Tooley’s Take

Phil Tooley takes a look at the game and its context  

Chesterfield 1 FC Halifax Town 2 National League 

It’s all James Rowe’s fault! In Spireites’ three campaigns in the National League, the team has had runs of five games without a win, six games without a win, ten games without a win, 19 games without a win and this current run is the third time this season the team has had a three game winless run. But the new level of expectations created by the manager makes this unwanted treble feel much, much tougher to take than any of the many win-free runs witnessed under Allen, Sheridan or Pemberton. 

The goal scored by Kairo Mitchell, his first for the team, meant that Chesterfield stayed in the play-off zone, just. Without it, the team would have dropped to eighth, a position only passed for the first time since the opening three games of the 2018/19 season when Weymouth were beaten less than four weeks ago. Anyone who thought that the team would be challenging for the play-offs after losing 3-2 at Altrincham in November is even more optimistic than me!

This defeat was hard to take because the team fell below the significantly improved standards set by Rowe and his management team, and that’s something that’s been rare and generally a one -off. Coming on the back of just one point from the previous two games enhances the frustration meaning that many fans are wondering if the bubble has burst, if the challenge will fade. Key players out injured, just nine goals scored in ten games (only eight conceded in the same spell though) and a number of players seeing a dip in consistency are all elements that fans are debating and worrying about. 

When things don’t go right, we all look at the minutiae. Was the gaffer right to leave out Grant Smith? Do we practice corners? Who can replace Asante? What’s plan B? When I interviewed Rowe after the match, he was as frustrated as any Town fan. Two concessions from second-phase set-plays, something that’s rarely happened on his watch. When I asked him about that, he was able to give a full and frank account of the errors in each case, there was no ‘they don’t listen to me, it was schoolboy defending, they never learn’ claptrap like we’ve all heard before. 

Asked about the possession and territory domination, he didn’t hide away. He acknowledged the lack of quality on display, the many wrong decisions and failures on the night (made by both the players and he himself). In short, he’s fully aware of what went wrong and what needs to be done to return to those very high standards and those very consistent performances. Few teams at this level would not miss Asante, Hollis, Denton, McCourt and others but few teams at this level have a manager as astute as James Rowe. 

At the start of March, long-time leaders Torquay United didn’t win in three and people thought their bubble had burst. Their reaction? Seven wins in eight games. Rowe will be working hard and ensuring the players work hard to get back to the levels needed to maintain a play-off position over the final nine games. 

Stats time! James Montgomery’s debut marked a club record – he’s the sixth keeper to feature in first-team games this season. 

Conceding two goals in consecutive home games isn’t that unusual in the  National League, but it’s a first for JR (as was being two-down at the break). Stockport, Maidenhead and Notts earlier this season all got at least two, last season Chorley, Hartlepool (who got five), Bromley and Yeovil was a four-timer, following on from an earlier unwanted double against Barrow and Woking, whilst who’ll forget the Maidenhead and Gateshead double in the team’s first NL campaign. Sadly, it used to be commonplace. 

Down in the dumps? Too right! Seventh in the table? FACT!

Phil’s Positive: We’ve got James Rowe in the hotseat, I’d struggle to think of anyone I’d rather have there right now. 

Spireites next game is on Saturday, April 24 at Wrexham in the National League, kick-off 3pm. 

Team v Halifax (3-4-2-1 to start): Montgomery; Kerr, Gunning, Maguire; Carline, Weston, Oyeleke, Whittle (Tyson 46); Mandeville (Clarke 79), Whelan (Taylor 55); Mitchell. 

Subs (not used): Dinanga, Yarney

Goals: Mitchell 71 (Chesterfield), King 8, Hyde 30 (Halifax)

Ref: Tom Parsons 

Yellows: Kerr, Carline, Oyeleke (Chesterfield), King, Spence, Johnson