Tooley’s Take

Tooley’s Take

Phil Tooley takes a look at the game and its context  

Barnet 1 Chesterfield 4 National League Match #21

By every accepted parameter, the goal-less first half was pretty good for Chesterfield, as an away team. Barnet, under Dean Brennan’s control, had picked up a more than decent 26 points in his 14 games in the hotseat, but against a form team, the Spireites carved out great chances from both strikers and both wing-backs, with Jeff King seeing a great effort tipped onto the bar by a keeper who played a blinder. 

Barnet had chances, invariably from several well delivered set-pieces, though their open play had largely been negated by solid defensive work. But 0-0 at the break felt a bit flat, though in any normal, run-of-the-mill season, plaudits would have been plentiful for the visitors’ first more than solid 45. 

Calvin Miller, who’d picked up a knock at Chelsea, was subbed by Alex Whittle for the start of the second half, and he became the catalyst to remind us all that this is no run-of-the-mill season, as James Rowe’s charges immediately slipped through the gears and engaged maximum speed cruise control to rapidly remove any chance of a home victory. The second half was tip-top, with (when the game was won) elements of champagne football creeping in. Pirouettes and fancy flicks from Town right in front of a noisy band of travelling supporters. What’s not to like? 

On 49, Jamie Grimes headed away and Liam Mandeville picked out Whittle whose inch-perfect cross enabled Kabongo Tshimanga to make it 20 for the season in league & cup. Quality football. Grimes also played a part in the second when his header was saved and Akwasi Asante doubled the advantage from the loose ball. He’s back!

This season’s King of Assists, Jeff of that ilk, took advantage of Barnet’s switch to gung-ho, to burst forwards. He looked like he may go alone, but Tshimanga read the situation perfectly and left his marker somewhere close to the nearby tube station and was in Position A, and King’s perfectly weighted pass teed him up for the goal that was his 20th in the National League this season, and his fifth against Barnet. 

To put that 20-goal marker into perspective, he’s only the 25th different Spireite ever to have reached that magical number in a league season, and we’re not yet at the halfway mark! Only three different players have ever reached 30, the last being 66 years ago. What odds?

But the best was still to come, King’s late 30+ yards free-kick, which may have clipped a defensive ear to give it some loop, but what a cracker it was, definite Goal of the Season contender (and there have already been a few). The game was already won, the points were already on the bus, but the volume from the fantastic 584 (plus me and Josh Marsh on 1866 Sport duty) was the loudest of all four goals. It was very, very enjoyable. 

Credit to Barnet, despite being mullered in the second half, their attitude never dropped, and they found a way through to pierce the Spireites’ travelling defence for only the seventh time this season (three being at Woking and two at Dagenham) and deny Scott Loach a clean against his former club. The Bees were nowhere near as bad as a 4-1 home defeat would suggest, it’s just that in the second half, Chesterfield were right at the top of their game. Any NL team would have been seen off. 

The official attendance was 1,777, a key date in the history of our town, the year the Chesterfield Canal was opened. Let’s hope the remaining 23 games this season can be navigated as serenely as a trip in a narrow boat with few tricky locks to be unpicked. If there’s a sprinkling of 45’s along the lines of the second half at Barnet, barging our way to the promised land looks a distinct possibility. 

Phil’s Positive: Asante and Tshimanga both scoring and looking like they can hunt successfully as a pair, something we’ve been desperate to witness for a long time. 

The Spireites’ next game is at Maidenhead United on Tuesday, kick-off is 7.45pm. If you can’t make it, join me on 1866 Sport for full commentary as the Spireites seek to beat the Magpies at the sixth time of asking and return to the summit. 

Team v Barnet (3-4-1-2 to start): Loach; Williams, Grimes, Croll; King, Oyeleke, Weston, Miller (Whittle 46); Mandeville (Khan 80); Tshimanga, Asante (Kellermann 70). 

Subs not used: Maguire, Payne

Goals: Tshimanga 49, 71, Asante 58, King 89 (Chesterfield), Richards-Everton (90+3)

Referee: Adrian Quelch

Booked: Croll, Grimes* (Chesterfield), Woods (Barnet) 

*Waiting on confirmation of bookings. Several agencies reported Weston being booked and not Grimes, but this is my view! 

Attendance: 1,777 (584 from Chesterfield)