Phil Tooley takes a look at the game and its context
Notts County 0 Chesterfield 1 National League
I’m sure that every Spireite thought the same as me when that ‘6’ went up to signify a lengthy added-time spell. John Dungworth’s team was 2-1 up at home to Notts exactly three months ago today (Sunday) but Rodrigues and Wootton pounced to break blue hearts and create what was undoubtedly a nadir moment in the club’s history. Six points from nine games in non-league football and with only Yeovil Town and Dover Athletic below the Spireites in the table.
Those two goals though no doubt accelerate the appointment of a new gaffer, and three short months later with 21 points and 13 new signings in the bag his ten NL game in charge, the only team that should have scored in that six-minute spell was Chesterfield! Late sub and one of three debut makers Adi Yussuf probably should have scored with the game’s very last kick, whilst Akwasi Asante and Laurence Maguire should have calmed our nerves in the final ten minute of regulation play.
The truth is, that home collapse surprised few Chesterfield supporters. Torquay United, Stockport County, Wealdstone and Altrincham had all bagged late goals to clinch wins before then, but James Rowe’s Spireites are made of sterner stuff.
Having been under siege in the first half, Notts had more than their fair share of second-half possession and territory, but they failed to muster up a single shot on target and none of their six second half corners were palpitation drivers. That six minutes board, with the benefit of hindsight, should never really have caused concern!
The first five minutes were a bit frenzied, County had three openings, all hit high, before the Spireites got going, but for the rest of the first half, we were treated to a performance of the highest order. Notts top the division’s possession tables, but my detailed and incisive analysis at the break indicated that they hardly had a kick! The only disappointment was that it was only a one-goal lead.
Calvin Miller cartwheeled the magnificent George Carline (looked a worse challenge that Tom Whelan’s at the Daggers) and the minimal punishment of a yellow was immediately forgotten. Gavin Gunning delivered the resulting long-range free kick towards ex-Magpie Haydn Hollis whose movement, without contact on the ball, seemed to bamboozle marker and keeper alike and the delivery ended up in the net. A stroke of luck? Maybe, but we’re still well down on the count!
That opening period saw gazillions of star performances. Asante and Marcus Dinanga were superb, Carline was at the top of his game whilst the midfield, without being spectacular, starved the promotion chasing hosts of any ball, whilst debut-making keeper Grant Smith looked commanding despite not having to make a save.
County’s second-half show meant that the back three of Evans, Hollis & Maguire came to the fore, and they more than rose to the challenge, repelling everything thrown at them with consummate ease to mean that, late on, the only likely scorers of a second goal in the match were wearing blue. Jack Clarke was another debut-maker and he looked good in his cameo, particularly on one touchline tight burst down the left.
Getting a point was never in doubt; the Spireites had been unbeaten on the previous dozen fixtures on February 20 stretching back to 1960 and for the 12th time in 12 games, James Rowe conducted his half-time team talk with his side either leading or level.
It’s been clear for a while that things at the Technique are pretty different now, but just in case you weren’t sure, just look at this. Ten NL games pre-Rowe: LLLWLLLWLD (F 16 A 18 PTS 7), Rowe’s first ten NL games: WDWWWLWDDW (F 16 A 6 PTS 21). A two-thirds reduction in goals conceded has led to a trebling of points bagged.
Bring on Altrincham!
Phil’s Positive: Notts went into the game unbeaten in seven and having conceded three fewer goals than any other National League team, so to win there with a clean sheet is some achievement.
The Spireites’ next game is on Tuesday, February 23 at home to Altrincham in the National League, kick-off 7.45pm.
Team v Notts (3-5-2 to start): G.Smith; Evans, Hollis, Maguire; Carline, Gunning (Clarke 80), Weston, Taylor; Dinanga (Mandeville 62), Asante (Yussuf 85).
Subs (not used): Yarney, M.Smith
Goal: Gunning 32 (Chesterfield)
Ref: Andrew Kitchen
Yellows: Mandeville (Chesterfield), Miller, Wootton (Notts)