Tooley’s Take

Phil Tooley takes a look at the game and its context  

Chesterfield 1 Leyton Orient 0 Emirates FA Cup Round Two

The Spireites re-wrote their FA Cup narrative in 1996/97, when they spectacularly battled through to the semi-finals, something that had never happened in these parts before. Or since.

Apart from that season, when Town won an incredible six matches, never before has any Spireites team, any era, won more than three tiesin a single FA Cup season (we had to beat MK Dons twice in 2014/15 but that counts as one tie). And the team has now done that three times on the bounce, a club first.

Curzon Ashton, Southend United and Salford City = Chelsea; Anstey Nomads, Northampton Town and AFC Wimbledon = WBA, and now Kettering Town, Portsmouth and Leyton Orient = Watford. The wins in Rounds One and Two last season and at the same stages this season have all been against teams from a higher sphere, that’s never happened in consecutive seasons before. All four of those wins all to clean sheets too. Impressive.

Three consecutive clean sheets in three consecutive rounds of matches; only happened before once, in the semi-final run (Rounds One, Two & Three), and playing three sides from higher divisions in one season only happened in 1996/97 prior to last season, and it’s been repeated again as Watford await the cup-fighters. Back to back 8,000-plus home crowds in the FAC; last time? Forest and Wrexham at Saltergate in ’97 in the fifth round and quarter-final.

Youngsters, however you reconcile all of this, it’s very, very much out of the ordinary! Commit it all to memory. It is far from normal.

Like Pompey in the last round, Orient played a strong side, maximum respect, but in the opening 45, Chesterfield didn’t respect the gap between the two sides as the League One visitors couldn’t get out of their own half. High Spireites press, myriad of mistakes forced on the team from E10, not a hatful of chances, but wholesale midfield domination from the S41 chaps, and breaking the deadlock was the least the hosts deserved.

Banks hard-hit curling cross was intercepted by O’s skipper, Paris-born Idris El Mizouni, and after hitting the top of his head, the ball arced to triumphant cheering from the Chesterfield supporters, who had a great eye-full of own goal. 

Last FAC og in Town’s favour? Remy Clerima, 6-0 win at Braintree in 2014, under Cookie, we made R4 that season! That said, I still feel for Dan Jones whose ball in hit the defender and I’d credit the Town man. Ollie did try and claim it post-match, using the powerful argument that if Dobra could nick that one off Grigg against Barnet, all bets are off!

Second half, subs galore (including Town’s first ever competitive quadruple substitution), Orient improved, much more even, still few chances, none gilt-edged, but not a lot of danger for Chesterfield. It may have been a slim lead of 1-0 throughout the second half, close as close can be, but I never felt the need for nail nibbling or rebooting my ticker. It was far more comfortable than any Spireite had a right to expect.

Like it was against Portsmouth, 48 positions above us, the 32-place gap with Richie Wellens’ side was never evident, testimony once again of the quality that Paul Cook’s dressing room contains. And 11 straight home wins adds a bit of weight to that argument. Another £67,000 added to this season’s prize fund, which was, of course, only possible due to the fantastic snow clearing volunteers who ensured the pitch, stands and car park areas were all fit to play. True heroes, especially the couple of Orient fans that joined in. Many thanks.

The Hornets, FA Cup runners-up as recently as 2019, are 62 notches above the Spireites in the ladder and have a squad that includes full international capped players from Austria, Chile, Netherlands, Scotland, Northern Ireland, England (Jake Livermore), Morocco, Canada, Sweden, Georgia, Colombia, Ivory Coast and the Democratic Republic of Congo. Doddle. Maybe Elton will get the chance to see us live.

More KO action next weekend, The Sangdgrounders from Southport roll into town under the guidance of Jim Bentley, he who was in charge of Morecambe when Chesterfield led 3-0 at half-time but lost during PC’s first spell here (the championship of L2 was still achieved despite that setback) and he also played for the non-league Morecambe when they beat then L1 equivalent Chesterfield at Saltergate in the FAC in 2002.

Now in the NL North, bang in mid-table, they reached the final of the Trophy in 1998, losing at Wembley to a Cheltenham Town side that included ex-Spireite Bob Bloomer in their line-up whilst Chesterfield 1995 Play-off final winner Billy Stewart was in goal for Southport.

Whilst it’s impossible to second guess how the management will view the importance of this match, the Trophy is clearly priority three after the NL and FAC this season, so maybe we will have the chance to see some players who are giving their all in the academy this season, and give them a chance to shine on the biggest stage of their careers to date.

Phil’s Positive: FA Cup runs are becoming a regular thing now; odd, isolated season apart, they never really have been before. And it’s fantastic.

Next Match: More knock-out action next Saturday, December 9, in the FA Trophy, when Southport make their first visit to Chesterfield since being a Football League club in 1973. Kick-off is at 3pm with 1866 Sport on air from 2.30pm. 

Chesterfield (4-2-3-1 to start): Boot; Sheckleford, Palmer, Grimes, Horton (Freckleton 82); Naylor, Oldaker (Jacobs 82); Mandeville, Banks (Jones 74), Dobra (Berry 82); Grigg (Quigley 82). Subs (not used): Tyrer, Curtis, King, Cook.

Goals: El Mizouni (og) 39 (Chesterfield)

Referee: Scott Oldham

Bookings: Naylor, Banks (Chesterfield), Cooper (Orient)

Attendance: 8,232 (569 from Leyton Orient)

Netcoms IT 1866 Sport Man of the Match: Liam Mandeville (chosen by Jamie Hewitt)