Tooley’s Take

Tooley’s Take

Phil Tooley takes a look at the game and its context  

Weymouth 1 Chesterfield 1 National League Match #27

The sub-text of this column indicates that I take a look at the game and its context. Sadly, never has the context been so clear. 

Every Spireite was devasted, and those of us at the Bob Lucas Stadium were somewhat distressed, not because doomed Weymouth equalised eight minutes into the 12 minutes of stoppage time, but because our hero, our talisman, our scoring superstar was stretchered off and transported to hospital in an ambulance. All of our thoughts are with 24-year-old Kabongo Tshimanga, the Kinshasha Kid, who has already cemented a place in the club’s history with his incredible scoring record, the best goals per game return for a 20-plus man since Mick Dando in 1936. 

Club historian Stuart Basson points out that Dando’s final game that season in which he picked up a campaign ending injury, saw Chesterfield go top of Division Three (North) with 11 games remaining. The next five matches saw Town keep clean sheets and in those 11 games, nine different players stepped up to the mark and scored, and the team ended the season as champions. There’d be no better way to pay homage to Kabby’s contribution to this season that with a bit of Déjà vu. 

Akwasi Asante, last season’s goals king before he picked up a nasty injury, was the National League’s hottest property, and now he looks back to full fitness, we all hope he can match his pre-injury exploits. Three goals since his return indicates he’s well on his way. 

Jeff King will be missing for the next two through suspension and, like Kabby, he’s played a major part in the team’s success, heading the assists and won pens charts. His stats, when he’s started in the NL this season, show a 65% win rate, so his absence at Weymouth can’t be under-estimated. 

Talking of King, his challenge at Stockport County, which led to red, seemed to be carbon copied by Haji Mnoga, who was in the Portsmouth youth set-up when Paul Cook was their gaffer. Undoubtedly both got to the ball, but King’s effort was ruled as reckless, so you have to seriously question why referee Greg Rollason, officiating for only the third time in the National League, didn’t have the same view. I know consequences aren’t necessarily a guarantee of foul play, but the follow through by the Weymouth player was far more reckless than in the Edgeley Park incident. 

We can ponder and hypothesise all we like, but the results stay the same, though no red for King, game won, red for Mnoga, game won. Two reds or two strong but fair tackles, either way, if they were treated in the same way, Chesterfield would be two points better off; theory, not fact!

The game was low-key, scrappy, little to cheer about. Former Spireites keeper Ross Fitzsimons, just as he did when recalled by Notts County to play against us, was in fine form, with a couple of critical early top drawer saves, whilst Scott Loach had nothing of note to deal with.

It all seemed sorted when Alex Whittle read a bobbling ball better that anyone else and burst in to score on 70 but, soon after, Kabby’s day was done, and the injury clearly affected the players. Their colleague and friend screamed in agony as Emma Young and the medics dealt with it extremely professionally, whilst skipper Jamie Grimes and keeper Loach tried to reason with the ref as to why no red card, indeed no foul, was conferred. 

Fraser Kerr’s error that let in Weymouth for their late equaliser enhanced the gloom of the day, but it seemed almost irrelevant, almost inevitable, the bigger picture was much worse. 

Paul Cook, sitting in the stand, only popped down to the touchline to talk with his troops as the medics did their job, showing his leadership qualities. He’s got plenty to think about this week. 

What started as an afternoon of joy and a few lovely minutes joking with Cookie as he stepped off the coach, ended with me struggling to keep it together at the end of the 1866 Sport broadcast. 

Let’s gather strength from the day, just as Chesterfield did in 1936, and finish the job off, easily the best way to thank Kabby and those of his colleagues, Haydn Hollis, Tom Denton, Danny Rowe, Akwasi Asante, George Carline, Jack Clarke, Joe Rowley, Laurence Maguire, Luke Croll and Gavin Gunning, who’ve had to suffer for months at various times during this season. 

Phil’s Positive: There was precious little to be positive about in the immediate aftermath of the game, so as Danny Webb indicated to me afterwards, we’d all have grabbed the position of level on points at the top with 17 games left. Too right. 

The Spireites’ next game is the first of five consecutive home games, against Solihull Moors, on Saturday, February 19, kick-off 3pm. Can’t get? Listen in on 1866 Sport from 2.30 pm, and thanks to all listeners to the Weymouth game. Having broken listening records for the Stockport game, even more tuned in for Cookies’ return. Thank you all. 

Team v Weymouth (3-4-1-2 to start): Loach; Kerr, Grimes, Whittle; Kellermann, McCourt, Oyeleke (Weston 57), Miller (Khan 68); Mandeville; Asante, Tshimanga (Quigley 86).

Subs not used: Williams, Rowley

Goals: Whittle 70 (Chesterfield), Rose 90+8 (Weymouth)

Referee: Greg Rollason

Booked: Kellermann (Chesterfield), Rose (Weymouth)

Attendance: 1,299 (489 from Chesterfield)