Tooley’s Take

Phil Tooley takes a look at the game and its context  

Chesterfield 1 King’s Lynn Town 0.National League Match #20

This was Tommy Widdrington’s third NL game in charge of King’s Lynn Town. His reign started with a win over fellow strugglers Dover Athletic, only their third victory of the campaign, and in his second game, at second-placed FC Halifax Town, it was still 0-0 after more than an hour (they eventually lost 2-0). 

Jack Lester’s former Grimsby Town team-mate has clearly solidified the Linnets’ rear-guard and Liam Mandeville’s 51stminute goal (RIP Kelvin Bigg, perfect timing there from Mandy) was quicker than the second-placed Shaymen managed for them to nose in front, so whilst it was low-key and somewhat frustrating, the lowly opponents have clearly toughened up of late. 

Hats-off to stand-in referee Jack Hall, scheduled as the fourth official, but he stepped in at short-notice when the appointed man in the middle took ill just before kick-off, and he booked Dan Bowry for time-wasting after just 35 minutes, in what was another low-key show. Just what you want to see (and not notice) from the chief official. Well done Sheffield & Hallamshire’s Mr Hall. Whilst I can’t be certain, I think that’s his first match in the middle at this level, great start!

Alex Whittle hit the side netting. That’s the first half dealt with. After the break, the Spireites immediately looked half a yard sharper and Mandeville’s persistence, having slipped on the ball, was rewarded with the goal, after which the lead never looked in danger, and Kabongo Tshimanga’s one-on-one apart, it didn’t look like being added to too often either. Second half was much better, but Town were far from their best. 

How refreshing it is to be able to reflect on a below-par show which achieved the objective of bagging three points. I’ll settle for 20 more of them this season! 

Apparently, Arsenal played really well on Saturday lunchtime, but champions Manchester City got the win. Performances are very important, the foundation of success, but in football, the measure of success is three points; champions and potential champions are good at getting that equation right. 

Liverpool’s recent defeat at Leicester City also means the Spireites are the only team in the top six levels of English football with just a single league defeat to date. Some record. 

A word for Scott Loach in his 20th points offering game for James Rowe’s team, this was his 11th clean sheet. Pretty good in any circumstances. In Chesterfield’s case, for keepers who’ve played 20 or more league games for the team, the three best clean sheet percentages are Andy Beasley 48%, Steve Hardwick 45% and Mike Pollitt 41%. Loach tops them all at 55%. Long may that percentage continue. 

Was Chelsea on players’ minds? I’m sure they’d all say ‘no’ but I’m equally sure if I asked the 6,000+ Spireites at the match, there’d be a high proportion of ‘yes’ votes. Everyone put in a shift, but no-one was close to making it their best show of the season and picking a Man of the Match was tough. Plenty of contenders, mainly as it was a much of a muchness adequate sort of show. Whittle, Jeff King, Calvin Miller and Curtis Weston, all possibles, but no real probables! 

With nine subs allowed next week, it looks like JR may be able to fill the bench as the treatment table begins to shed a few members. King hopped off it this week and by all accounts, Laurence Maguire, Luke Croll and Joe Rowley are close to joining in, though with the likes of Carline, Clarke, Hollis, Denton and Rowe all remaining unavailable, there’s still some serious talent excluded from matchday availability. 

The next week will all be about the FA Cup, 25 years on from our greatest season in the competition. I’m not a betting man, but I’ve put £20 on a Town win at 70-1 odds. You never know, TT’s side may not be at the races. Let’s all just enjoy the occasion, we all know our lads will do us proud. 

Phil’s Positive: Jeff King putting in a 90-minute shift plus Liam Mandeville scoring a third goal in his last four starts. 

The Spireites’ next game, just in case you’ve not heard, is at Stamford Bridge as JR’s lads visit the European champions, Chelsea, in the FA Cup third round on Saturday, January 8, kick-off 5.30pm.

Team v King’s Lynn (3-4-2-1 to start): Loach; Williams,Gunning (Grimes 64), Whittle; King, Oyeleke (Kellermann 67), Weston, Miller; Mandeville, Khan; Tshimanga (Asante 90+3). 

Subs not used: Kerr, Payne

Goal: Mandeville 51 (Chesterfield)

Referee: Jack Hall

Booked: A Jones, Bowry (King’s Lynn)

Attendance: 6,328 (93 from King’s Lynn)