Phil Tooley takes a look at the game and its context
Chesterfield 2 Wrexham 1 National League
Keeper Adam Przybek and Alex Whittle became the eighth and ninth of James Rowe’s 12 signings to date to appear in a Chesterfield shirt in what was only the manager’s ninth game in charge. Seven of those signings started the game against the Red Dragons and two more were on the bench, meaning Rowe’s DNA is now undoubtedly all over the team.
Ironically, the four non-Rowe starters, the three central defenders plus Curtis Weston, have all embraced his style, stepped up their games and played more than major roles in the record of 16 points from seven National League games, plus successfully negotiating two rounds of the FA Trophy. Four goals conceded in those seven points offering games compared to 15 conceded in the previous seven shows how a strategic approach to overall team defending works without making wholesale changes to the defence.
Akwasi Asante, already equal eighth in the National League scoring charts despite playing just seven games for Spireites, will take many of the plaudits. A perfectly judged first touch and shot from Jak McCourt’s high ball into the box and an impeccably timed run to latch on to Liam Mandeville’s match-winning pass were the deserved results from an afternoon of non-stop, highly effective work from the striker. I felt this performance, from a team perspective, was even better than what we saw in his hat-trick match against Barnet.
Why has this man not played in the Football League for four years? He scored in his last appearance in that competition (against Aaron Chapman in goal for Accrington Stanley), playing for Grimsby Town, alongside a certain Gavin Gunning, small world! You could ask a similar question about Tom Whelan and George Carline, both yet to play in the EFL, but fitting in perfectly with Chesterfield’s new-found approach.
It was a strange game, our 111th points-offering contest with Hollywood’s finest. It was good to be able to talk about some debatable decisions having bagged three points, had Asante not bagged that 89th minute winner, the post-match conversations may have been different.
The opening 20 minutes saw some sublime build-up play from Chesterfield and the early lead was well deserved, but the feeling of frustration after Wrexham’s penalty leveller plus a few debateable on-field calls knocked the team off balance for a while. However, order was restored after the break and the positive flow returned and it was great to watch. Przybek was hardly tested and that feeling that we could throw it all away was all-but absent. But the feeling of joy, summed up by the manager’s touchline celebration, was immense when the well-deserved winner was bagged.
Three points for the fifth time in Covid-hit eight weeks has transformed the dynamic of the season. Spireites fans are now working on potential permutations and combinations of results involving Notts County, Solihull Moors and Stockport County rather than Dover Athletic, Weymouth and King’s Lynn. Most will have already clocked that seventh hosts eighth (Solihull v Notts) on Tuesday when Chesterfield travel to 11th placed Boreham Wood. With our club’s proud history, it shouldn’t be, but it’s all very exciting! Super-optimists may even be taking into account Torquay United’s results now!
Whatever comes next, both the team and the club have both found new identities, and these identities are ones that every supporter can recognise, understand and be proud of and I, for one, can’t wait to see where these positive identities can take us.
Phil’s Positive: The overall team performance, arguably the most complete 90 minutes of the season.
Spireites next game is on Tuesday, January 26 at Boreham Wood in the National League, kick-off 7.45pm.
Team v Wrexham (3-5-2 to start): Przybek; Evans, Hollis, Maguire; Carline, McCourt, Weston, Whelan (Mandeville 82), Whittle (Yarney 75); Dinanga (Rowley 63), Asante.
Subs (not used): Gunning, M.Smith
Goals: Chesterfield – Asante 9, 89, Wrexham – Young (pen) 20
Ref: Martin Woods
Yellows: McCourt, Przybek (Chesterfield), Davies (Wrexham)