Tooley’s Take

Phil Tooley takes a look at the game and its context  

Chesterfield 3 Southend United 0 National League Game #29

Alec Guinness, Ross McWhirter, Norris McWhirter, Chris Chataway, Roy Castle, Cheryl Baker, Kriss Akabusi… ha, ha, ha …..Linford Christie, I say again, Roy Castle …… your records took a hell of a beating.

Dedication is what we needed post-Wembley, and dedication is what we’ve got. We wanna be the best, we wanna beat the rest. We want to be record breakers. We ARE record breakers.

Defeat avenged. Southend United the 21st different team we’ve beaten in points offering matches this season. Club record (last 20 was Moss, Randall, Fenoughty, Archer 69/70). No one can do the win double over the team this season. No one did last season. No one did the season before. Three seasons on the bounce. Club record. A run of 18 straight all-comps home wins. Club record. Last 24 goals scored by subs in league format matches have all been in unbeaten games. Club Record. Sixteen points clear (with two games in hand). Equals club record (in 2000/01 season).

I could go on. I saw a great tweet asking is this the season when there’s been a record amount of club records? Think there may be contenders for bad records, but it’s a sound assumption that this season, 2023/24, will end up at the zenith of the Spireites record achievements. A season that just keeps on giving.

The bookies have stopped taking bets on Town winning the league. The only people who don’t think that will happen for certain are Chesterfield FC supporters and Chesterfield FC employees.

I’m a natural optimist and a pragmatist and I shared my personal view with many people, before a ball had been kicked in anger this season, that we’d win the league by 20 points (a 19-point gap is the NL record, Luton Town in 2013/14; wonder what happened to them?) and, at this point, when euphoria is pretty high, I feel I may have under-COOKED it. My theory was that we were clearly the ‘best of the rest’ after Wrexham and Notts County last season, and the gaffer’s summer signings were better than anyone else’s, so a good run felt, in my mind, assured, though I never felt that it would go quite so swimmingly.

It’s not about being arrogant, it’s not about being over-confident, it’s all about what’s already been laid down and what looks likely in the future. Fitness, consistency, will to win, watertight squad, ruthlessness, superb support. Plus, in no small measure, good players, good coaching and good tactical application. The package is bang on.

After the midweek win over Woking, 36 points from 18 games, at exactly two points per game was needed for a positive mathematical outcome. One game later, that target is down to 30 points from 17, a drop to 1.764 points per game. With a goal difference of +38, exactly double that of Bromley’s, that target is realistically 29 points.

We can manipulate statistics to suit. I know, I’ve done that regularly. But you can’t manipulate reality. The fact that after James Berry hit an unstoppable shot to put Chesterfield in front in the fourth minute, the fact that Harry Tyrer wasn’t having to dive around too much, being protected by a solid back four, the fact that the Shrimpers couldn’t cope with Armando Dobra when he came on, the fact that Joe Quigley had to wait about five seconds to get off the mark, the fact that Dobra scored the game’s second ’worldy’, the fact that Southend United are one of the best opponents we’ve seen this season.

Link that to the fact that the Spireites’ final seven home games are all against sides currently outside the play-off zone, all bar Rochdale are in the bottom half and four of the teams to visit the SMH are the current bottom four, and all seven have been beaten already on their own grass. The average position of those seven teams is currently 18th.

Special mentions for Williams, Oldaker and the returning Clements, who all had super games against Southend, which was more than enough to compensate for two or three who were a bit below par. Not much, no worse than their direct opponents, but with standards so high this season, when an always 8/10 player comes in at 6/10, good enough for many, it is noticeable in this high standard set-up.

Eastleigh and Daggers away games in quick succession. The Spitfires have scored five in a game this season against Ebbsfleet United (5-2) and Boreham Wood in the FA Cup (5-1), whilst they’ve conceded four or more against Gateshead at home (0-6), at Dagenham & Redbridge (1-4), at Boreham Wood (4-4) and at Altrincham on Saturday (0-4). So with no goal-less draws for Chesterfield at all this season, you can guess what will happen! The bookies don’t think so – 22/1 you can get on a goal-less game – whilst it’s somewhat ridiculous that the home side, a top half team, on their own park in a two-horse race, are quoted at 8/1 to win.

Madness. But it’s madness that PC and co have worked so hard and so vigilantly to construct. SMH is Our House, a House Of Fun. Our league position is One Step Beyond all of our opponents and every True Blue’s feelings at the moment, well, Lovestruck, for sure, It Must Be Love. I’ll be Driving In My Car to Hampshire hoping for another win and absolutely no Embarrassment (I don’t even possess any Baggy Trousers!) It’s all madness.

Phil’s Positive: Another win, another day when our closest rivals both slip up, another couple of stunning goals (plus a lovely first touch one), another reminder that this dreamworld is real. And a great ‘new’ signing in Bailey Clements!

Next Match: Saturday, February 3 sees the team make the long trip to Eastleigh, for a 3pm kick-off. Since Christmas, their play-off aspirations have taken a beating, two draws and three losses in five, with the team conceding four goals in four of those five fixtures. 1866 Sport will be on air from 2pm.

Chesterfield (4-2-3-1 to start): Tyrer; Sheckleford, Williams, Grimes, Clements; Naylor, Oldaker; Mandeville, Jacobs (Banks 84), Berry (Dobra 66); Grigg (Quigley 73). Subs (not used): Horton, Jones.

Goals: Berry 4, Quigley 73, Dobra 80 (Chesterfield)

Referee: Garreth Rhodes

Bookings: Williams, Quigley (Chesterfield), Scott-Morriss (Southend)

Attendance: 8,745 (832 from Southend)

Netcoms IT 1866 Sport Man of the Match: DJ Oldaker (chosen by Jamie Hewitt)