Phil Tooley takes a look at the game and its context
Aldershot Town 0 Chesterfield 2 National League Match #1
Job done. Not particularly straight forward. The task was made extremely difficult due to an Aldershot Town side that worked hard, racked up a load of attacking free-kicks and corners and successfully thwarted Chesterfield’s best efforts for 80% of the game.
But when you have Danny Rowe and Kabongo Tshimanga on the park, there’s always a goal or two in the ranks and 2021’s two marquee signings delivered the goods, Rowe from the penalty spot before, four minutes later, heading on to assist his strike partner’s first for the club on his debut.
The Shots called the shots for the opening half hour. The stop-start nature of the game stultified the Spireites’ desire to play a passing game and gave the hosts the opportunity to deliver the ball into the box from more set plays that you’d want to concede.
Thankfully, another debutant, Jamie Grimes, was on hand to win header after header, block the ball when necessary and generally thwart more attacks than is good for you.
Aldershot skipper and left-wing back Lewis Kinsella, a player who was at the EBB Stadium when James Rowe was assistant there, was at the centre of every dart forward and he was the man invariably grounded for the catalogue of free kicks that resulted in a hatful of Spireites yellows.
Grimes and co though were equal to every delivery and the outfield lads combined well to ensure little of relevance was left to keeper Scott Loach. What little the Spireites No.1 had to do, he did well throughout the 90.
The clean sheet was the 17th in 34 National League games under Rowe, that’s half, an incredibly high proportion. It was win 20 from those games, a win rate of just under 59%. When compared to every full-time predecessor at Chesterfield in history, the highest achieved has been 51% by Harry Parkes between 1922-27. A win over Wealdstone next week would see the gaffer hit a magnificent 60%.
Half an hour in, and the Spireites began to take charge. Former Shots Player of the Year Manny Oyeleke began to dominate in the engine-room, Jeff King started getting ever higher up the park and the final 15 of the first half saw a bit of sustained quality starting to appear.
The introduction of Jack Clarke early in the second half was the catalyst to the team as a whole stepping up into a high gear for prolonged periods. The youngest man in the Spireites matchday squad immediately began to run at the heart of the hosts’ solid back line and gaps started to appear ever more frequently. Tshimanga forced a great block from Mitch Walker, and it began to look like the game was on.
King, who was on borrowed time from the referee after a fair few robust challenges of his own, burst into the box, was grounded and a penalty, notable by their scarcity last term, was awarded. Walker did well to reach Rowe’s spot-kick, but he couldn’t keep it out.
George Carline replaced the carded King and almost immediately won a header that Rowe in turn headed on for Tshimanga, still with plenty to do, but he did it, and did it extremely well, to enrapture the visiting hoards. A few more of those please, Kabby!
No dangers after that, job done, three points, clean sheet.
For me, the best moment came when the team-sheet arrived. A bench featuring Carline, Clarke, Payne, Khan and Kerr, with McCourt, Whittle and Tyson waiting in the wings, shows the strength of the squad the manager has assembled.
The starting XI had an average age of 28, compared to Aldershot’s 23.5, so there’s plenty of experience and plenty of players at their physical peak.
Wealdstone next up; they were beaten 2-1 at home by Woking on a day that not one NL team managed a home win. I’m hoping for at least one on Saturday!
Phil’s Positive: The away support, seeing over 600 Spireites celebrating the team, the goals, the win. Football has come home. Truly magnificent.
The Spireites’ next game is on Saturday, August 28, at home to Wealdstone, kick-off 3pm.
Team v Aldershot (3-5-2 to start): Loach; Grimes, Gunning, Maguire; King (Carline 75), Weston, Oyeleke (Khan 80), Mandeville (Clarke 54), Miller; Rowe, Tshimanga.
Sub not used: Payne, Kerr
Goals: Rowe (pen) 72, Tshimanga 76
Ref: Tom Bishop
Booked: King, Maguire, Mandeville, Rowe, Weston (Chesterfield), Walker, Edser, Harris (Aldershot)
Attendance: 2393 including 626 Spireites