Tooley’s Take

Phil Tooley takes a look at the game and its context  

Altrincham 2 Chesterfield 1 National League Game #5

On the way home, we stopped off for a meal in the glorious Peak District. Sylvia went for the Chicken Kyiv whilst I chose the Hand Raised Chicken, Ham & Leek Pie with Triple Cooked Chips. Everything was excellent, great comfort food. But then came the pudding. There was a decent list, but sadly only one choice, which we both had. Crumble of the Day, which was infinitely more satisfying that the Crumble of the Day we had a few hours earlier.

I searched all of the news channels when we got home, but apparently you can buy Lenor at just about every supermarket, and here’s me thinking there’s a world shortage of clean sheets. Town’s sheets were once again metaphorically blood-stained from another self-induced shooting in the foot.

First 45, solid and dominant, even if a little unspectacular. Jamie Grimes became the eighth different scorer this season, the fourth consecutive match from which a corner has led to a goal and it means that the Spireites have scored from a set-piece in every game so far this season. Just repeat the first half and it’s three wins from three trips. Doh.

Little did I know that every one of Chesterfield’s players (except Tom Naylor) has an identical twin that isn’t quite as good at football as the other one, and Paul Cook seemingly gave them all a run out after the break. I’m not sure they’d been introduced to each other beforehand, as they appeared to be strangers right from the first whistle to restart the game. The change in performance was incredible, or perhaps that should be incredulous.

Of course, and totally understandably, Altrincham stepped up their own performance. They were unbeaten and at home, they had to. But for every step the Robins had taken forwards, the Spireites took two, maybe three, backwards.

The difference in just about every element of the game was unbelievable and the only surprise was that it took until the 83rd minute for the hosts to level it. Then, you just kind of knew the ultimate outcome. Sub Dior Angus hadn’t scored since September 2021 but he cut through Chesterfield’s defence like (and Paul Cook said these words afterwards) a hot knife through butter.

That soft underbelly looked like it had been saturated in Lenor, meaning there was no Comfort for the 1,000+ visiting fans (first ever fabric conditioner gag in TT) who probably could all see it coming.

The ‘you couldn’t write the script’ is now ‘we can all write the script.’ Twists in the tail are the new normal. The last eight Town games have all seen goals scored after 85 minutes (not including the extra-time ones) and it’s Chesterfield 4 Opponents 8.

We all have our own questions and thoughts about what needs to be done, but clearly the inability to shut out the opponents for 90 plus minutes is #1 on everyone’s agenda. First half at Alty, the high press meant that our goal was hardly threatened, worked a treat, but sitting back and inviting pressure didn’t work at Moss Lane and it hasn’t seemed to work whenever it’s occurred in recent history.

I’m sure the gaffer doesn’t want the team to sit back, and I’m equally sure that he doesn’t want to see the ball given up far too cheaply, as it was for both Robins goals. Both concessions were preventable, both concessions were sadly all too familiar.

Whilst we all have questions, the answers are harder to come up with, despite the fact that we all know the answers! Not one conversation dissecting the match on the way back over the tops will not have involved ‘no summer signings of defenders’ or ‘why isn’t Maguire playing?’ or ‘when Williams was in, we were winning’ or ‘Jones was brilliant last season, why is he not involved?’

But before we cry into our coffee (other drinks are available), let’s just consider a couple of things. Oldham’s goal last week wouldn’t have survived VAR and Town have 10 points from five games, which should be 12 had Norwood’s last-gasper been rightly chalked off, and there’s an immediate chance to bounce back against a team that really does have 12 points and, like us, has scored and conceded in every game so far (0-0 assured then).

Former Spireite, who Cookie signed from the Owls last time around, Manny Dieseruvwe, is Hartlepool United’s top scorer with four goals, including two in Saturday’s 3-1 televised win over AFC Fylde.

We’ve hit a bump in the road that’s seen the team tumble down the table to fourth, there’s bound to be more rough patches to come, but is there an opponent out there that you’d swap the entire squad with? I can’t see one, and whilst we all know that things need to keep moving forwards, just make a note that after five games last season, Wrexham had ten points and Notts County had nine (incidentally, we had 11) and it didn’t stop them from having rip-roaring seasons. 

Phil’s Positive: Despite all of the gloom, the team could be back at the top by 5pm on Bank Holiday Monday!

Next Match: The new league leaders Hartlepool United are in town on Bank Holiday Monday, kick-off is 3pm. 1866 Sport will be on air from 2pm.

Chesterfield (4-2-3-1 to start): Tyrer; King, Palmer, Grimes, Horton; Naylor, Oldaker (Banks 80); Mandeville, Jacobs (Colclough 68), Dobra (Berry 68); Quigley. Subs (not used): Grigg, Williams.

Goals: Grimes 16 (Chesterfield), Angus 83, 90+4 (Altrincham)

Referee: Sam Mulhall

Bookings: King, Dobra, Naylor, Palmer (Chesterfield), Linney (Altrincham)

Chesterfield manager Paul Cook was also booked.

Attendance: 2,714 (1,047 from Chesterfield)

Netcoms IT 1866 Sport Man of the Match: Tom Naylor (chosen by Josh Marsh)