the back line a look of solidity seen too infrequently this season whilst Denton and Asante at the sharp end gelled as well as any fledgling partnership we’ve seen in recent years whilst Scott Boden caused plenty of problems for tiring legs after his introduction. 

Was that all down to James Rowe? Any manager will tell you that the game plan is down to the players to execute, but clearly the new boss had analysed what he’d inherited, added a player he knows well and communicated an approach that was implemented as well as you could hope for by a squad of players previously lacking in confidence. That’s good management.

I attended Rowe’s first press conference and I was lucky enough to be able to watch the training he put on immediately afterwards, an 11 v 11 session with plenty of real-time analysis. My immediate impressions were all positive, how he spoke and answered questions and how he handled his players whilst at work. 

That was reinforced by the Saturday performance during which assistant George Foster sat in the stands to get a different view. The shape and approach looked comfortable, the substitutions were effective and the running down of the clock was very professional.

His post-match views highlighted his thoughts about the concession, a great shot but Rowe spoke about the moments immediately preceding that. After the microphones were switched off, we had a lovely chat about his Dad (Colwyn Rowe) who has a spell at Colchester United in the 1970s and he revealed his own footballing heroes were Gazza and Lineker, he’s a Spurs fan and he comes across as a really nice bloke. 

The process to appoint his was solid, with one of the board’s advisors, Kevin Davies, at the match to see for himself the new man in action and the man that performed best in that process started his matchday work in fine style. Long may that continue, and you know what? I just think it may! 

Phil’s Positive: First and foremost, the three points, but the intangible overall optimistic gut feeling outweighed everything else

The Spireites’ next game is on Tuesday, December 1 at home against Aldershot Town, kick-off 7pm.

Team v Weymouth (3-5-2 to start): Letheren; Evans, Hollis, Maguire; Cropper (Yarney 80), Smith, Weston, Rowley (Mandeville 56), Buchanan; Asante (Boden 64), Tom Denton. 

Subs (not used): Addai, Tyler Denton

Goals: Chesterfield – Asante 45+2, Tom Denton 60, Weymouth – Shields 40

Ref: Lee Collins

Yellows: Evans, Hollis, Denton (Chesterfield), Brooks, Whelan, Thompson (Weymouth)