Tooley’s Take

Phil Tooley takes a look at the game and its context  

Chesterfield 3 Solihull Moors 2 National League Game #25

Never in doubt. Lost at Altrincham, next home game, beat Hartlepool United 3-2. Lost at Southend United, next home game, beat Eastleigh 3-2. Lost at Solihull Moors, rinse and repeat!

Three times before Solihull have come from behind to beat Chesterfield, but the Spireites have only previously managed a draw having trailed to the West Midlands team, so at 2-0 down for the second time in a week, it was looking very much like another rare day of dropped points for the league leaders.

Moors had taken the lead very much against the run of play, a quick break forwards led to Matty Warburton scoring, and the Solihull second, from their first corner of the game (should it have been a corner?) only just went over the line at the second attempt, big Beck heading home from close range, again after a spell of minimal pressure on the home goal.

As at Damson Park, Paul Cook’s side had enjoyed the bulk of everything bar the scoreboard action, but this time, there was one of those memorable passages of play we’ll be talking about for years and years, the most purple of purple patches. Three goals in just six minutes, and the runaway train, temporarily derailed, was back on the tracks, hurtling towards one of many potential satisfactory destinations, be that Walsall, Swindon, Newport or Doncaster.

Armando Dobra was denied by a double first-half save, Ryan Colclough hammered wood and there were many other chances too before stand-in skipper Tom Naylor calmly slotted home to register a career best seventh league goal of the season and a career best ninth goal in all competitions in a season. Has he been the best signing in the whole NL in the summer? Almost certainly. Is he the most effective player in the NL this season? He gets my vote.

With the whiff of a comeback in the air, Jeff King whipped in one of 16 Town corners and there was Colclough to head home, all-square, but surely only one winner from then on and, as it had been between Town goal #1 and Town goal #2, the wait was minimal. Horton in, Dobra scrambling, Grigg finishing.

They’d played his song to welcome in the New Year in London, but the singing from the Kop Choir knocked that into a cocked hat. Fireworks at midnight for the masses alongside the Thames, fireworks at 4.30 in the afternoon for the Spireites. No bother by The Rother. The resolute Solihull flood barrier had been well and truly breached.

Three more second-half goals, that’s 32 scored after the break in home NL games; no other team has scored more than 30 at any time at home. Three more goals that mean, in all competitions, Chesterfield have banged in 50 this season at the SMH. Three more points, which is three more points than the team picked up in the whole of the club’s inaugural season in the NL in 2018/19.

A 14th straight home win in all competitions beats the 13 in 1967/68 and my quick check looks like that’s the best (all competitions) winning run at home in history, though in 1929/30, the team racked up 17 straight Div 3(N) wins, but during that run, there was a home draw with Middlesbrough in the FA Cup. The current NL run of home wins is ten, so a way to go on that front.

With Bromley and Barnet both winning 48 hours earlier, there was a fair bit of pressure on Cook’s men, and for an hour, despite being the better side, it certainly looked like a further loss of ground was inevitable. The gaffer was readying a couple of subs to come on to freshen things up, but no need, as in the blink of an eye, it was suddenly 3-2, the Spireites’ go-to home score. That’s five out of 12 home games in the NL that have ended with that scoreline.

To put that in perspective, John Duncan managed Chesterfield in 255 home league games and only seven of those ended up with Town winning 3-2. That’s nearly 42%
of results at home this season have been 3-2, compared to 2.75% in two spells under the great JD. That’s entertainment!

Will the world famous entertainer Sir Elton John be at Chesterfield’s next match? The singer has a long association with Watford and he’s talked positively about the Spireites in interviews this season, so will he be at Vicarage Road along with 4,000 visiting fans in the FA Cup third round?

It’s impossible to guess how the Hornets will approach this game. They’re four points off the play-off zone in the Championship and, as this is their second season at this level after relegation from the Premier League, it marks their final season of parachute payments, worth a mere £34 million this season, dwarfing the £105,000 for winning at the weekend.

Will that mean head coach Valerien Ismael will go all out for a win, or give some of his players a rest? Watford played three holiday matches compared to Town’s two, drawing two and losing one, but will he pick a team to seek a first home win since November? Can’t wait to find out.

Final word. Did you see Harry Tyrer put his hand out to help Jack Stephens up after he tumbled over near the end of the game? FYI,Stephens was the man involved in Jamie Grimes’ red card on Boxing Day. The Moors’ man stretched up his arm to accept the keeper’s offer, only for Harry to withdraw it just as palm to glove was about to occur. Half expected a tongue blob and thumb to nose finger wag, but sadly the Spireites’ #1 bottled it!  

Phil’s Positive: Spirit in abundance. Just as we were all thinking ‘flipping Solihull’ we get bang, bang, bang, three in six, another comeback win, that’s 22 points earned from losing positions this season, six of them after being 2-0 down.

Next Match: FA Cup back on the agenda next Saturday, January 6, 2024, with a third round trip to Vicarage Road, Watford, for our first game there since 1997. Kick-off is at 3pm with 1866 Sport on air from 2pm.

Chesterfield (4-2-3-1 to start): Tyrer; King, Palmer, Freckleton, Horton; Naylor, Oldaker; Jacobs (Banks 76), Dobra, Colclough (Mandeville 82); Grigg (Quigley 86). Subs (not used): Sheckleford, Berry.

Goals: Naylor 63, Colclough 66, Grigg 69 (Chesterfield), Warburton 34, Beck 53 (Solihull)

Referee: Richie Watkins

Bookings: Whitmore (Solihull)

Attendance: 8,898 (171 from Solihull)

Netcoms IT 1866 Sport Man of the Match: Ryan Colclough (chosen by Jamie Hewitt)