Phil Tooley takes a look at the game and its context
Boston United 1 Chesterfield 1 FA Trophy fourth round; Chesterfield win 4-1 on penalties
It was written in the stars that 18-year-old Dylan Wharton would be the Spireites’ shoot-out hero. With Kyle Letheren isolating and new keeper Grant Smith ineligible (competition deadline), young Wharton was called into action. For a rookie teenage keeper on his debut, the nerves will always play a part, but when Storm Christoph chucks in a bit of a gale, it was obvious it was going to be a tough introduction.
Having seen a corner elude him to enable Scott Garner to head the National League North side in front, and then experience a heart-in-mouth moment when ex-Spireite opposing keeper Ross Fitzsimons saw a wind-assisted kick bounce over him and hit the bar, when the final whistle blew and a penalty lottery was again in order, you sort of knew the answer would be blowing in the wind for Dylan!
The shoot-out favoured the brave as the kickers had the teeth of the gale well and truly in their favour, so blasts rather than the infamous Brackley soggy chips were called for and Laurence Maguire stepped up to show how it needed to be done. This time round though, it was all about where you were from! Boston’s first, from Chesterfield born ex-Spireite Jordan Burrow, hit firmly, but the inevitable celestial alignment guaranteed a save. United’s third, from fellow Cestrefeldian and massive Town fan Connor Dimaio, was hammered low, but wide, enabling Tom Whelan to wrap things up and earn a February season ticket at the Recreation Ground, Aldershot.
The game itself was entertaining to watch, though the conditions at Boston’s splendid new stadium, designed by the same architectural practice as The Technique, dominated. It was no surprise that both goals came from corners, Boston’s with the wind and Haydn Hollis’s 75th minute headed equaliser against it.
There’s no doubt that when James Rowe analyses the statistics, there’ll have been fewer completed passes than the new normal and the percentage success rate of them won’t be something to shout about. The record will also almost certainly show the fewest shots, on and off target, of the Rowe reign but the stats won’t take into account that Boston were a more than decent opponent who, in Burrow, had a solid line-leader, in Dimaio, a real battling midfielder and in left-back Joe Leesley, a real creative force.
Whilst the pretty-on-the-eye stuff wasn’t as prevalent as it has been, there was no doubting the efforts of the visitors on the back of a second Covid isolation period of the winter. With the squad denied of players like Letheren, Joel Taylor and Tom Denton due to the virus, that gave the likes of Joe Rowley, Marcus Dinanga and Liam Mandeville, plus debut-maker Martin Smith, valuable pitch time.
Rowley grasped the chance, he’ll be disappointed that he didn’t take one of a number of chances that came his way, but he was there to create them, and he got into a number of terrific positions. Smith, with just one start in the last ten weeks, was busy and combative and will certainly add to the competition within the engine-room. Mandeville and Dinanga, the two-man first half strike-force, worked hard but were not served as well as Spireite strikers have been accustomed to in recent times.
Chesterfield move into the last-16 of the FA Trophy; of the remaining 15 other teams, six sit above the Spireites in the pyramid and nine below. The manager said afterwards he’d been told by chief executive John Croot to watch the 2012 JPT final win at Wembley and Rowe was amazed to see how many fans travelled there. I think that gesture shows that the club genuinely wants to see the team back there this spring.
But, for a myriad of reasons, the night belonged to Dylan Wharton, 18 years and five months old and (we believe after extensive overnight candle burning) he’s the youngest first-team, competitive match starting keeper for Chesterfield since 1974, when the great Steve Hardwick came into the team at four months younger. I say starting, because I can hear all of you shouting about Myles Wright, who was younger that Dylan, but his sole appearance was as a sub after Tommy Lee was wrongly red-carded against the Blades! And as his gaffer pointed out after the game, it was the first time he’d ever seen a keeper go down with cramp, certainly not a statistic I keep on top of!
Phil’s Positive: Much better penalties than against Brackley Town to take us into the last 16.
The Spireites’ next game is on Saturday, January 23 at home to Wrexham in the National League, kick-off 3pm.
Team v Boston (3-5-2 to start): Wharton; Evans, Hollis, Maguire; Yarney, M. Smith (McCourt 57), Weston, Rowley, Carline; Mandeville (Whelan 72), Dinanga (Asante 46).
Subs (not used): Clark, Hutchinson
Goals: Garner 50 (Boston), Hollis 75 (Chesterfield)
Penalties: Chesterfield – Maguire (scored), Rowley (scored), McCourt (scored), Whelan (scored). Boston – Burrow (saved), Green (scored), Dimaio (missed).
Ref: David Richardson
Yellows: Yarney (Chesterfield), Shiels (Boston)