Tooley’s Take

Phil Tooley takes a look at the game and its context  

Chesterfield 2 Altrincham 2 National League Match #17

All Spireites are gutted again. Three home draws this season, with wins snatched away at the very end in all three. There’s a bit of a pattern there. Same as the pattern that the team doesn’t lose at home. Same as the pattern that the team has picked up more away points than anyone else. Same as the pattern that the team keeps keeping clean sheets. Same as the pattern that’s seen Chesterfield behind for 45 National League minutes this season from a total of 1,530 minutes plus stoppage time, that’s less than 3%, compared to being in front for 882 minutes, or nearly 58% of the time. Blooming patterns, don’t you hate them!

All that’s been achieved with a fantastic team: Minter; Carline, Gunning, Hollis, Maguire; King, Clarke, Rowley, Miller; Asante, Rowe. Subs: Denton, Kerr. That’s a team that would do pretty well in the National League. That’s a team full of players that didn’t feature on the park against Altrincham due to injury, illness or, in the case of Calvin Miller, suspension. Keeper Melvin Minter was, of course, the one and only unused sub. 

When James Rowe told me on 1866 Sport straight after the game that Jeff King had joined the queue for the treatment table until at least mid-January and Manny Oyeleke may also be knocking on that unwelcoming door, he went on to marvel at what his team had achieved during the evening and over recent weeks. Seven games, picking up seventeen points since that three winless game run (two were drawn) against Torquay United, Woking and Wrexham in September & October. 

The rest of the current top ten’s points over their last seven games, compared to the Spireites’ measly 17? Boreham Wood 15, Grimsby Town 9, Bromley 12, FC Halifax Town 13, Notts County 14, Solihull Moors 13, Wrexham 14, Stockport County 13, Dagenham & Redbridge 7. But when you concede a couple late on, longer term patterns tend to be forgotten. 

This was, for me, the first game where that list of unavailable players made a significant difference. The lack of balance on the bench, coupled with Oyeleke’s half-time substitution, combined to make the Spireites look jaded against a more than decent side who, at 2-0, threw their game plan out of the window and began to move towards gung-ho territory, helped by the equaliser being scored in the sixth minute of the four added on. 

In Ryan Colclough and Matty Kosylo, they had two dangermen on from the start and when AJ Leitch-Smith, a Crewe Alexandra veteran of the memorable 5-5 draw in 2010, came off the bench, their approach paid off and they celebrated their point with plenty of passion. 

It had looked so different at the break. Liam Mandeville, in an unfamiliar right wing-back role, saw his in-the-D-shot loop off a Robins’ leg to nestle in the back of the net. As at Solihull Moors three days earlier, Kabongo Tshimanga scored just before the break, making it goals for him in his last seven appearances (eight is the club record), and everything was set for a home win and that view prevailed until Kosylo hit a decent shot to pull one back and enable Leitch-Smith to rob Chesterfield of a four-point lead at the summit. The fantastic 5,000 were stunned into a déjà vu induced silence. 

The ref left the park with boos ringing in his ears, the actual added versus the predicted added time being the major issue, and all Spireites metaphorically wept, though the pain was eased a little when the other results were confirmed, then we all wept again when we heard the news on King, the Spireites’ leading assistor of the season, joining the injury list.

Yes it hurts, yes we’re frustrated at losing points at the death again, yes we’re worried about the injury list. Alternatively, we can put a positive spin on things and say, yes, we’re top of the league, yes, we’re one of only three teams unbeaten at home in the NL this season, yes, no other team has only lost once this season, yes, we’ve a goal difference seven better than anyone else, yes, we’ve a red hot striker with four more NL goals than anyone else, yes, we’ve got a gaffer whose NL record in his first year at the club is P50, W29, D14, L7 PTS 101, a record of over two points a game, yes we’re getting our highest ever NL crowds because the club and the team is in a good place. 

Hard to take the result, hard to take in the progress of the last year. Happy 50th gaffer, I’m polishing my boots for Saturday!

Phil’s Positive: If you’re going to drop two points at the death when you’re top of the table, do it on a day when none of the top seven at kick-off time manage a win. 

The Spireites’ next game is set for 3pm on Saturday, November 27 at Maidenhead, assuming the Covid in their camp isn’t an issue. Can’t make it? Catch the game on 1866 Sport. 

Team v Altrincham (3-4-2-1 to start): Loach; Williams, Grimes, Croll; Mandeville, Oyeleke (McCourt 46), Weston, Whittle; Khan (Tyson 82), Kellermann (Payne 71); Tshimanga 

Sub not used: Minter

Goals: Mandeville 10, Tshimanga 43 (Chesterfield), Kosylo 84, Leitch-Smith 90+6 (Altrincham)

Referee: Aaron Jackson

Booked: Weston, Kellermann (Chesterfield), Whitehead (Altrincham). Spireites boss James Rowe also indicated he’d been shown the yellow card right at the end of the game. 

Attendance: 5,273 (166 from Altrincham)