Phil Tooley takes a look at the game and its context
Eastleigh 0 Chesterfield 1 National League Match #24
Curtis Weston’s rocket, five days after his 35th birthday, hammered home late on, will live in our memories for a long time. Late goals to nick vital away wins always do, and with it being in a televised fixture, we’ll be treated to multiple angles of the vaunted volley for weeks to come! The 87 minutes played before that sweet shot have already been forgotten!
After a week the likes of which no Spireite has ever witnessed before, it was all eyes on the team in the tea-time-telly-treat, with all of our closest rivals having added three points to their tallies a little earlier. Pressure on.
Danny Webb, without the suspended Jeff King, Town’s leading assistor this season, maintained the 3-4-1-2 formation from the Aldershot game, but with four personnel changes, giving the line-up a balanced look.
Whilst the visitors enjoyed early territorial advantages, gilt-edged chances were lacking, as was quality in the final third, and despite being a game played at a reasonable pace, neither side could lay claim to doing anywhere near enough to brag that it, had it been a boxing match, it would have been stopped.
But one moment of quality provided the knock-out blow, with the source being somewhat unexpected. Weston hadn’t scored in close on 70 appearances in just short of two years, but Webb had pushed him forward a little more than he’s been playing this season and he’d had a couple of chances earlier in the game. When Liam Mandeville’s free-kick was partially cleared, the oldest Spireite in Town delighted the 381 travellers with a genuine Goal of the Season contender. A stunning shot in stark contrast to the scrappy stuff that perpetuated throughout the contest up to that point.
Weston joins Akwasi Asante, Liam Mandeville and Kabongo Tshimanga as Chesterfield players to have scored the only goal in a 1-0 win against Eastleigh, and this represents the Spireites’ fifth straight shooting down of the Spitfires.
Another clean sheet for Scott Loach, who had to work well twice, to grab a low, deflected Tom Whelan corner and use a strong hand to push a Vincent Harper bullet round the post, but apart from those moments, he was largely untested, as was his opposite number, Joe McDonnell.
Plenty of supporters will be wondering where some of the free-flowing football of earlier in the season has gone. The last three games haven’t been easy on the eye, but taking into account the events of the build-up to this game, combined with the success of our championship rivals in midweek and ahead of this game’s kick-off, the trip to Hampshire was all about coming home with three points, so at least that mission was accomplished.
With no King or Manny Oyeleke, two of the team’s key players, there’s plenty of room for improvement and a return to positive permutations of points and performance.
With a bench of Miller, Asante, Denton, Khan and Grimes, the depth is there for the second half of the season, and that depth will be needed over the next two crucial games, at home to the Daggers (on a day Stockport host Dover) and then on to Edgeley Park for a humdinger of a fixture. It won’t be season defining, but it’ll feel like it is on the day!
Apart from the goal, what was the best part of the day? The fish curry I had for my pre-match lunch in Winchester, but the other moment I’ll remember forever was my post-match interview with Danny Webb on 1866 Sport.
After his TV commitments, he had a chat and a hug with his legendary dad Dave by the touchline. I mentioned that moment in the interview and, with clear feelings of love and devotion, he indicated that the conversation with Dad was special as, on Monday, it will be his granddad’s funeral.
What a week of emotion that man’s gone through, which would test the best of us. Condolences, Danny. Football’s important, but it’ll always come second to family.
Phil’s Positive: The win, desperately needed after the 3pm results, with all of our rivals in the top five bagging maximum points, plus the clear pride and delight across the group of players and travelling fans when the goal flew in and when the final whistle sounded.
The Spireites’ next game is at home to Dagenham & Redbridge on Saturday, February 5, kick-off 3pm. Can’t get? Listen in on 1866 Sport.
Team v Eastleigh (3-4-1-2 to start): Loach; Kerr, Croll, Maguire; Williams, Kellermann, Weston, Whittle;Mandeville; Quigley (Asante 66), Tshimanga (Grimes 90+2).
Subs not used: Khan, Denton, Miller
Goal: Weston 88
Referee: Matthew Russell
Booked: Weston (Chesterfield)
Attendance: 3,076 (381 from Chesterfield)