Phil Tooley takes a look at the game and its context
Dover Athletic 0 Chesterfield 0 National League Match #5
What number comes next in this sequence? 10, 10, 7, 4, 9, 3, 3……. The answer is 11. Not sure even Fibonacci would have got it right, and he liked a sequence! The series represents the number of points Spireites earned from their opening fixtures starting with the 2014/15 League One play-off campaign. Whilst we may all be a tad downbeat after an underwhelming performance and a disappointing result just up the road from Calais, sometimes context is no bad thing.
To add to that, whilst the league table may be largely irrelevant at this point in time, the Spireites sit ahead of Grimsby Town, Notts County, Wrexham, Southend United, Stockport County and Torquay United, the most fancied teams in the section ahead of a ball being kicked.
The game was probably the most forgettable Chesterfield performance since the 0-0 draw at the same Crabble Stadium in April 2019, in which the measly and instantly forgettable point gained was the point that guaranteed mathematical safety. They all count.
Last week, the disappointment of the late, late Bromley show was mitigated by the knowledge that the performance was the best of the season to date. This show wasn’t in the same time-zone as that, and Dover Athletic deserve a lot of credit for that, playing substantially above the level I expected, especially as the club switched from full to part-time in the summer and had lost their opening three fixtures.
Post-match, James Rowe was as frustrated as anyone, showing just how far the team has evolved and I’m sure he’s delighted that there’s a game on Tuesday, giving his charges a quick chance to prove the show was a one-off. For both optimists and pessimists, the last two nil-nils have both been followed up by 2-1 wins! I’d settle for that result against Barnet right now.
Chesterfield’s nil in the scoreline was not due to an opposition keeper playing a blinder, or the post being rattled time and again, it was largely due to the team creating the fewest chances in any game to date. The opening four fixtures all spawned two successful Spireites strikes.
An average of two goals a game all but guarantees a successful season, but this encounter only spawned a couple of decent chances for the visitors. One from Kabongo Tshimanga was well saved, and the other, a Liam Mandeville effort that flew wide, came after arguably the one move of top quality we saw from the team in blue.
The sports science team will have to evaluate Laurence Maguire after he picked up an injury, hopefully it’s not too bad. He, along with his fellow centre-backs Fraser Kerr and Gavin Gunning, plus his replacement Jamie Grimes and the man behind them, Scott Loach deserve another plaudit for clean-sheet four from five; that’s some achievement.
In our previous three seasons in the National League, the quickest the team got to four clean sheets was in the tenth game of 2018/19, the season that started with three wins to nil and then there was a wait until game ten for the next, a 0-0 home draw with Dover! There’s a bit of a pattern here!
In the final reckoning, it will be a point gained, even though right now it feels nothing like that.
Phil’s Positive: Unbeaten in five, the most productive opening five since the 13/14 title-winning season, when 13 points were earned.
The Spireites’ next game is on Tuesday, September 14, at home to Barnet, kick-off 7.45pm.
Team v Dover (3-5-2 to start): Loach; Kerr, Gunning, Maguire (Grimes 72); Carline, McCourt (Weston 51), Oyeleke, Mandeville (Khan 78), Miller; Rowe, Tshimanga.
Sub not used: King, Payne
Ref: Robert Whitton
Attendance: 1,024 (209 from Chesterfield)