Phil Tooley takes a look at the game and its context
FC Halifax Town 1 Chesterfield 2 National League
Chesterfield live to fight another day! Tyson delivered the knockout blow in a manner reminiscent of Bruno at Old Trafford, tapping in a crackerjack of a cross. In doing so, 39-year-old Nathan became the oldest ever Spireite scorer in a league match (Joe Spence was a few weeks older when he scored in a 1938 cup game) to ensure the Spireites finished in sixth spot to end a five-year misery of ending campaigns being 18th, 24th, 24th, 14th & 19th (after 6th, 1st & 8th under Paul Cook).
When Chesterfield lost 3-2 at home to next week’s opponents Notts County on November 21, in unbearable last-gasp circumstances, the team was in 21st place, broken and heading for yet another season of oblivion. The board then had the insight to ignore the usual suspects and take a massive risk to hand the top job to a virtual unknown in managerial circumstances.
After 19 wins in 33 games (57.5% win rate), we all know who James Rowe is and we all know who young Arthur is as well (congrats). No Chesterfield boss in history has ever achieved such a win rate in their career. Cook hit 45%, Nicky Law 46% and John Duncan 37% as comparisons. Just three more please, James.
The gaffer sprung a surprise by, for the first time in his tenure, naming an unchanged starting XI. Not since arguably the most important game in Chesterfield’s history, the 2-1 win at Chorley in March 2020, which effectively prevented the club dropping yet another level, has that happened. It brought rapid dividends as Liam Mandeville headed home (yes, he headed home, not a misprint) the opener. Nerves settled, or were they?
Halifax, who had to win to stand any chance of extending their season, got back on level terms and, after Danny Rowe had to leave the field due to illness, they threatened a few times, as did the visitors. There were twists and turns elsewhere, Wrexham and Eastleigh were both losing before Bromley took the lead against County and that 64th minute goal at Hayes Lane meant that the Spireites had to score again and score again they did.
Mandeville the provider this time, in his finest show in blue (technically red) enabling Tyson, whose first career goal was for Swansea City against Darlington in October 2001, to win it and enable the Spireites to finish in a position that was unthinkable six months ago. An 11th away win of the season means that the team’s travelling record this season is W11 D3 L7, exactly the same as Notts County’s home record! Evenly poised or what?!
Whilst every Spireite was willing the team on to victory from afar, there seemed to be a degree of serenity amongst the faithful. Yes, we all wanted the season to continue, but had it not, it would have been the second most enjoyable ride to failure in the club’s history (Bruno’s earlier mentioned goal was in the most magnificent failed journey). Pride had returned, regardless of what happened at The Shay, but getting the win was pretty good, it has to be said!
A couple of the Spireites’ successful journeys have featured matches at County. Alan Crawford’s last-gasp backheel there won us the Anglo-Scottish Cup in 1981 whilst the 2011/12 Johnstone’s Paint Trophy campaign started with a 3-1 win adjacent to the River Trent, so let’s hope for a third memorable Meadow Lane masterclass on Saturday.
On a day when Holymoorside & Hollingwood made it but Hollywood didn’t, it was great to see the manager personally thank the 40 or so supporters who’d waited patiently at The Technique for the team coach to return from West Yorkshire. Their genuine joy epitomised the feeling around the place at the moment. Regardless of whether the ride breaks down at Meadow Lane, Plainmoor or Ashton Gate, or whether it continues at full-speed and makes it to Field Mill, right now, Chesterfield Football Club is in a very happy place.
Phil’s Positive: Que Sera Sera, Whatever Will Be Will Be, We’re Going To Notts County, Que Sera Sera!
The Spireites’ next game (yes, there is one) is on Saturday, June 5 at Notts County in the National League Play-offs, kick-off 4pm.
Team v FC Halifax Town (3-4-2-1 to start): Montgomery; Evans, Gunning, Maguire; Carline, Weston, Oyeleke, Taylor (Whittle 46); Clarke, Mandeville (McCourt 84); Rowe (Tyson 36).
Subs (not used): Yussuf, Whelan
Goals: Mandeville 14, Tyson 79 (Chesterfield), Stephenson 31 (Halifax)
Ref: Lewis Smith
Yellows: Whittle, Maguire (Chesterfield)