Tooley’s Take

Phil Tooley takes a look at the game and its context  

Maidenhead United 3 Chesterfield 2 National League Match #22

Any long road has bumps along the way. The worst ones are the ones you don’t see coming, and few Spireites would have predicted this defeat. But the Maidenhead road has always punctured Chesterfield’s progress, and credit to them, they played out of their skins, whilst James Rowe’s title chasers had a pretty bad day at the office.

The first half was so uncharacteristic, passes going astray time and again, individual duels lost, second balls not won, but Jeff King’s second direct free-kick in two games meant that there was only a single goal in it at the break, so it was game on despite a lethargic 45, as far removed from the second half at Barnet as imaginable.

The goal-machine turned in style to level with over half-an-hour remaining, and every Spireite breathed a huge sigh of relief, a win seemed odds-on, a draw to return to the top was certain. 

As we know, the National League doesn’t work like that. Chesterfield continued to up the pace for ten minutes or so, but the Magpies gradually repelled the attacks and started to look more confident. They nicked a couple of corners, their only ones of the game, and from the second, a Spireites 1969-70 special, a near post flick and a far post conversion, and the visitors trailed again with 11 plus bits remaining. 

The gaffer brought on a third forward, but Chesterfield didn’t respond in the manner we all hoped and expected, as the hosts grew in confidence and their game management was to go for the jugular rather than the corner flag. There was no hint of hanging on, with the most likely outcome seeming to be a fourth for the strugglers. The script had been well and truly ripped up and 323 Spireites trudged home crestfallen. 

We can all cogitate about what went wrong, why the listlessness from those in blue, or we can look at the defeat in context of the season to date, in context of JR’s time at the club. The last NL loss, at Woking, was followed by 12 unbeaten and 28 points gained. The previous defeat in a points offering encounter was at home to Torquay United on May Day Bank Holiday last year. That was followed by 13 unbeaten and 31 points earned. This squad of players and this backroom staff seem to know how to react to defeat. 

More of the same will do nicely, as would a repeat performance by Maidenhead when they host FC Halifax Town on Saturday, as would a draw next Tuesday when the Shaymen take on Boreham Wood. 

Kabongo Tshimanga’s 21st league goal of the season means that only 14 different men have scored more than him in a Chesterfield FC season, just three of them in my lifetime (Alan Birch 22, Craig Davies 23 and Jack Lester 25), and the front man still has half a season left to add to his mightily impressive tally, and he’ll already have Aldershot Town in his sights. He scored against them on the opening day of this season when Spireites won 2-0 at the Recreation Ground, whilst last season, he scored for Boreham Wood in both home and away games against the Shots. Keeping that run going would be extremely helpful. 

We’ll all have woken up on Wednesday morning with a metaphoric hangover (with a sprinkling of real ones I suspect). I’m sure the players will know what went wrong and I’m sure the manager will know how to put things right. Just think Torquay and Woking and look at the outcomes after those disappointments. Aldershot beware. 

Phil’s Positive: Let’s look at a sequence: 8, 9, 7, 8, 7, 5, 10, 5, 11, 5. None the wiser? That’s the number of games the last ten champions of the National League have lost during the season as a whole. At the halfway stage, this season, the Spireites have lost just two. On track. 

The Spireites’ next game is at home to Aldershot Town on Saturday, January 22, kick-off is 3pm. If you can’t make it, join me on 1866 Sport for full commentary. 

Team v Maidenhead (3-4-2-1 to start): Loach; Williams, Grimes (Payne 80), Croll; King, Oyeleke, Weston, Whittle; Mandeville (Khan 72), Kellermann (Asante 46); Tshimanga.

Subs not used: Maguire, Miller

Goals: King 45+3, Tshimanga 56 (Chesterfield), Kelly 8, 79, Sparkes 21 (Maidenhead)

Referee: James Durkin

Booked: Croll, Mandeville (Chesterfield), Donnellan (Maidenhead) 

Attendance: 1,232 (323 from Chesterfield)