Phil Tooley takes a look at the game and its context
Chesterfield 2 Dagenham & Redbridge 1 National League
I’m an emotional sort of guy. I’ll shed a tear at sad and I’ll shed a tear at happy. On Saturday, before the game, when the scoreboard reminded us of the members of the Spireites’ family we lost and the entire ground applauded solidly for three or more minutes, it was impossible not to be emotional.
The combination of joy and noise when the players came out and the game began showed us all what football was about. Of course it’s about results, but deep down, it’s much more than that. It’s about community, friendship, pride, a sense of being. What a joyous emotion we Spireites shared at 3pm on Saturday, May 22, 2021!
I spoke to CEO John Croot afterwards and it reminded us both of the game, ironically against Halifax Town, back in 2001, the first home match after the club was taken on by CFSS and we got the club back into the right hands. We were both emotionally invested 20 years ago, and that emotional investment hasn’t waned. The club is back in the right hands and the team is back in the right hands.
I should have shed a tear when I heard that Eastleigh had scored a winner in stoppage time to mean that the play-offs are still out of our own hands, but I didn’t, because, for a few wonderful minutes, it didn’t matter. What had happened at The Technique was much bigger than play-offs, promotion, Danny Rowe’s penalty, James Rowe’s speech. It was pure, unadulterated community joy, a special group of people, Chesterfield Football Club’s family, being together to celebrate a reunion after over a year of isolation. People could shout and scream to their hearts content amongst 3,000 like-minded others. It was wonderful. It was very emotional.
The match wasn’t bad either! Played in a pristine stadium, made so by a fantastic group of volunteers. Pigeon poop was off the agenda! The organisation and stewarding were spot on and everyone seemed to enjoy the experience and the events on the park were perfectly scripted.
Out of the blocks at a pace, domination against a side with 7W and 1D in 8, the form team, and typical Town when Dagenham & Redbridge threatened for the first time and scored. That seemed to ignite Daggers and they could easily have doubled their lead but long-serving Loz delivered a great ball in for Danny Boy to show just what he’s all about and it’s all-square at the break.
The second half started well but despite there having been a record number of different Spireites scorers this season, the first two gilt-edged opportunities ironically fell to two players that haven’t hit the target yet, Curtis Weston and Joel Taylor. Both not converted and time was running out.
Joey Jones’ 78th minute dismissal lifted everyone again and five minutes later, for the first time in the Rowe reign, the referee pointed to the penalty spot after Taylor’s ball in was brilliantly saved, but not by Tesco’s green-clad sandwich advert Elliot Just Ham, a defender showed him how to do it!
Whilst the award was on 83, the penalty wasn’t taken for over three minutes. Pushing, shoving and shushing galore, rolling round, moving the ball off the spot and a myriad of other delaying tactics as well as yellow cards before Rowe, the player, with nerves of steel, rolled the ball home. The place erupted. How good did that feel? Town had won, just like we had to. The players had been magnificent, but my Player of the Match award was shared by 2,950 participants who weren’t on the park. And how good was it for me to see my wife, daughter and granddaughter back for the first time in 445 days. Sylvia also got a bonus in seeing one of her all-time favourites, Samy Morsy, who was at the game!
Rowe’s goals hit the headlines, but for me, Gavin Gunning was the blue-shirted hero. Patched up, he epitomised what leadership in football is all about, clearly far from full fitness, he ignored the pain and played a blinder. As well as Mad Gav, George Carline, Weston & Taylor would ordinarily not have started, but the spirit in the camp reinforced by the atmosphere in the ground got them through and got the result we all wanted in a manner that enhanced the positivity of the day, coming from behind to score a late winner is dreamsville for me!
To add to the emotion, Saturday was three years to the day that I attended the funeral of a great friend and former colleague at Supporters Direct, Jacqui Forster, a huge Altrincham fan, so me and thousands of other Spireites will be joining her in willing Alty on against Eastleigh on Tuesday night. Go Jac! There’s nothing quite like football for emotions and creating memories. Welcome Back.
Phil’s Positive: Simple! Crowds are back. Football is back. The emotion is back.
The Spireites’ next game is on Saturday, May 29 at FC Halifax Town in the National League, kick-off 12.30pm.
Team v Dagenham & Redbridge (3-4-2-1 to start): Montgomery; Evans, Gunning, Maguire; Carline, Weston (McCourt 67), Oyeleke, Taylor; Clarke (Rowley 58), Mandeville (Whelan 87); Rowe.
Subs (not used): Tyson, Yussuf
Goals: Rowe 38, 87 (pen) (Chesterfield), Gordon 29 (Dagenham & Redbridge)
Attendance: 2950 (not had this line for a while!)
Ref: Adam Herczeg
Yellows: Clarke, McCourt, Maguire (Chesterfield), Gordon, Justham, Weston, Jones (two yellows, red in 78thminute)