Phil Tooley takes a look at the game and its context
Chesterfield 0 Torquay United 2 National League
Chesterfield’s fifth straight win at King’s Lynn less than a month ago was the prelude to a spell of seven games in 21 days, all against teams chasing play-off positions or better. It was always going to be tough and feature plenty of challenges. Game One of that run, against the belligerent Boreham Wood, ended in a goalless draw but the big loss was that of Akwasi Asante, who joined Haydn Hollis, who picked up an Achilles injury in the game before King’s Lynn, at Eastleigh, on the long-term treatment table.
The seven games have now passed and a disappointing return of just five points has been banked, which means the next three games, against teams second, third and fourth bottom, are mission critical if the season is to shape up as we all desire.
It hurts enormously to think that the miraculous work done between November and the beginning of April could unravel. None of us expected the play-off zone at the start, but we all took it for granted three weeks ago, so the pain has intensified.
James Rowe was hurting after the Torquay United game, I know, I had to interview him! He acknowledged a lack of ruthlessness in the team. The possession and the territory against the Gulls should ordinarily have spawned enough goals to win a match, and when Dean Moxey scooped Adi Yussuf’s shot off the line and then United scored 14 minutes later to make it 2-0 with a rare second half sortie from them, the current lack of the final flourish was emphasised for all to see.
The manager indicated the high proportion of concessions from set-plays of late, particularly second phases, as being a route cause of Spireites defensive problems, both Torquay goals came from such moments.
Add to that the sharp end, where only five goals have been scored since Asante’s injury, and in the last 14 matches, stretching back to the defeat at Maidenhead United, only Tom Whelan, with three, has scored more than once.
Whilst Rowe understandably points out performances have been better than results of late, points accumulation is now what supporters are craving for. A new expectation level has been set, much higher than anyone expected, and with that heightened anticipation, dropped points suddenly seem to be massive body blows, whilst dropping them against teams that we could face in the play-offs exaggerates the pain.
Until the maths say otherwise, no game is a must win, but I’m sure the vast majority of Chesterfield supporters out there, just like me, feel that Woking, King’s Lynn and Wealdstone all need to be beaten to ensure the team, by then backed by supporters, can rise to the levels required in the final home game against Dagenham & Redbridge followed by what could be a make-or-break trip to FC Halifax Town, who themselves will have plenty of fans in The Shay.
For the first time for 14 games, the manager and his staff now have a full week to work with the squad and that could be priceless. There is the quality in the squad to get back on the winning trail, there is the desire in the fanbase to wish for a top seven finish and there is the backing from the Boardroom to create the best environment in which to flourish.
Will we make the top seven? Who knows, but this writer has far from given up hope.
Phil’s Positive: Adi Yussuf showed his best form in a blue shirt after coming off the bench.
The Spireites’ next game is on Saturday, May 8 Woking in the National League, kick-off 3pm.
Team v Torquay (3-5-2 to start): G Smith; Kerr, Gunning, Maguire; Carline, M Smith (Whelan 81), Oyeleke, Mandeville (Clarke 75), Whittle; Rowe, Mitchell (Yussuf 52).
Subs (not used): Rowley, McCourt
Goals: Lemonheigh-Evans 11, Waters 76 (Torquay)
Ref: David Richardson
Yellows: Rowe (Chesterfield), Warren (Torquay)