Phil Tooley takes a look at the game and its context
Chesterfield 2 Grimsby Town 1 Pre-season Friendly #6
Scorelines do not always tell the story of a game, and the outcome in this game conceals the actuality that this was as straight forward a 2-1 win as you could have. Early goals, recovery from a bit of a wobble and no scares in the second 45. All of that against a direct rival who, just a few weeks ago, were plying their trade at holy grail level.
Whilst I always take pre-season results with a pinch of salt (don’t tell my nurse about the salt), being the final game before the real stuff starts, anyone at the game could only conclude that the Spireites looked in a better place than Grimsby Town, who have come off the back of a disaster season that makes any of our own recent travails look positively commonplace! Fortunately for them, under new ownership, with a proven manager at the helm and a whole host of new players in the changing room, I’m sure they will stop the rot post haste.
After the excitement in the few days ahead of the game, the delayed kick off, due to traffic congestion, and a team sheet that was notable by the absence of Kabby Tshimanga, which combined to somewhat dull the anticipation, the frustration lasted only about 56 seconds.
The form of Liam Mandeville at the end of last season and during this pre-season has arguably been the most satisfying element of recent times. The never-90-minute man, a real curate’s egg of a player, has suddenly found (or possibly, been shown) where the on-switch is, and he’s become the footballer we all thought was in there, but rarely saw.
Playing in that advanced midfield role, he received the ball in space about 30 yards out and, no doubt inspired by both of the Rowe boys, just thwacked it. From my angle, pretty square on, I can only guess how much the ball must have moved in the air, as experienced keeper James McKeown, hot off his testimonial match, switched the weighting on his feet time and again, only to be completely unravelled by the rocket. One-nil in less than a minute.
Last season, in 33 regular NL games under James Rowe, the Spireites scored first in 18 of them, and 16 of were won. Of the ten games where the team conceded first, six were lost, showing the importance of posting the opener.
Scoring first and second is where you want to be, and the renaissance man grabbed his second on 20 following a trademark zero back-lift audacious chipped pass by Danny Rowe. Yet another pre-season peach of a pass, a magnificent thing in its own right, made perfect by Mandy’s conversion.
The opening half-hour was breathless. Time and again, a blue shirted player nicked the ball off the toes of a Mariner, or anticipated a pass to intercept, or ran into space to offer an option, or ran with the ball to threaten the rearguard. Friendly maybe, but it was fantasy football.
Then the footballing gods did what they do and, Erico Sousa’s hugely deflected shot saw the visitors halve the gap and in the immediate aftermath, two terrific goal line interventions by Jamie Grimes and Curtis Weston prevented an equaliser, and whilst the Mariners may have clipped the top of the bar in the second half and Scott Loach had to make a couple of decent saves, there were no major scares in that final 45. Game management is an art, which needs to be practised, and Chesterfield painted a pretty competent picture of what it should look like.
The manager announced after the game that keeper Melvin Minter and midfielder Jim Kellerman would be signed-up to complete the squad, with the latter being immediately loaned out to get his fitness levels up. With the likes of Tshimanga, Gunning & Oyeleke not on show in this game, Rowe has assembled a squad that has a terrific first XI and then strength in depth, which augurs well for a season we can all hopefully be proud of.
Phil’s Positive: An opening half-hour of dominance against a rival, then nothing in the second half suggested that the lead would be surrendered.
The Spireites’ next game is on Saturday, August 21, at Aldershot Town, kick-off 3pm, the start of this season’s National League, and also the launch of 1866 Sport, so if you’re not at the match, listen to commentary online, on smart speaker or via the App. All details will be revealed during the coming week!
Team v Grimsby (3-5-2 to start): Loach; Kerr (Triallist 68), Grimes, Maguire; King (Carline 68), Khan (Clarke 46), Weston, Mandeville (Kellerman 75), Miller (Whittle 68); Rowe (Tyson 75), Payne (McCourt 54).
Sub not used: Minter
Goals: Mandeville 1, 20 (Chesterfield), Sousa 33 (Grimsby)
Ref: Dan Middleton
Booked: Waterfall (Grimsby)