Tooley’s Take

Tooley’s Take

Phil Tooley takes a look at the game and its context  

Chesterfield 0 Port Vale 1 Pre-season Friendly #4

Over the years, matches with Port Vale have rarely been friendly! Red cards have been plentiful with, in the 21st century, Keith Rowland, Roger Willis, Andy Rushbury, Alan Goodall and Ian Evatt being early bathing Spireites whilst keeper Lucas Covolan joins previous Valiants Sagi Burton, Villa gaffer Dean Smith, future Blue Marc Richards and Danny Pugh as part-time players. 

With Vale set to start their EFL programme next weekend, they are understandably ahead of Chesterfield in the pre-season calendar, but there was nothing on show that indicated that. The Spireites made a few passing errors early on, but generally defended well to rectify when necessary, conceding only to a James Wilson rocket which took a slight deflection on its way in. That’s James Wilson who scored twice on his Premier League debut for Manchester United against Hull City in May 2014.

The pre-season feisty began with Jeff King picking up an early yellow for taking down ex-Stag Mal Benning and from that moment on, there was an edge that is rarely seen in these types of fixtures, and that can only be seen as a positive. There’ll be plenty of even more intense battles over the next nine months!

Fraser Kerr and George Carline had 45 minutes each in the back three and, in the second half, as the changes began, Curtis Weston put in a fine shift in the middle of the back three, offering James Rowe an unexpected option if needed. He also took the armband after Gavin Gunning departed following a first half knock.

The Spireites were, for the most part, the sharper looking side in the second half, coming closest to an equaliser when Danny Rowe hit an extraordinary shot which thumped the Kop-end bar. From my position in The Van Yard (West) Stand, in the perfect line to see the ball’s flight, the shot initially looked high but the spin on it led to a multitude of movements, left, right, up, down, the likes of which I’ve rarely seen from a non-Brazilian. I think we may well see some spectacular goals from Rowandinho this season. 

Back in the day, there was a pub on Knifesmithgate called the King & Miller. If our wing-backs continue in the vein they’ve started, I think there’ll be a few celebratory pints sunk in Chesterfield’s licenced premises. Time and again the pair tormented the Vale defence, and King’s willingness to move in-field caused other threats. Their supply of crosses will be key to the season ahead. 

Their raids helped Chesterfield notch up 11 corners, sadly none of which were converted to activity on the scoreboard, and the post-match news that Tom Denton will be out for many more weeks to come won’t help our potential goals count from such set-plays. I really feel for the big man. 

A fourth fixture completed and the team more than matched a higher-level outfit. The manager said afterwards he was looking for more synergy up top and indicated the desire to bring two more in, with one possible departure. 

With three more pre-season matches to come, the overall make-up of the squad looks solid and balanced, fitness is clearly close to being there and performance levels are pleasing. That trip to Hampshire on August 21 is looking ever more appealing. 

Phil’s Positive: Minutes for Kerr and Carline, who still have close on three weeks of work ahead of the trip to Aldershot Town. 

The Spireites’ next game is on Wednesday, August 4, a behind closed doors trip to face Aston Villa U23s. 

Team v Port Vale (3-5-2 to start): Loach; Kerr (Carline 46), Gunning (Oyeleke 46), Grimes; King, Weston (Triallist 86), McCourt (Khan 46), Mandeville (Clarke 64), Miller; Rowe (Triallist 73), Payne (Tyson 73).

Goal: Wilson 36 (Port Vale)

Ref: James Bell

Booked: King (Chesterfield), Legge (Port Vale)

Sent-off: Covolan 78 (Port Vale)