Tooley’s Take

Tooley’s Take

Phil Tooley takes a look at the game and its context  

Maidenhead United 2 Chesterfield 0 National League 

A mile or two up the road from Maidenhead United’s York Road home are two world renowned restaurants, both of which I’ve been lucky enough to dine at. But the menu served up by the Spireites in this hotbed of fine-food was far from three-star standard, much more akin to school dinners by The Poo Brothers and Heston Bloominheck, what was that?

Whilst in a swirling wind and a sloping pitch, the visitors had no spark, unfortunately the Magpies had the bright and shiny Dan Sparkes, who made one and scored one for the part-time team Chesterfield just cannot beat! That’s four losses and a draw in five meetings. 

Sparkes gambled as a hesitant defence watched keeper Taye Ashby-Hammond’s wind-assisted hoof and there looked to be a bit of surprise when the home man kept it in and delivered a near post ball for Nathan Blissett to bundle home from close range. Not a concession you want to see again, especially after the gazillion replays of it at half time on the live stream!

The provider turned scorer early in the second half when Josh Coley fished for an opening on the right, found it, and Sparkes arrived at the back stick to net it and Chesterfield were caught out again.

The statistics will show plenty of Chesterfield shots on target. Jak McCourt himself had four, and many others tried from distance, but none of them caused Ashby-Hammond too much grief. There were others from inside the box, but ankles or shins seemed to prevail rather than insteps or the necessary level of control. It rarely looked to be Chesterfield’s day. 

From the start, the Spireites looked strangely disjointed, as though something vital to the operation was missing. Curtis Weston, perhaps? Since the Spireites found themselves in the National League, the No.8 has been the man who has seemingly been omnipresent and, as time ticks by, the 34-year-old seems to become ever more influential. Suspension kept him out of this game, only the 14th NL game he’s not started for Chesterfield. The record without him reads P14 W1 D6 L7 and the one win was in his first miss, so 13 unlucky winless games on the trot without him since. 

Post-match debate is always more divided following a defeat, especially when the defeat is in a match where reward was anticipated and expected. Chesterfield went into the game in fine fettle whilst Alan Devonshire’s side hadn’t won in six. Easy. 

With over 100 games played in the National League, we should all know by now that this section has its own rules, its own foibles and nothing should ever be taken for granted, apart from if you’re off it, you’ll lose. Chesterfield were off it in this game and Maidenhead worked hard and deserved their victory. 

Debate about individual players, formations, bubbles bursting, tactics and wearing gloves will always dominate debate after a zero-pointer, but that old adage, it’s a marathon not a sprint, is forever the defining factor for any season, any team, any manager. 

Any team that has accumulated 30 points from 15 games is moving in the right direction. That’s been the return overseen by James Rowe and only two managers in Chesterfield’s last 50-odd years, Frank Barlow and Nicky Law have earned more, both 31 points, in their first 15 games in charge. And, by the way, we were rubbish in that 2-1 home defeat against Walsall in Barlow’s 11th game in charge and how bad were we when Barnet won by the same scoreline at Saltergate in September 2000! 

What a game to have to bounce back in, against the leaders, whose last eight NL games have earned seven wins and a draw. Don’t forget it’s an early kick-off!

Phil’s Positive: The last defeat, the lack-lustre show at Edgeley Park, was followed up by a fantastic win over in-form Eastleigh, who didn’t manage a single shot. More of the same on Tuesday, please.  

The Spireites’ next game is on Tuesday, March 16 at home to Sutton United in the National League, kick-off 7pm. 

Team v Maidenhead (3-4-2-1 to start): G Smith; Evans, Gunning, Maguire; Carline, McCourt, M Smith (Tyson 57), Whittle (Taylor 66); Mandeville (Yussuf 57), Whelan; Asante.  

Subs (not used): Kerr & Clarke

Goals: Blissett 21, Sparkes 52

Ref: Alan Dale 

Yellows: Sparkes, Wells, Ashby-Hammond, Upward (Maidenhead)