Tooley’s Take

Phil Tooley takes a look at the game and its context  

Alfreton Town 3 Chesterfield 2 Pre-season Friendly #1

It only seems five minutes since the play-offs; indeed, after the game, James Rowe asked me if I’d enjoyed my summer and, having been fortunate enough to have attended three games at Wembley in the Euros, which started less than a week after the trip to Meadow Lane, I had to admit it doesn’t seem like there’s been one! 

That said, it seems an age since Chesterfield fans have been allowed to attend an away game, March last year at Dover Athletic being the last time and seeing a few hundred Spireites supporters in the 30o heat was heart-warming, as if we needed any other sort of warming. Scorchio!

Games like this, particularly the first couple, are all about getting back into the groove, building on the early pre-season work on the training park and taking a look at a few potential options through triallists. The manager had a look at four triallists – two right-sided centre backs, a keeper and a striker – and the latter charged down former Chesterfield youth team keeper Ted Marris’s clearance to bag an equaliser, ahead of being forced off through injury. 

That unfortunate event directly led to the introduction of Tom Denton who, before you knew it, had powerfully headed home a Jak McCourt corner to delight the Blues fans who were gathered immediately behind that net. Big Tom went on to win a number of defensive headers at Alfreton corners to show just how valuable his contribution can be. 

Another delight of pre-season is taking a look at newly signed players and seeing what they’re all about. Having only had the Dagenham & Redbridge home match plus streams to watch last season, in fairness most of the players are unfamiliar in the flesh.

For me, on the day, Saidou Khan and Jamie Grimes were the standouts of the new boys. Khan was regularly willing to travel with the ball, running at defenders, though his concession of the penalty from which Matt Rhead scored, wasn’t a career high point! Solely air was damaged with his initial clearance effort, his second go was too much Alfreton player and not enough air. One-nil to the hosts. 

Grimes has an impressive physical appearance, a tidy left peg and what looks to be excellent aerial timing. That said, of one of only two Spireites 90-minute men (with McCourt), I reckon I’d have gone close to matching him in a short sprint. He’d given everything in the tropical heat and left nothing on the park. He’ll do. 

Scott Loach, in goal, had nothing to do, but having played against Chesterfield in the National League for both Hartlepool United and Barnet, as well as for Bradford City in the EFL, we know what the 33-year-old can offer. Wing backs Jeff King & Calvin Miller showed plenty of energy whilst Stefan Payne showed good awareness but, having not played since April, is clearly still building up his fitness levels.

Of the familiar faces, McCourt was my pick. Always busy, some decent passes and set-piece deliveries, his presence in midfield looks set to be influential. 

Did the concession of a couple of late goals matter? I’m sure the gaffer will dissect them, but with personnel changes here, there and everywhere, combined with the playing conditions, I wasn’t overly concerned. Alfreton went into what was their third game of the season, so have a few more miles in the tank, which probably contributed to their late strength. 

Hopefully, there’ll be plenty more Spireites at Matlock Town on Wednesday, when I’ll be a year older than I am now. I’ll be celebrating my birthday on Tuesday, taking in an Opera at Buxton, hoping that at the end of this season, the singing I hear won’t be quite as tuneful, but close on ten thousand Spireites will be giving a rendition of that not heard for far too long ditty, ‘The Blues are Going Up,’ after the final game of the season against Woking. 

Let’s strap ourselves in for what we hope is a memorable ride. 

Phil’s Positive: I’m never one to read too much into pre-season games, but I was delighted (and surprised) to see ‘Dents’ come on, score with his second touch, then win three defensive headers from Reds corners.  

The Spireites’ next game is on Wednesday, July 21, KO 7.30pm, at The Proctor Cars Stadium, aka Causeway Lane, home of Matlock Town. See you there!

Team v Alfreton Town (3-5-2 to start): Loach (Triallist 76); Triallist (Triallist 46), Grimes, Maguire (Gunning 65); King (Khan 76), McCourt, Mandeville (Weston 65), Khan (Rowley 65), Miller (Whittle 56); Rowley (Triallist 46, Denton 65), Payne (Tyson 46). Note: Rowley & Khan both returned to the game after being subbed earlier.

Goals: Triallist 53, Denton 70 (Chesterfield), Rhead (pen 25), Williams 75, Turton 87