Tooley’s Take

Phil Tooley takes a look at the game and its context  

Chesterfield 3 West Bromwich Albion 3 Emirates FA Cup Third Round 

Big FA Cup game, big crowd, leading a team way above you in the pyramid, crucial match-changing non-decision, last-gasp equaliser to make it 3-3; that’s just how we roll at Chesterfield. Be it Boro or Brom, we know how both exhilarating and cruel these ‘we were there’ matches can be.

Chuck in the come from behind 3-3, last-gasp equaliser, even laster-gasp penalty save 3-3 against Ebbsfleet United, also reffed by Rebecca Welch, plus the fact that only twice have the Spireites previously hosted an FA Cup game against teams that have won the trophy at least five times (Blackburn 1961 and Villa in 1934), and both games were drawn, the outcome had some degree of inevitability (sadly, both replays were lost).

Let’s not beat ourselves up about that late, late leveller, scored by a player who, only seconds before the stoppage time goal, seems to have interacted with Jeff King in a manner that would have excited any VAR referee, or that Kingy, prior to that, fell to the deck in the ten time finalists and five times winners’ box in another referral moment, because even with those David Elleray style non-decisions not going our way, Chesterfield were magnificent, playing a brand of football that makes every Spireite proud. What a show, whatever the outcome.

Don’t kid yourselves that the Championship’s form team had made oodles of changes from their last league game and their XI was weak. Keeper Button was bought by  Premier League Brighton for £4m in 2018, scorer Karlan Grant, who had previously been on the scoresheet here for Crawley Town, cost the Baggies £15m, former England International Jake Livermore was a £10m buy, having previously cost Hull £8m.

Throw in Celtic’s 16-times silverware winner and 50 plus times Aussie international Rogic, Nigerian international Ajayi, who once scored the equaliser for Albion in a Premier League game at Anfield and we mustn’t forget £18m England U21 international Diangana.

Kelly had a brief England career as a Liverpool player with whom, along with being at Palace, he has made over 150 Premier League appearances, ex-Owl Reach has more than 300 Championship appearances in his locker, and two-goal scorer Thomas-Asante joined WBA from Salford in the summer for more money than Chesterfield have ever paid for a player. Gardner-Hickman is an England U20 international and Ashworth has represented Wales U21, whilst off the bench came Full internationals from USA, Turkey and two from Republic of Ireland as well as a player who’s averaged over 40 Championship games a season for the last five years with Millwall. And we bossed them and should have won.

No Baggies man had the drive of Dobra, the guile of Jones, the cohones of King, the lungs of Mandeville or the mischief-making of Akinola. I could list all 11 starters plus subs in the same manner. This was a top team, top talent, top trumps sort of performance from The Spireites and those players plus the huge crowd combined to make memories for life. National League v Championship? Some people apparently had a laugh!

And it all started with every Town type thinking oo-err, as Albion sliced open our defence within a minute and a half. No need to have worried, all it did was to get a third-party in to lay the foundations for a more than solid performance.

Brummie Tyrone Williams and two-goal Dobs lit the blue touchpaper in an incredible we don’t want it to end sort of first half and, after the break, a more solid, steely performance was witnessed as the Baggies shuffled their pack, but couldn’t find a formula that worked against a fired up home side until three minutes after regulation time had elapsed.

I didn’t see the alleged elbow, but have seen the video and have made up my mind based on that. When the goal came from the resulting throw in, Town had ten on the park as King received treatment. Maybe the numerical advantage should have been the other way round.

Whilst the goal was a real disappointment, as with the 97 semi-final, it didn’t take anything away from a magnificent performance against a side 66 places higher up the scale.

Those of us who are club history lovers will put this performance right up there, and whilst performance levels have a degree of subjectiveness about them, raw statistics do not. Historians’ hero Herbert Munday, the man whose scoring record was beaten by Ernie Moss, in the 1900/01 FA Cup tournament scored in consecutive FA Cup rounds against Hunslet, Newark, Barnsley, Walsall and Kettering. Armando Dobra has scored in consecutive rounds against Anstey Nomads, Northampton Town, AFC Wimbledon and West Bromwich Albion.

We need to win at The Hawthorns to give the Albanian Arrow a chance to level the achievement of the player who scored Chesterfield’s first ever Football League goal in 1899, and Dobs told me he wants that chance to be at Old Trafford! I’d settle for that.

But can the lads do it on a wet Tuesday night at Wealdstone? You bet they can!

Phil’s Positive: The match, the performance, the atmosphere. That’s all.

The Spireites’ next game is on Tuesday, January 10, 2023, a trip down the M1 to Wealdstone; 1866 Sport will be live at the stadium from 7pm.

Chesterfield (4-2-3-1 to start): Fitzsimons; King, Williams, Grimes, Clements (Horton 71); Jones, Oldaker (Banks 71); Mandeville, Akinola (Uchegbulam 87), Dobra (Asante 87); Quigley (Tshimanga 76). Subs (not used): Covolan, Clarke, Palmer, Sheckleford.

Goals: Williams 7, Dobra 35, 41 (Chesterfield), Thomas-Asante 2, 90+3, Grant 17 (WBA)

Referee: Rebecca Welch

Bookings: Quigley (Chesterfield)

Attendance: 9,819 (1,992 from WBA)

Netcoms IT 1866 Sport Man of the Match: Armando Dobra (chosen by Jamie Hewitt)