Phil Tooley takes a look at the game and its context
Chesterfield 1 Weymouth 0 National League
Apart from twice a season, when Chesterfield play them, will so many Spireites have taken such notice of a Sutton United scoreline. The leaders were 2-0 down at FC Halifax Town with 15 minutes to go. Not a great thing for Town, with the Shaymen being a target team but, with Eastleigh behind at King’s Lynn, it meant that if United could extend their long unbeaten run, our boys would be in the play-off zone. THE PLAY-OFF ZONE!
You read that right, the confidence-bereft team that were leading Notts County 2-1 on 90 minutes on November 21, 2020 but contrived to lose to leave them third bottom, just one point above rock-bottom Yeovil Town, moving into the top seven just 19 games later. Not possible, or is it? Cue Olaofe & Simpson, not some pop singing duo but the guys that maintained Sutton’s unbeaten run meaning that, for five final minutes, the updated, Dover-less live league table had the Spireites in seventh heaven. On the whistle, that remarkable rise was formally confirmed.
Whilst James Rowe correctly pointed out afterwards, it means nothing, as nothing has yet been achieved. But, that’s manager-speak, not supporter-speak! Sorry Gaffer, on this occasion you’re wrong, it means everything to the thousands of Spireites so desperate to repopulate the Technique.
Those eagerly watching supporters will generally be unphased that Weymouth weren’t put to the sword during the host’s early pressure, or that more passes than normal went astray in the middle of the park. They’ll have been equally certain that, just like Jonathan Howard in 1997, the effort off the bar didn’t cross the line, Geoff Hurst may have had a different view on it though!
In the inevitable post-match social media scrum, talk was about seventh spot, three straight wins, three consecutive clean sheets, winning football matches when you’re not at your best and, most importantly and poignant of all, that their team, their club, are in with a shout for the first time since 2015. Five years of drivel before an unknown walked through the door and transformed things.
In the 231 league matches since the play-of loss against Preston North End, up to that Notts County nadir, just 61 (26%) were won and 116, that’s just over half, HALF, were lost. In just 19 games since, 63% of games have been won and 21% lost. Twelve Rowe wins, more than in the whole of the 2016/17, 2017/18 and 2019/20 seasons. James, you may be a bright young thing, but you’ve not lived through that fifty-percent-garbage, so may not quite understand what this non-achieving achievement means to a Spireite.
We all know the hard work on the park needs to continue, injuries need to clear up and we need to earn some luck and ride what luck comes our way in the run-in, a run-in even the most optimistic supporter would’ve felt was impossible when Ruben Rodrigues won it for Notts.
If the never in reach before return to the Football League is to be achieved this season, the team needs to be a little more clinical than was the case against the Terras, but momentum is with the Spireites, a momentum that reminds me of 1994/95. Back then, a 52-point haul from 23 games after Christmas led to a famous victorious play-off campaign. For the superstitious types, that charge included a run of three straight wins to clean sheets, just like the team’s on at the moment, and one of those wins was 2-0 against Barnet.
Let the Fantasy Football continue!
Phil’s Positive: 21st to 7th in 19 games, that’s some achievement!
The Spireites’ next game is on Friday, April 2 at Eastleigh in the National League, kick-off 3pm.
Team v Weymouth (3-5-2 to start): G Smith; Kerr, Hollis, Maguire (Yarney 25); Carline, Weston, M Smith, Whelan (Mandeville 73), Whittle; Tyson (Dinanga 60), Asante.
Subs (not used): Rowley, Yussuf
Goal: Whelan 38
Ref: Aaron Jackson
Yellows: Carline (Chesterfield), Mensah, Dallas (Weymouth)