Tooley’s Take

Tooley’s Take

Phil Tooley takes a look at the game and its context  

Chesterfield 0 Aldershot Town 0 National League Match #23

It’s a measure of just how far that James Rowe has transformed the on-the-pitch fortunes of the Spireites that there’s a feeling of frustration around the supporter base after a result that returns the team to the top of the table!

That frustration, some of it fuelled by the fear that serious rivals Stockport County have won five on the bounce, Notts County have four straight wins under their belt and Wrexham have taken four wins in their last five, mirrors that which followed the last Technique stalemate, at home to Wealdstone in May. That match saw the Spireites drop to the final play-off place and, with one of the remaining two games being at FC Halifax Town, who were just two points behind, the possibility of a season extension was seriously under threat. Two wins against two form teams followed and the initial aim was achieved.

There was also frustration as, for the first time since that Wealdstone match, the team didn’t score at home despite having plenty of possession and territory, which led to enough chances, but none were taken, mainly because Aldershot Town showed an unbelievable commitment to the cause, working to crowd out and exasperate their hosts at every opportunity. Credit to them. 

The great thing about football is that we all have different opinions, different favourite players, different views on tactics, different views on team selection, we see different Man of the Match contenders and we have different scapegoats. Long may that continue!

We can blame (or praise) the pitch, the referee, the manager, the starting XI, the substitutions, the style of play, the in-play decisions by the players, the opponents, the number of ball retrievers in the stands or the quality of the pies, but you’ll struggle to find two supporters who agree on every aspect of any one game, a great thing. 

After a sluggish start, Town grew into the game and it was one of those ‘we could do without half-time coming’ sort of matches as Chesterfield started pumping up the pressure from around the half-hour mark and, after the break, territorial domination was even greater. Trouble was, everywhere there was a blue player, there were two yellow shirts and several of those in yellow were decent footballers who could cause a problem on the counter-attack. The Shots had picked up a two-points-a-game average in the nine matches leading up to this one, top of the table form. 

New signing Joe Quigley, the first Spireite in history to have a surname beginning with ‘Q’ we’re informed by club historian Stuart Basson (Just ‘Z’ to go!), had a couple of headed and one shooting chance, Saidou Khan brushed the bar from range and there were numerous other shots and scrambles. But the final act didn’t go according to plan, feeding the frustration born from the fear of not taking this opportunity to get out of this hard-nosed section and back into the EFL. 

In truth, we’re all a bit scared that despite being the best side so far this season (the table proves that), we may not make it. We all care that much, it hurts, and with Stockport and co on a roll, that fear turns to being terrified of failure to step up. 

We can debate endlessly about how effective the combination of the front three, back three or midfield two were, but we all know that the manager has assembled a squad of players more than capable of beating any team in the section and bouncing back from adversity. Incidentally, the Williams-Croll-Maguire combo was the tenth different back three selected this season, and eight of them have kept clean sheets, showing squad rotation definitely has its place. Also worth noting is that Laurence Maguire, back after almost three months, hasn’t tasted NL defeat in his last 17 appearances, the longest run of any of the squad. 

Town’s next home game is on February 5 against Dagenham & Redbridge. That means that, for only the fifth time in history, the team will go into February unbeaten at home. Last time? 1984/85 championship winners. 

Disappointed with the result? Of course. Fearful of failure? You bet. Happy with the progress this season? Stupid question, what’s not to like about being top? 

Phil’s Positive: Despite the frustration, take a look at the National League table and look who’s top! And you couldn’t avoid smiling when Big Tom returned, having not played in a year. 

Spireites’ next game is at Eastleigh on Saturday, January 29. Kick-off is 5.20pm, because it’s on BT Sport. If you’ve not got access to the stream, I’ll be there with 1866 Sport, providing live commentary. 

Team v Aldershot (3-4-1-2 to start): Loach; Williams, Croll, Maguire; King, Khan, Weston, Miller (Whittle 55); Asante (Mandeville 68); Quigley (Denton 83), Tshimanga.

Subs not used: Rowley, Kerr

Referee: Andrew Miller

Booked: Williams, Quigley, King (Chesterfield), Fawole, Kinsella, Harris, Glover, plus assistant manager Tom Prodomo (Aldershot) 

Attendance: 6,422 (171 from Aldershot Town)