Phil Tooley takes a look at the game and its context
Chesterfield 2 Torquay United 2 National League Match #8
Five thousand Spireites left the Technique resembling Edvard Munch’s The Scream, weeping and wailing and gnashing their teeth in a manner that I don’t seem to recall occurring when Haydn Hollis and Gavin Gunning, playing for Forest Green Rovers, achieved a victory that condemned Chesterfield to the National League. It’s a funny old game.
It was hard to take, very hard, but let’s take stock of this disaster. Town were no AJ, limply bowing out. If Chesterfield v Torquay had been a boxing match, the ref would have stopped it just before the last round, but unfortunately for the hosts, he didn’t, indeed he extended the bout by another round. The Gulls then did the equivalent of nicking your chips at the seaside and they flew away with a point. One point, they didn’t manage the prize of three fries, meaning James Rowe’s side managed to feast well for most of the afternoon only to have their metaphoric pudding snatched away just after we had all picked our spoon up.
Undoubtedly, adding to the disappointment were the memories of a last-gasp Bromley leveller plus Barnet’s two goals right at the end of the first half, though that challenge was ultimately overcome by the Spireites. Five of Chesterfield’s six concessions this season (by the way, no team in the NL has conceded fewer) have come in the dying embers of a half. The other was a penalty that gave Bromley the lead for two minutes. Those two minutes (from a total of 720 + extra bits) have been the only minutes all season that Chesterfield have trailed in any game.
The gaffer will almost certainly be reminding his charges about concentration at the time when ‘job done’ is the dominant emotion of the moment. He talked in the immediate aftermath about heart, not in a positive way, but like all of us, he was caught up in the moment, shattered with disappointment tinged with a hint of anger. I’m sure having slept on it, as I have, the reality of only drawing with the team beaten on penalties in last season’s play-off final will seem to be a tad more positive than when the BT director shouted ‘cut’.
Even stevens first half, good double save at the end by Scott Loach, then up pops the goal machine, right place, right time to poke home two keeper parries. ‘Sir’ Jack took 12 games to reach nine goals, Nozzer took 18, Ooh Waller Waller needed 17. Even Dennis Westcott, who scored four on his 1952 debut against our motorway neighbours didn’t score goal number nine until his 12th Town game. I reckon you’ve got to go back to 1932 and Colin Cook, who bagged #9 in appearance #6 to find a better start to a Spireites scoring career than Kabongo Tshimanga.
Then the double blow and the final moments of the game get dissected in detail in pubs, buses and on social media. Wrong subs, wrong pass, wrong tackle, wrong formation, dodgy defence, dodgy keeper; you name it, someone thought it.
For me, it was a repetition of what seems to be our Achilles heel this season, the ‘job done’ syndrome, particularly at home (still no away concessions at all, Liverpool’s 3-3 at Brentford makes Town the only team in flights one to six that can boast that stat). I know it, you know it, the players know it, the manager knows it. Trouble is, of all the faults in every team, dropping points at the death is the worst footy feeling of all for every supporter, and for some reason, it is feels even worse when you’re at the top end of the table.
Spireites unbeaten, only Grimsby Town can match that, no team has conceded fewer, only table-toppers Dagenham & Redbridge have scored more. Come on, we should all have smug Mona Lisa smiles right now. Mona not Munch. Let’s all go for a pizza in Woking on Tuesday, surely nothing can go wrong then!
Phil’s Positive: Eight unbeaten at the start of a season. Only one Chesterfield side in history, the 1935/36 Division Three (North) championship-winning side can beat that unbeaten run from the start of a season. That run ended after nine (W4 D5), so already this season’s run has garnered more points in eight than the record unbeaten start from nine! Avoid defeat at Woking and another record book entry.
The Spireites’ next game is on Tuesday, September 28, at Woking’s Kingfield Stadium, kick-off 7.45pm
Team v Torquay (3-5-2 to start): Loach; Kerr, Gunning, Maguire; Carline, Weston, McCourt, Mandeville (Khan 69), Miller (Whittle 90); Payne (Rowe 75), Tshimanga.
Subs not used: King, Grimes
Goals: Tshimanga 59. 73 (Chesterfield), Little 88, Lapslie 90+5
Ref: Steven Copeland
Booked: Carline (Chesterfield), Johnson (Torquay)
Attendance: 5,127 (132 from Torquay)