Phil Tooley takes a look at the game and its context
Wrexham 0 Chesterfield 0 National League
Result v performance; it’s been a conundrum for donkey’s years in football. Add to that, context. No one ever talks about how well the Spireites played at Burton Albion when Jay O’Shea scored a couple to clinch promotion in 2014, but the result and the celebrations are regular conversation pieces. Everyone talks about how well the team played four weeks earlier than that at Wembley, in the JPT final, when the team lost 3-1 against Peterborough United. Context!
In North Wales, after picking up just one point from three home games, there wouldn’t have been a single Spireite who’d have preferred a great performance and a single point over a scrappy, unmemorable, lucky 1-0 win over a play-off chasing rival. But the former is exactly what we got!
The Red Dragons had won their previous two games 4-0, both away, to reignite their Hollywood dreams. They were living up to their nickname, being on fire. But their flames were well and truly extinguished by a terrific performance by the visiting back three. Only twice was Grant Smith tested, his body blocked a first half close ranger from Gold Omotayo and he had to tip over a second-half Luke Young misdirected cross that lifted off the surface like a Jofra Archer bouncer.
No worries about conceding the second phase from set-plays, as had been the case against Halifax, there were no such examples throughout. Considering the quality of the opposition, I’m struggling to remember a more complete defensive show this season, bar the 1-0 home win over Eastleigh.
In midfield, Curtis Weston maintained his claim as a genuine Player of the Year contender whilst Manny Oyeleke won plenty of scraps, though I’m sure he will be looking to increase his successful pass completion percentage, whilst Jack Clarke caused plenty of problems in his more forward role. On the flanks, George Carline did what he does week in, week out, maybe giving away a couple too many free kicks, whilst across the park, Joel Taylor put in a top-notch performance in his first start in over a month. Along with Weston, a Man of the Match contender.
Marquee signing Danny Rowe showed some fantastic touches, whether in the sunshine or the shadows, and Spireites will be hoping over the next few weeks that they will love him so!
With Rowe playing deep and pinging quality balls here, there and everywhere, short and long, high and low, Kairo Mitchell looked much more fluid. Town’s best chance in a cagey first half came with a superb chip by Rowe for Mitchell who clipped the ball over the keeper, but Rob Lainton got just enough of a touch to take the sting off the ball and enable it to be cleared.
After the break, Chesterfield came alive and put in a totally and utterly dominant 45. Mitchell had a couple of early efforts, Taylor clipped the bar and Fraser Kerr’s follow up was scrambled off the line before subs Tom Whelan and Nathan Tyson became the men on the end of the increasing number of chances and they worked the keeper as well as hitting wide efforts that, in training, wouldn’t have been wide.
Disappointing but enthralling, an away point clicked on the board is always welcome, but the performance was better than that, which is what hurts. But let us remember, ahead of the trip to Bromley, the last five away games have seen a record of W4 D1 F6 A1. Not at all shabby.
Welcome to the club a new first-team coach, Danny Webb, who’d been coaching in the academy at the now Premier League Watford and was assistant to the late Justin Edinburgh when Leyton Orient won promotion back to the Football League two years ago.
I asked him before the game if he remembered who he made his Football League debut against, and he struggled to remember his 89th minute introduction in a 3-2 win for Southend United against Chesterfield in 2000. Funnily enough, I remembered it (mainly as the gaffer was his dad, Dave, who I always loved as a player), but to be fair, he had appeared for the Shrimpers in both the League Cup and LDV Trophy before that game. That said, he remembered his only other game against the Spireites, for Brighton at Saltergate, when Bobby Zamora bagged a brace including kicking the ball out of Nathan Abbey’s hands when ref Matt Mathias wasn’t looking!
A Double Danny week may just provide the impetus the team needs ahead of three vital games against teams above us in the table. On Boy, Oh Boy!
Phil’s Positive: Everything bar the scoreline!
The Spireites’ next game is on Tuesday, April 27 at Bromley in the National League, kick-off 7.45pm.
Team v Wrexham (3-5-1-1 to start): Smith; Kerr, Gunning, Maguire; Carline, Weston, Oyeleke, Clarke (Whelan 72), Taylor; Rowe; Mitchell (Tyson 72).
Subs (not used): Yarney, Mandeville, Yussuf
Ref: Simon Mather
Yellows: Davies (Wrexham)