Tooley’s Take

Tooley’s Take

Phil Tooley takes a look at the game and its context  

Chesterfield 0 Aldershot Town 0 National League

A night of firsts! First National League draw of the season, James Rowe’s first goalless draw as a manager in his first home game in charge, first appearance for Liverpudlian Tom Whelan and a first appearance in his second spell for fellow Scouser Jak McCourt.

Whelan’s appearance came hot on the heels of him playing against us, for Weymouth, three days earlier and Club Historian Stuart Basson reckons it’s the first time that’s happened since 1931 when Sam Abel played against Town for Accrington Stanley and afterwards, immediately signed on as a Spireite.

It’s the first time since January (Eastleigh A W2-0 & Fylde H D 1-1) that we’ve only conceded one goal in 180 minutes of National League football, but it was the first time we’d not scored in the competition this season and the first time we’ve not scored at home following a run of 29 games stretching back to February 2019 when we lost 1-0 to Harrogate Town.

And, for many fans watching or listening in, it was the first time in an age since they’d enjoyed a 0-0 scoreline quite so much!

It was a cracking game. Aldershot had four nippy attack minded players who got down the flanks time and again, but the Chesterfield defence, again marshalled superbly by the rejuvenated Haydn Hollis, stood firm and as a result, keeper Kyle Letheren didn’t have to raid the top drawer.

At the other end, Brad James’ top drawer was open for the duration, the Middlesbrough loanee making save after save, including a stunner to scoop out McCourt’s first touch after the keeper had erred in possession.

When he was beaten, by a Tom Denton header, there was a defender on the line to save whilst a flag was enough to rule out Scott Boden’s effort close to the end. 

Having only been in the hotseat for a few days, James Rowe and his assistant George Foster have reignited hope.

Rarely will two dropped home points have brought about so many Spireite smiles, present as a result of an endless list of chances created and a Man of the Match performance by the opposing keeper, following on from Weymouth’s Matthew Benfield also achieving that accolade. Chance creation is alive and well. 

Hollis is a different player, Curtis Weston has put together back to back performances of the highest order, Jordan Cropper is showing everyone exactly what he’s capable of and Liam Mandeville seemingly has a whole new level of energy.

I could go on at length with this positive list. Add to those step-ups the recruitment of McCourt and Whelan, plus Akwasi Asante, and the players the gaffer has brought in look more than capable of holding on to starting places.

With a blank weekend resulting from Dover’s Covid alert, seeing what the duo can do with a week to work with the players ahead of the tricky trip to Sutton United, scene of the 4-0 debacle last season, is something I’m looking forward to witnessing. 

Swallows and summers, two performances don’t make a season, but there’s something there to see, something that’s intangible but something that feels tangible.

New managers, of course, frequently lift struggling teams but few, in such a short space of time, make supporters think that step-changes are on the horizon, and I really do feel that James Rowe & George Foster have the wherewithal to deliver positive change very quickly. He’s certainly not given up on the season, and after two games under his leadership, many Spireites supporters will be reinvigorated and have renewed hope. 

What chance back-to-back clean sheets? The last time it happened, one of them was in a 1-0 win over Sutton United!

Phil’s Positive: Clean sheet, and it rarely looked in doubt

The Spireites’ next game is on Tuesday, December 8 at Sutton United, kick-off 7pm

Team v Aldershot (3-5-2 to start): Letheren; Evans, Hollis, Maguire; Cropper, Smith (McCourt 70), Weston, Mandeville (Whelan 60), Buchanan; Asante (Boden 78), Tom Denton. 

Subs (not used): Yarney, Rowley

Ref: Adam Herczeg

Yellows: Panayioutou (Aldershot)

Red: Whittingham 82 minutes (Aldershot)