Phil Tooley takes a look at the game and its context
Stockport County 2 Chesterfield 2 National League Match #26
There’s a new entry gone into some dictionaries overnight. Spirit: A distilled drink, ghost of a dead person and (the new bit), what the Chesterfield squad showed over 105 minutes at Edgeley Park in February 2022.
Despite surrendering a two-goal lead, rarely can a single point have been celebrated as much, such was the quality of Spireites’ rear-guard action after the leaders, with Ten Big Ws on the bounce, hit quick-fire long-rangers in the immediate aftermath of Jeff King’s red card. The momentum change was immediate and Dave Challinor’s team smelled victory, and every Chesterfield fan there or listening in feared and probably expected defeat, I know I did.
It looked a home banker with 25 minutes (plus ten big added ones) left, but Kerr, Grimes and Croll, ably assisted by many others, in particular the resurgent Jak McCourt, put in as magnificent a show as you could possibly imagine and hope for. On the final whistle, every player was spent and the body language between the two squads was in total contrast. Those in red celebrated after chucking away a two-goal lead and those in County blue trudged off in a manner normally associated with defeat. Bizarre but brilliant.
Right from the off, this was clearly a game that shouldn’t be gracing the National League. The crowd, to put it into perspective, was almost 3,000 higher than the same fixture on a Wednesday night in 1990, in the (then) Division Four play-off semi-final. Just think about that for a moment, what an effort from both sets of fans.
Early exchanges showed that in Scott Quigley and Paddy Madden on one side and Kabongo Tshimanga and Akwasi Asante on the other, both squads were of an incredibly high standard. Quigley bounced Fraser Kerr off him a couple of times before Spireites’ strength and spirit began to come to the fore. The physicality shown by Danny Webb’s men throughout the contest was immense.
Manny Oyeleke’s dink for another Kabby special rapidly followed by Asante’s snapshot to double the lead sent every Spireite into an unbelievable place. That’s what we all wanted, but none of us dared to expect it would be quite like that.
Shortly after the second, County ‘scored’ – at least most of us bar the ref and his assistant thought so – if Geoff Hurst’s ‘66 goal was over the line, Ash Palmer’s header from a corner must have bulged the netting, but the visitors rode their luck (dictionary definition: Luck, something that Spireites never seem to have) and turned round in a fantastic position.
Then the game-changer. King’s challenge on Ryan Rydel initially seemed to have the referee allowing play to go on, but with the incident right in front of the home dugout, there seemed to be a mind change, a foul awarded, and a red card brandished. I’ve not seen a video of the tackle, so can’t say how good or bad it was, but like Mr Tallis, I initially thought Chesterfield were being allowed to build an attack down the right, but that wasn’t to be.
Minutes later, after Will Collar and Ryan Croasdale had scored with real crisp shots, the entire mood and expectation levels around the ground changed. It was a matter of how many more the free-scoring Hatters would bag, but we all probably under-estimated what Danny Webb has achieved in the last couple of weeks, with subtle time-wasting and maximising the multi-ball system in particular of a very high standard! The defending was pretty good too.
When I interviewed McCourt after the game, his and the squad’s love for Danny Boy was palpable, the effort we’d seen to protect the goal was of the highest order, and the somewhat strange phenomenon of celebrating chucking away a two-goal lead was truly memorable.
That’s just why we all love football and those that don’t, just don’t get it.
Phil’s Positive: Jak McCourt, the midfielder who came in from the cold, great job against the Daggers, unbelievable shift at Edgeley Park. Captured the wonderful team spirit that was fully evident throughout.
The Spireites’ next game is at struggling Weymouth on Saturday, February 12, kick-off 3pm. Can’t get? Listen in on 1866 Sport from 2.30 pm. Thanks to all listeners to the Stockport game, which attracted record listening figures!
Team v Stockport (3-4-1-2 to start): Loach; Kerr, Grimes, Croll (Miller 86); King, McCourt, Oyeleke, (Kellermann 69), Whittle; Mandeville; Asante (Williams 54), Tshimanga.
Subs not used: Quigley, Khan
Goals: Tshimanga 16. Asante 21 (Chesterfield), Collar 56, Croasdale 65
Referee: Scott Tallis
Booked: Grimes, Whittle, Loach, Kellermann (Chesterfield), Hippolyte (Stockport)
Sent-off: King 54 (Chesterfield)
Attendance: 10,236 (1,581 from Chesterfield)