Phil Tooley takes a look at the game and its context
West Bromwich Albion 4 Chesterfield 0
Emirates FA Cup Third Round Replay
Bit of a Christmas gift-giving sort of Spireites hangover. Chesterfield director Terry Ward was the architect of one of The Baggies stands, Chesterfield’s players were the architects of their own downfall with a series of individual mistakes, AKA gifts, that occur on many Saturdays in the National League, but don’t quite get punished as lethally as they were on the team’s first visit to The Hawthorns since 1947.
Take out the four goals, which is easy to say but completely unjustifiable, and Town did alright against an opponent that were six steps up the ladder from their original match showing. Mike Jones was always in the right place always doing the right thing, Akwasi Asante created some solid attacks from attacking midfield in the first half, and after the array of substitutions reminded us all that he can do pretty well as a lone striker, and his save-bar double near the end should have brought about a consolation a la Chelsea.
Tyrone Williams was the pick of the defenders and Armando Dobra was his usual self, picking holes where there were none, darting through non-existent gaps and picking up a yellow for picking on someone twice his size!
But in the real world, Jamie Grimes’ worst clearance of the season led to England U21 international John Swift, who’s senior debut was as a sub for Eden Hazard for Chelsea in the Prem, getting the crucial opener and the contest was put to bed early in the second half with another assist from King Jeff. Doh! The clever little back heel for some reason did not resonate quite so well as any of his numerous previous goal-tee-ups to date. Beneficiary Rogic accepted the gift with glee, perhaps not with as much glee as has last goal last season, for Celtic in a 2-1 win at Ibrox, but it put a massive chunk of daylight between the teams.
Darkness fell, for Chesterfield at least, just seven minutes later when Jake Livermore, a man who has played in an FA Cup Final, for Hull City against Arsenal in 2014, scored his first ever goal in the competition after Spireites were too easily bamboozled from a left-sided corner. At that point, all that went through my mind was Notts County, and to protect some key assets as soon as possible, and that happened pretty promptly with a triple substitution which enabled us to remind ourselves just what Ryheem Sheckleford has to offer, whilst coupled with positional switches that reminded us what Asante can do as a single man up-top.
Sheckleford, whose only previous outings in our colours were both team shockers, at home against his ex-club Maidenhead United plus the Coalville comedy of errors, looked as lively as a lively thing. Socks halfway up his calf like Grealish, and some darting moves and passing that wouldn’t have looked out of place if they’d been done by the £100m man himself. With King on nine yellows, he’s bound to get the call in the not too distant future, replicate his cameo in this game and we’re in for a treat.
Akinola and Uchegbulam also looked sharp off the bench, whilst Ollie Banks’ slide-rule was back in action with some inch-perfect long-range passes, so it was a real shame when Albion got a stoppage time fourth, and hopefully we’ll not see scorer Jovan Malcolm for a while. He has appeared at The Technique, for Solihull Moors, in the 2-0 up, Weston off, throw it away game, albeit as a late sub.
We were the second best side on the night, for sure, but we weren’t a side that should have been beaten 4-0. Had Akwasi’s double effort gone in, it would have been 3-1, and had the game ended like that, fair enough, it wouldn’t have felt as severe a scoreline, but there were pockets of pleasure that Paul Cook, watching from the stands in the first of a two-match touchline ban, will have been happy with. But he’ll have been rueing the many, and punished, individual errors that cannot be repeated against Notts County in what will be another bumper home fixture, and the game of the two that every Spireite would have chosen as the main one to win.
We can put a great FA Cup run and an ‘I was there’ 3-3 thriller to bed and start to consider real world issues, like ‘will Colclough start, and if so, for whom?’ or ‘has Cookie let too many go out, or are we to expect another key incomer?’ whilst also speculating ‘will Kabby still be here next month?’ Love it.
Phil’s Positive: No need to slot an extra game into a crowded calendar as we seek our ultimate objective of a return to the EFL. Asante and Sheckleford shone in a playing capacity and Magpies are flying our way.
Spireites’ next game is on Saturday 21 January 2023, a rather important fixture against The Magpies from Nottingham, telly will be there, so it’s a 5.20pm kick-off; 1866 Sport will be live at the stadium from 5pm.
Chesterfield (4-1-4-1 to start): Covolan; King (Sheckleford 65), Williams, Grimes, Clements (Horton 78); Jones (Akinola 65); Mandeville (Uchegbulam 75), Oldaker, Asante, Dobra; Tshimanga (Banks 65). Subs (not used): Fitzsimons, Maguire, Palmer, Cook.
Goals: Swift 23, Rogic 48, Livermore 55, Malcolm 90+1 (WBA)
Referee: Tim Robinson
Bookings: Dobra, Banks (Chesterfield), Ajayi (WBA)
Attendance: 12638 (2506 from Chesterfield)
Netcoms IT 1866 Sport Man of the Match: Akwasi Asante (chosen by Jamie Hewitt)