Tooley’s take

Tooley’s take

Phil Tooley takes a look at the game and its context  

Chesterfield 1 Stockport County 2 National League

The National League table at this early stage shows first Stockport County, second Torquay United and third Hartlepool United. Of the four games the Spireites have played, three have been against this triumvirate and all ended in narrow 2-1 defeats, two to late goals and one having seen us take the lead.

It doesn’t mean that these teams are the best in the section, but it does mean they’re the form teams at the moment and John Pemberton’s side was, at every stage of all three encounters, in the game. For good measure, Woking are fourth and that ended with a somewhat more positive result. 

There was a hint of déjà vu against County, who’d scored ten times in winning their previous three games, as we defended well in large parts, created some decent chances and cursed our luck (County penalty shout apart), but we didn’t always help ourselves. Conceding the corner which ultimately led to the winner, Stockport’s 12th flag-kick of the game, and not taking the opportunity to clear our lines when it arose, were two events where the right individual choices weren’t made and they contributed massively to the loss of a point. 

County started like a house on fire and deserved their lead, a cracking box-edge shot from Mark Kitching, but gradually the Spireites quelled the visitors and Jordan Cropper hit through a crowd from 18 yards after Liam Mandeville’s free-kick had seen Tom Denton and Will Evans both denied as the ball pinballed around. Not dissimilar to the 85th minute winner which had seen three interventions by wood, boot and body before sub Alex Reid’s decider. 

Big Tom had converted twice, at 0-1 and 1-1, only for two flags to deny him his fourth in four; small margins. Nathan Tyson was put clear only for a whistle to halt play due to a clash of heads just before fellow sub Milan Butterfield’s defence splitting pass found the striker in oodles of space; really unfortunate, but the right call from the referee. Right at the end, Denton’s near post flick from a right wing corner was extremely tempting, but no-one was there to convert. 

You can’t argue that the visitors had most possession plus the most and best chances, but Spireites had the fight and determination to repel attacks and stay in the game after many thought it could be an extremely one-sided contest at the time County scored their first. They could easily have earned a point and, at 1-1, had chances to take the lead. 

The manager is happy with his approach and his preferred 3-5-2 starting formation. When I asked about the likelihood of a different methodology, he told me after the match, “We’ve been in all the games, it was OK last season when we were five points adrift, it just happens that they’ve probably just got better players than we’ve got, they’ve spent a fortune on them.

“We know they are a good side, we know what we were up against and when you play teams like that, they’re always in the game and it’s the pressure of trying to see 95 minutes out plus a little bit of luck. We’ve been competitive in every game.

“We can change shape if we need to, either to chase it or if we need to defend it, but the shape was right when we were pinning them back and we got the equaliser, so it’s not the shape of the team. Sometimes it’s a little bit of naivety, composure or decision making or just a little bit of luck.”

It was no dream first start for Luke Rawson, who continues to develop at a pace, though Jonathan Smith received a card for his 34th birthday (a yellow one). Liam Mandeville continued his upward trajectory and Butterfield showed in his 20 minutes on the park that he could play a major part going forwards.

A win at Wealdstone on Tuesday would propel Chesterfield to a heady ninth place in the table with a draw guaranteeing 16th spot, either of which would make the Spireites World feel much better than the end of an extremely frustrating double-late strike week. 

Phil’s Positive: Nathan Tyson’s return to the squad means that every outfield player is now fit and available 

Spireites next game is on Tuesday at Wealdstone, kick-off 7.45pm.

Team v Stockport (3-5-2 to start): Letheran; Sharman, Evans, Maguire; Cropper, Weston (Butterfield 70), Smith, Mandeville, Buchanan (Kiwomya 83); Rawson (Tyson 58), Tom Denton. 

Subs (not used): Wharton, Tyler Denton

Goals: Chesterfield – Cropper 36, Stockport – Kitching 20, Reid 85

Ref: Andrew Miller

Yellows: Weston, Smith (Chesterfield), Maynard (Stockport)