Phil Tooley takes a look at the game and its context
Woking 1 Chesterfield 4 National League
It was great to see the Spireites coming out of the traps at a pace. It’s been a while since such intensity from the off was witnessed, and it resulted in the fastest goal of the season for the team. Gavin Gunning rose high to head home Tom Whelan’s left-sided corner after just seven minutes, beating Akwasi Asante’s ninth minute opener in the 2-1 win over Wrexham.
Such was the early dominance, a second goal on 20, from another Whelan corner, was no surprise, though the scorer may have been. Starting for the first time since February, Marcus Dinanga, playing on the left side of an attacking three midfielders behind Danny Rowe’s lone-striker role, banged in his first goal in Spireites colours from all of six feet, maybe less, a very welcome confidence booster for him.
I’m sure every watching or listening Spireite was, at that point, thinking ‘how many?’ but we should all know by now, the National League doesn’t work like that! Woking hadn’t been in Chesterfield’s box until James Montgomery had to make a sharp save to give the Cards a corner.
As the delivery flew in, Harry’s brother bundled over Rio, Anton & Les’s cousin and Charlie Cooper, whom I don’t believe is related to Tommy or Mini, despatched the penalty. Moments later Malachi Napa, who may or may not have partied in Cyprus, had a glorious chance, but shot wide. Relief.
Whilst Chesterfield never looked like surrendering their lead again during the match, especially after a third goal before the break, from another Whelan corner, which was swept in by George Carline, the visitors didn’t manage to get back into the purring mode they showed in the opening 20 minutes.
Undoubtedly the early (and by all accounts, quite bad) injury to Fraser Kerr didn’t help, and with no defender on the bench, Carline had to move to centre back and sub Jak McCourt take on the right back role, which he performed pretty well.
The most frustrating thing about the injury, picked up in a strong but fair challenge, was that the tackle was needed as a result of a loose Chesterfield pass, showing that concentration is needed everywhere on the park at all times. Add to that the fact that Gunning seemed to be struggling towards the end of the game, our defender count is becoming a concern.
Montgomery had a fair bit to do after the break, whilst opposite number Craig Ross, at 31, Woking’s skipper, senior player and one of only a few of their squad who’ve started shaving, was constantly busy and he made a number of excellent tip-overs, dives and blocks. He could do nothing near the end when Danny Rowe’s pinpoint cross was converted by sub Jack Clarke to condemn the House of Cards to a sixth home four-goal concession of 2021, though no team has managed to make it five in that time.
A tenth away win of the season (only Torquay & Stockport, both with 12, can better that), when combined with FC Halifax Town’s home defeat and Bromley only taking one point, albeit it an excellent one at Plainmoor, things look a little healthier than they did on Monday night. That said, the team will need to be fully on point to see off King’s Lynn and Wealdstone this week, there are no free hits in this league, and the gaffer and his staff will have to come up with a plan to determine their optimum, patched-up, defensive line-up.
Solihull Moors, Hartlepool United & Harrogate Town have all scored four or more on our grass in NL games, Oxford United & Southend United did in 2017, Sheffield United & Walsall in 2016 and Swindon Town in 2015 since our last four away goals haul in a points-offering match, that memorable four in seven minutes 4-1 win at Cheltenham Town in February 2014, the last season we went up!
I wasn’t at Whaddon Road that night, my wife Sylvia was in hospital, so I was the dutiful visiting hubby (listening on Peak FM mind you), so the last time I saw a four or more away haul (cup games excepted) was the 6-1 win at Exeter City in 2008, showing just how rare a four-timer on a rival’s park is.
Three homes on the bounce now, we all know what’s needed, so it’s over to James and the boys to do their bit. I’ll shake on two scrappy 1-0s right now.
Phil’s Positive: Highest intensity start for a while, rewarded with three first-half goals for the first time in the National League, and a bonus that all three of them were from corners!
The Spireites’ next game is on Tuesday, May 11 at home to King’s Lynn in the National League, kick-off 7.45pm.
Team v Woking (4-2-3-1 to start): Montgomery; Carline, Kerr (McCourt 18), Gunning, Maguire; Weston, Oyeleke; Rowley (Mandeville 59), Whelan (Clarke 75), Dinanga; Rowe.
Subs (not used): Tyson, Yussuf
Goals: Gunning 7, Dinanga 20, Carline 40, Clarke 88 (Chesterfield), Cooper (pen) 28 (Woking)
Ref: Rob Whitton
Yellows: McCourt (Chesterfield), Freeman (Woking)