Phil Tooley takes a look at the game and its context
Barnet 0 Chesterfield 2 National League
Like one of the greatest to have appeared on Whitt Moor said, Easy, Like Sunday Morning, you can’t beat it. That morning after the night before feeling, when your team has got back on track after a little wobble, is a great thing. That said, Lionel needs to pen a follow-up, or more accurately, a prequel song, Easy, Like Saturday Afternoon.
Rarely, in the hustle and bustle that is the uncompromising Vanarama National League, will a team have won by such a narrow margin on the scoreboard with as wide a margin in performance on the park being witnessed. As James Rowe alluded to afterwards, Town won at a canter and with such a performance, the team would’ve given League Two leaders Cheltenham a run for their money to end that town’s biggest sporting week.
I don’t remember many performances in recent years where a goal in the 11th minute was quite as deserved, and where an assistor, Jack Clarke, deserved that accolade quite as much. Barnet kicked-off but the Spireites immediately nicked the ball, Clarke burst through and teed up Adi Yussuf who sliced wide after 12 seconds.
By the time the five-minute mark had clocked-up, Clarke had delivered a corner that almost curled in and saw home striker Courtney Baker-Richardson head against his own bar and the Villa loanee also passed perfectly for Alex Whittle to shoot wide with his wrong right foot, so Tom Whelan’s angled strike was the reward for an incredible start by the team and Clarke in particular.
Even at that early stage, it was as clear as you can get in a sporting contest that Chesterfield would win, much clearer than the obviousness that Wales would clinch the Grand Slam in Paris when they were ten points clear with less than five minutes to play. Much more obvious!
Whilst the shot count slowed between goal and break, the level of control didn’t, and Barnet, who did rack up a few corners and free kicks, rarely looked like creating even a half-chance. The contest was all but decided two minutes after the re-start. Akwasi Asante’s low drive from a 20-yard free kick was spilled by teenage keeper Aymen Azaze and the only man who gambled was Yussuf. His finish may have been unspectacular, but his anticipation was first-class, and his first goal in blue more than welcome.
Again, the Spireites’ control after that early second half goal was clear and obvious without the need to step up through the gear box. Asante hit the post and Barnet weren’t allowed to locate a banjo, or indeed a barn door.
Fans will be debating, virtually of course, whether it was the return to 3-5-2 that was the biggest factor, or how on earth Fraser Kerr recovered from what looked a season-ending injury four days earlier, or whether Laurence Maguire’s leadership made a difference.
Everyone will be pleasantly surprised about how well the team coped without the injured Jak McCourt, Joel Taylor and Gavin Gunning, and seeing Joe Rowley back was a real bonus too. For me though, the difference between the teams and the key reason for the ease of victory was central midfield.
Since the club moved to their current home, fans have been able to watch great midfield combinations, Allott, Niven & Whitaker then Ryan, Morsy & Roberts, but you’d struggle to find a trio worthy of buzzing in such ways in the last five years. But at The Hive, Clarke, Whelan and (in his 100th NL appearance for Chesterfield) Curtis Weston, put in a near perfect show.
Weston, against his former club, nicked it and laid it off numerous times, whilst his two engine-room mates did the fancy stuff, and they did it very, very well. Any more of that level of performance and we’ll all be dancing on the ceiling!
Phil’s Positive: Whilst Barnet are clearly out of sorts, this was as comfortable a 2-0 win as you could imagine, with the Spireites in control from first to last whistle.
The Spireites’ next game is on Tuesday, March 23 at Aldershot Town in the National League, kick-off 7pm.
Team v Barnet (3-5-2 to start): G Smith; Kerr, Hollis, Maguire; Carline, Weston, Clarke, Whelan (Rowley 74) Whittle; Yussuf (Tyson 64), Asante (Dinanga 64).
Subs (not used): M Smith, Yarney
Goals: Whelan 11, Yussuf 47
Ref: Simon Mather
Yellows: Whittle, Maguire, Clarke, Whelan, Yussuf (Chesterfield) & Binnom-Williams (Barnet)
Red: Richards-Everton (90+2)