Tooley’s Take

Phil Tooley takes a look at the game and its context
Chesterfield 1 Altrincham 0 National League Match #24

The second half of the season got underway with a more than welcome three points, but Town left it very late!

There were two late-ish goals in the 3-1 win over Dorking Wanderers and a late, late winner at Maidstone United, but you’ve got to go back quite a while to find a Spireites winner in a 1-0 points offering game, at home, that was later than Ash Palmer’s first goal for the club.

Indeed there’s not been a later 1-0 league winner at all on Whitt Moor, though big Tom Denton did score to beat Bedford Town on 89 in the Trophy and Sam Hird was a minute earlier than Ash against Walsall.

October 2009, at Saltergate, Wade Small grabbed a last-minute goal against an Accrington Stanley side that featured Jimmy Ryan was the last home late, late 1-0 points-in-the-bag-show. Feels like the opponents have done it to us a heck of a lot more frequently!

Did we deserve it? Heck, yes. Did we play as well as we can? No, far from it, but the territory, possession and patience of the second half, frequently with ten outfield opponents behind the ball, made the task pretty tricky.

Altrincham were excellent on the break and very much played to that strength. Twice before they’d scored late goals against us, to level after being 2-0 behind and to win 3-2 at Moss Lane, so it felt good to get a bit of payback, especially as it registered a vital win in what, due to the weather at Birmingham Airport, made this one of the games in hand over Notts.

An even first half, with the Robins giving us plenty of grief down our right, though Liam Mandeville, unbelievably without any gloves on, and Ollie Banks forced excellent saves from keeper Ollie Byrne.

After the restart, Town looked a yard quicker, but the quality of passing and decision making didn’t move forward at the same rate and the visiting defence grew in confidence as our ever more frequent attacks never quite made the grade.

Our 2-1 win at Altrincham featured three set-play goals, so it was no surprise when Town’s tenth corner, delivered by Assist King Jeff, picked out Palmer to enable him to head home from the far stick and become the 15th different scorer this season.

Former Alty man King’s crossing and passing had been a tad below his normal high standards, whilst his repertoire involved no six-yard box back-heels, but he saved a top notch delivery for the ideal moment, in front of the Kop, for his tenth National League assist of the season to ensure the Spireites made it seven straight home league wins for the first time since 1990. More rare!

Lucas Covolan’s faultless show gave him his first Technique clean sheet (technically his second, following Torquay’s 2-0 win here in the Covid-time big match), and his distribution was excellent.

Palmer would have been my Man of the Match even had the game remained at 0-0, his work to minimise the threat of ex-Spireite Dinanga and leading scorer Conn-Clarke was exemplary.

Jones and Banks, playing as a holding pair, broke up plenty of attacks, but the former’s short passing was off his best, though Ollie picked some great long-rangers out, showing how he has the ability to help to break down stubborn defences. New man Ryan Colclough showed glimpses of what we can expect to see from him and the glimpses looked good.

Then when we thought it was all but over, it wasn’t. Not a bad lesson to learn in this tighter than tight season as we recorded our 11th home win (only Wrexham’s 12 is higher), scored our 50th goal of the season in only the 24th game, and moved to 52 points, so relegation is all but avoided!

All eyes on the weekend trip to Barnet, scene of our last NFL game, which we lost 3-0, but since then, we’ve generally seen off the Bees and go into the game with five straight wins over them scoring 19 goals along the way, with just four conceded.

Clear dangerman for the North London side will be 6’3” Nicke Kabamba, a man who made his league debut alongside Gary Roberts, playing for Paul Cook’s Portsmouth.

With a strike-rate of better than a goal every two games this season, the big man will undoubtedly be a target for teams before the EFL transfer window closes, so here’s hoping someone snaps him up before the weekend!

Phil’s Positive: The win, the seven home wins on the bounce, the clean sheet, but most of all the win!

The Spireites’ next game is on Saturday, January 28, when we travel down to North London to Barnet’s Hive; 1866 Sport will be live at the stadium from 2pm.

Chesterfield (4-2-3-1 to start): Covolan; King, Palmer, Grimes, Clements; Jones, Banks; Mandeville (Uchegbulam 79), Asante, Dobra (Akinola 89); Quigley (Colclough 72). Subs (not used): Williams, Oldaker.

Goal: Palmer 87 (Chesterfield)

Referee: Steven Copeland

Bookings: Banks (Chesterfield), Pringle, Dinanga (Altrincham)

Attendance: 5,447 (131 from Altrincham)

Netcoms IT 1866 Sport Man of the Match: Ash Palmer (chosen by Jamie Hewitt)