Phil Tooley takes a look at the game and its context
Chesterfield 2 Wealdstone 0 National League Match #2
Sir Alex Ferguson; 13 Premier League titles, five FA Cup wins, four League Cup wins, two Champions League wins for Manchester United. His Red Devils win rate? 59.7%. James Rowe, Chesterfield manager, 35 National League games. Win rate? 60%. Nuff said!
This was a classic 2-0 win, score early to calm any nerves and when the opposition is starting to go a bit gung-ho and threaten a comeback, nick a late one to calm the nerves that had well and truly returned. Credit to Wealdstone who, I bet, were better than most Spireites expected, particularly after half-time and ahead of George Carline’s 81st minute header. And what an assist from ‘Mad Gav’, an exquisite overhead kick that, along with the finish, enraptured the massed gathering in the Kop.
Just to point out, this was the biggest mass gathering of Spireites in our National League career. Whilst there have twice been bigger crowds in this competition at our home, 5,662 against Wrexham and 5,432 versus Notts County, take out the away fans and this was the highest grouping of Blues since the unwelcome loss of EFL status in 2018. Credit to the club for turning things around and fostering the positive vibes we all felt during the game.
Those supporters were lifted early on when Saidou Khan marked his first start with a superb goal after a quick Calvin Miller throw. Sadly, the former Daggers man had to be replaced at half-time after a knock on his head, as he was well on his way to a Man-of-the-Match performance.
He and Jack Clarke carried the ball forwards time and again in the first half and that, combined with a high press, led to the hosts spending plenty of time in attacking territory, but the Stones’ resolute defending, despite plenty of mistakes, restricted chances for Rowe’s team.
The visitors restarted with renewed vigour and began to cause some concerns, but Fraser Kerr and Curtis Weston in particular, were major obstacles that time and again thwarted the opportunities for a leveller. Kerr indeed almost doubled the lead with a Danny Rowe-esque rocket that forced a terrific save from teenage keeper George Wickens.
Relief eventually arrived on 81 when Carline became the fourth different scorer of the season. Four goals, four different scorers was last recorded the last time Chesterfield also won 2-0 away on the opening day and followed it up with a 2-0 home win. O’Shea, Richards, Roberts and Doyle scored against Bury and Cheltenham Town in August 2013. What happened next? The League Two title! Déjà vu, please.
Whilst two from two and two clean sheets is the perfect start, it’s clear that this team has plenty more to offer. Whilst gilt-edged chances were few and far between for both Aldershot Town and Wealdstone, both opponents created problems that tested the Spireites, who themselves will want to notch up their own chance count.
The manager was forced into two substitutions earlier than planned, with Khan and, after just 15 minutes, Jeff King having to leave the fray. But the strength in depth, the strength in character and the strength aerobically can be illustrated by the fact that three of the Spireites’ four goals this season have come after the 70-minute mark, minimising the time available for any opposition comeback.
The level of fitness at this early stage of the season is a credit to the sports science team, led by Nic Brink, and with a trip to King’s Lynn coming hot on the heels of this match, fitness will play a massive part in that game as well as for the rest of the season.
Second in the table sandwiched between Dagenham & Redbridge and Maidenhead United, with the only other team to have kept two clean sheets, Boreham Wood, in fourth. Early days, right direction!
Phil’s Positive: Another win, another clean sheet and there’s still room for improvement.
The Spireites’ next game is on Monday, August 30, at King’s Lynn, kick-off 3pm.
Team v Wealdstone (3-5-2 to start): Loach; Kerr, Gunning, Maguire; King (Carline 15), Weston, Khan (McCourt 46), Clarke, Miller; Rowe (Payne 69), Tshimanga.
Sub not used: Mandeville, Grimes
Goals: Khan 5, Carline 81
Ref: Scott Simpson
Booked: Weston, Kerr (Chesterfield), Eleftheriou, Elito (Wealdstone)
Attendance: 5,356 including 170 from Wealdstone