Phil Tooley takes a look at the game and its context
Chesterfield 3 Southend United 1 FA Cup first round
What do former FA Cup winners Wigan Athletic, Bradford City and Charlton Athletic have in common? Chuck into the mix local-ish Scunthorpe United, Port Vale, Crewe Alexandra and Rotherham United, does that help?
Along with many other EFL clubs, their FA Cup first round attendances were all lower than the 4,713 supporters that attended this excellent match at The Technique. With almost 300 noisy Shrimpers fans, the atmosphere was like it should be, wonderful to be there, proper Cup football. For the record, it was the Spireites’ biggest home FA Cup crowd since the 2016 third round replay against Scunny (6,815), when a trip to Pride Park was the winner’s reward, and we took a fair few there!
You didn’t want to be late, with 14 minutes played, both sides had led after an opening burst. Rhys Murphy, on his 31st birthday, ran through Chesterfield’s backline to put the visitors ahead, but before you knew it, Saidou Khan and debutant Luke Croll had turned things around, the latter with his first ever senior goal, and not a bad one either.
Croll, James Rowe’s 28th signing in his 50-week tenure, after the early concession, really grew into the game and looks a good fit into the injury ravaged squad. From a fitness viewpoint, it didn’t look like it was his first 90 minutes since February, he handled the game, in all aspects, very well.
To his left, Alex Whittle followed up his emergency move to left centre-back at Daggers last week with another excellent showing there. For me, his best game in blue and a Man of the Match performance, though Khan, Jeff King and (until red mist and red card) Calvin Miller were all serious contenders for that accolade.
I made the comment on 1866 Sport Live when Kabongo Tshimanga came on that, for the first time in the game, the visiting fans went quiet, realising that as their team was starting to switch to gung-ho formation, the last person you want to see entering the fray was the National League’s top scorer. Their fears were confirmed when he, seemingly, wrapped up the tie with a great finish not too many seconds after joining the game.
Melvin Minter, played two, won two, who’d started nervously but made up for it with a couple of great stops and some clean catches, clipped sub Matt Rush and the Essex boys were awarded a stoppage-time penalty. Murphy scored from the spot in Southend’s midweek won over Dover Athletic, but he’d gone off injured a few minutes earlier, so up stepped 21-year-old Sam Dalby. The big man had hit the roof of the stand with a second-half shot from open play, and he nearly matched that from 12 yards with a spot-kick he’ll want to erase from his memory, denying the possibility of more nervous nineties for Spireites.
Into the final minute of the five bonus ones, with Town up at the right end, Miller was clipped by Blades loanee Kacper Lopata, and the Scot unwisely reacted. A melee saw Chesterfield’s own Zak Brunt subsequently get involved, leading to him and the man whose pinpoint cross provided the equaliser for Khan being dismissed. A great performance by the threadbare squad had a layer or two of gloss removed as the subsequent three-match ban (Weymouth, Solihull Moors & Altrincham) for the left-sider hit home.
Next week Jamie Grimes will be back after his one-match ban and hopefully Curtis Weston will be able to play for more than 20 minutes or so he was on the park, as the Spireites go into a game that could see them end the day at the top of the league against a team that has been beaten in the only two meetings between the clubs.
Whilst Josef Yarney is no longer at Weymouth, leaving after just one NL game to play in India, ex-Spireites keeper Ross Fitzsimons is ever-present in the Terras’ team this term. He’s kept clean sheets in the last two games, both won, so nothing can be taken for granted.
Ball number 20, with Mansfield Town and Buxton in the draw, along with old foes Rotherham United and Port Vale, Monday night’s draw is a must-watch event.
Phil’s Positive: Into round two, Curtis Weston back on the roster, Luke Croll assimilated into the squad and a terrific atmosphere from a great travelling contingent. Felt like a proper game!
The Spireites’ next game is on Saturday, November 13, at home to Weymouth, kick-off 3pm. The Community Trust is encouraging as many current and former service personnel to attend the Remembrance Fixture. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org for details.
Team v Southend United (3-4-2-1 to start): Minter; Kerr, Croll, Whittle; King, Oyeleke, McCourt (Weston 76), Miller; Mandeville (Tshimanga 76), Khan (Kellermann 64); Payne (Tyson 66)
Subs not used: Loach
Goals: Khan 5, Croll 14, Tshimanga 79 (Chesterfield), Murphy 4 (Southend)
Booked: King, Payne, Weston (Chesterfield)
Sent-off: Miller (Chesterfield), Brunt (Southend) – both 90+5 minutes
Attendance: 4,713 (291 from Southend)