Tooley’s Take

Phil Tooley takes a look at the game and its context  

Eastleigh 0 Chesterfield 1 National League 

Half time. Bad news? Team not functioning particularly well, Haydn Hollis injured, Akwasi Asante isolated, the twin 10s not in the game, two scrambled off the line and no Spireites chances worthy of note. Good news? It’s still 0-0. A real tester for the manager. 

James Rowe has a Masters of Research Degree in Sports Science, holds a UEFA ‘A’ Licence and he’s spent time at the Johan Cruyff Institute in Amsterdam, worked for the Premier League and the legendary West Ham United academy. He’s a real football coaching scholar. 

So, what was his thought pattern to try and turn it round for the second half? What would Pep do? What would Jurgen do? No, he turned to one of England’s great managers and his simple theory, he went all Mike Bassett and four-four-flippin’-two! And guess what, it worked a treat!

Alex Whittle cleared one off the line early in the second half, adding to Curtis Weston and Martin Smith’s similar actions before the break, but after that, Tyson started to cause havoc and the Chesterfield chance counter began to click upwards. Joe McDonnell in the home goal had to spring into action as, for the first time, the Spireites began to look like potential winners. 

Once Carline’s throw was flicked on by Josef Yarney and was subsequently not dealt with by the defence, allowing Liam Mandeville to acrobatically volley his first goal in 13 months, the points’ destination looked clear. Eastleigh chucked plenty forwards after that, but Fraser Kerr, Carline and Weston were on top of their games to maintain the clean sheet. 

Kerr has now played for nine hours and 22 minutes in a Chesterfield shirt and has yet to have been on the park when a goal has been conceded. Some record. The team as a whole hasn’t conceded in five minutes short of seven hours now and the win made it four on the trot to clean sheets for the first time in points offering games since 1933/34 (thanks Stuart Basson for digging that one out for me), barring a similar run in 2000/01, but one of those games was in a cup competition. 

Whilst competition for Spireites Man of the Match was plentiful, there’s no arguing that Tyson was the catalyst to the significant second half improvement. His most significant performance since his hat-trick off the bench against Ebbsfleet United. He brought Asante to life whilst Mandeville also put in a fine shift. 

The 4-4-2 also saw both full-backs push very high, particularly when Town played out from the back, which caused the hosts plenty of problems and negated much of their first half attacking threat, which had been blunted to a degree with Barnett and House both being unavailable to Ben Strevens from the start. However, their 4-2-3-1 in the first half worked reasonably well, though it did lack a cutting-edge. 

Whilst we await details on Hollis’s injury, Rowe indicated it looked ‘bad’ so getting Laurence Maguire & Gavin Gunning back will be a major target, but Rowe and Yarney showed that they can offer a two at the back alternative should next week’s first-ever trip to King’s Lynn be too soon for the treatment roomers. 

There’ll be many who look back at the first half and think it was well below par, and it was. What you need in those circumstances is a manager that knows the team is off the pace, a set of players who know it was off the pace and an organisational rethink that not only sorts it out, but also potentially surprises the opposition. That happened at Eastleigh and illustrated once again that, right at this moment, Chesterfield have a manager and a squad capable of something special. 

Phil’s Positive: The second half performance showing there’s a more than decent 4-4-2 option in there too.

The Spireites’ next game is on Saturday, April 10 at King’s Lynn in the National League, kick-off 3pm. 

Team v Eastleigh (3-4-2-1 to start): G Smith; Yarney, Hollis (Mandeville 32), Kerr; Carline, Weston, M Smith, Whittle; Whelan (Clarke 75), Rowley (Tyson 46); Asante.  

Subs (not used): Dinanga & Yussuf

Goal: Mandeville 61

Ref: Jacob Miles  

Yellows: Carline, M.Smith (Chesterfield), Boyce (Eastleigh)