Phil Tooley takes a look at the game and its context
Chesterfield 0 Brackley 0 FA Trophy Third Round; Chesterfield win 4-3 on penalties
How many of you were shouting at your devices, yelling ‘Just blast it!’ during the penalty shoot-out? We’d seen enough delicate or dismal dinks to last a lifetime in what was far from a penalty-taking masterclass.
Thankfully, sixth-shooter Laurence Maguire blasted one in but Brackley’s sixth penalty turned out to be the final one as Shep Murombedzi’s 12-yarder enabled Kyle Letheren, a 2017 winner of the Trophy with York City, to make a second and decisive save to ensure Spireites will be in Monday lunchtime’s draw.
The Saints may be a step below Chesterfield, but they arrived at the Technique Stadium on the back of four straight wins and with memories of a 2-0 victory here in the same competition in February last year. Add to that the fact that seven of their starting line-up have FA Trophy winners’ medals tucked away, six of them with Brackley from 2018, whilst Ash Chambers was a 2012 winner with York City, and the team’s last defeat was a narrow 1-0 in the FA Cup at Tranmere Rovers, so plenty of pedigree in there.
James Rowe made three changes from the side that hit Barnet hard. I probably expected more, and during the first half, Spireites got into the final third time and again, keeper Danny Lewis made half a dozen saves, three of them pretty impressive. Letheren was pretty much a spectator as the hosts dominated but just couldn’t quite finish off any of the promising moves.
The second half saw more Chesterfield attacks, interspersed with a few dangerous looking Brackley raids, but the rejuvenated Haydn Hollis again led the back line imperiously to register a fourth clean sheet in all competitions, still a couple short of the 21st century’s best for the club (in league and cup games) of half a dozen in 2000/01.
The shoot-out involved both frustration and comedy. Scott Boden spoiled his 31st birthday with a chip nowhere as good as anything from the Union Jack Chippy on Chatsworth Road and hopefully Jak McCourt hadn’t actually been practising penalties. I’m also sure that keeper coach David O’Hare won’t have taken Letheren through the lying on your back, arms and feet in the air, waiting for the ball to arrive penalty saving methodology required to deny Ethan Coleman from the spot.
Brackley are no strangers to this type of ending to a game. They won the FA Trophy against Bromley after a shoot-out, but since then have lost in similar fashion in the last two play-offs, against Spennymoor and, last season, to Gateshead. However, this season their FA Cup run was helped by penalty wins over Billericay and Bishop’s Stortford, so their players are pretty used to the format.
A solid performance, plenty of chances created and few given to a more than decent opponent coupled with progress to the next round, but with a sense of reality returning in that it’s not possible to go out and muller teams every week. There was even the ‘a few weeks ago we’d have lost that game’ feeling around social media, again a measure of the progress made in James Rowe’s still very new tenure.
Dover Athletic next up, they lost 2-1 at Woking in the Trophy, their first game in a month after a Covid outbreak there which broke out after a run of three straight defeats, two of them at home. They’ve twice conceded five at The Crabble this season, against Aldershot Town and Woking, so it’s clearly a winnable match, but there’s no get-out clause of a penalty shoot-out in a National League fixture, so fingers crossed that the Spireites take their chances on Tuesday, with a win potentially taking the team into the top half of the table.
Phil’s Positive: We’re in the draw for the next round!
Spireites next game is on Tuesday, December 22 at Dover Athletic in the National League, kick-off 7.45pm.
Team v Brackley (3-5-2 to start): Letheren; Evans, Hollis, Maguire; Yarney (Taylor 60), McCourt, Smith (Weston 73), Whelan, Carline; Mandeville (Asante 57), Boden.
Subs (not used): Tyler Denton, Buchanan, Cropper, Rowley
Penalties: Chesterfield – Boden (saved), Whelan (scored), McCourt (saved), Weston (scored), Asante (scored), Maguire (scored). Brackley – Byrne (scored), Coleman (saved), Armson (scored), Mitford (missed), Roberts (scored), Murombedzi (saved).
Ref: Garreth Rhodes
Yellows: Ndlouv (Brackley)