Tooley’s Take

Tooley’s Take

Phil Tooley takes a look at the game and its context  

Chesterfield 0 Wrexham 2

National League Match #29

At 8.30pm; wow, what a first half, best 45 for a while, Cookie has got them purring. 

At 9.15pm; two down, two close-range concessions from corners, a previous Achilles heel returns, desperately disappointing, yet again, a huge turnaround for the worst. 

Being a Spireite over the last two weeks has been tough, very tough indeed, and this game added to the litany of exasperating events, following on from lost leads, injured players and red cards against Stockport County, Weymouth and Solihull Moors. And what made it even tougher to take was that the first half showed just how well this threadbare squad can play.

Wrexham got into the home box in any meaningful fashion on just three first half occasions, two right-sided free-kicks and a left-wing corner. To be fair, defender Aaron Hayden had a couple of chances from those set plays but didn’t capitalise. 

At the other end, keeper Rob Lainton was in fine fettle, diving in all directions to stop a myriad of shots from several different players to keep his side in the game. How many times has not scoring during a purple patch come back to haunt us? I don’t know the answer to that, but whatever it is, we can add one on to it. You could almost feel it in your bones. 

The Red Dragons lifted it right from the start of the second half. Town also began to concede ever more free kicks in dangerous crossing positions that meant that territory gains by Wrexham became more frequent, longer and more dangerous. Ollie Palmer twice fluffed his lines before he bagged a brace, both from perfectly delivered balls in from the right corner flag (the second one featured a clear handball say those who’d seen a replay), and the day felt done. 

There were positive cameos from Tom Denton and Joe Rowley, the latter making his first Spireites appearance since last May, whilst over the course of the 90, Tom Whelan, playing deeper that he generally did in his first spell, was superb. 

But searching for positives after picking up just two points from four games is never easy, especially when the team has been pretty good at averaging two points per game for a long while. It’s a real testing time. Confidence amongst the players has clearly been affected and confidence amongst the crowd has also seen unwanted erosion. When was the last time we saw empty blue seats several minutes before the final whistle?

None of us want to throw in the injury or suspension tag, but what NL team wouldn’t miss Carline, Hollis, Croll, King, Weston, Oyeleke, McCourt, Clarke, Tshimanga and Rowe. Indeed, any team with those ten outfield players starting would be challenging for top spot, that’s just how tough it was against Wrexham, who we must also credit for turning round their performance, which to be honest, was well below their expectations until Phil Parkinson could intervene at the break.

Over 1,800 Wrexham fans made the effort to come to the game, a fantastic show, and it gave rise to a fantastic atmosphere and the total crowd of 7,854 is the biggest Tuesday night crowd ever on Whittington Moor and the biggest Tuesday night attendance this century. 

The record Technique crowd, against Rotherham United (5-0, please reminisce NOW) was a Friday night and the Preston play-off was on a Thursday. Previously the best Tuesday night crowd on The Moor was 6916 against Huddersfield Town in 2012. I’m still searching for a bigger Tuesday one at Saltergate, so far I’ve gone back to the mid-1990s and the only bigger midweek crowds were (for example 7,960 v Man City and 8,165 for a certain 5-2 win, reminisce again) were not Tuesday games. 

We’re all a little hacked off, so we should be, but let’s all accept, being hacked off when you’re in second spot is not quite as bad as being hacked off when you’re in danger of dropping into regional football. Of course we can still do this, we’re second in the table!

Phil’s Positive: The first half was terrific, with Whelan and Mandeville excellent, If the team can sustain that level of performance for 90, positive results will soon return.

The Spireites’ next game is being televised on BT Sport, at home to Yeovil Town on Saturday, February 26, kick-off 5.20 pm. Can’t get to watch? Listen in on 1866 Sport. 

Team v Wrexham (3-4-1-2 to start): Loach; Williams (Rowley 80), Grimes, Maguire; Mandeville (Khan 85), Kellermann, Whelan, Whittle; Miller; Asante, Quigley (Denton 76).

Subs not used: Wharton, Kerr

Goals: Palmer 58, 68 (Wrexham)

Referee: Garreth Rhodes

Booked: Williams, Whelan (Chesterfield), Hayden, Lainton (Wrexham)

Attendance: 7,854 (1,852 from Wrexham)