Tooley’s Take

Tooley’s Take

Phil Tooley takes a look at the game and its context  

Chesterfield 1 Maidenhead United 0

National League Match #34

Before the game, I checked out which teams we’d played more times than Maidenhead United, but never beaten. Here’s the list ……. Stoke City. That’s it, complete! Twenty times we’ve played the Potters without success. Alan Devonshire’s Magpies were only on six, but it felt a lot more. Part-timers, perennial strugglers, it was an unwanted stat in our locker. 

On a brighter note, Paul Cook v Alan Devonshire was a P1 W1 F6 A0 record, as the ex-West Ham United player was gaffer at Braintree Town when we won there in the FA Cup  in the heady days of 2014. 

That gave me some historical hope, helped by the fact that Maidenhead hadn’t scored in six-and-a-quarter hours, and their team sheet had no sign of their two-goal January hero Josh Kelly, whilst the man who scored the Magpies’ other goal in that 3-2 win, Dan Sparkes, was on the bench alongside Nathan Blissett, who (with Sparkes) were the scorers in last season’s 2-0 defeat. 

United’s matchwinner in their last Technique trip, two-goal Sam Barratt, was also absent injured, as was Ryan Upward, a scorer here in Maidenhead’s first win against us, 3-1 in 2018. Take it from me, I was a happy bunny when I saw their line-up! We were unchanged. I nearly fainted! 

As you’d expect, the visitors started on the front foot and had a couple of decent early chances, but the Spireites soon gained a level of control without getting close to top gear. 

Joe Quigley, having his best game in blue, carved out a couple of chances for himself whilst long-serving Loz headed against the bar, but that familiar feeling of being on top at the break but not leading, and against a team we can’t beat, was a big worry. 

Our favourite keeper wasn’t tested before the interval, but he showed that he really is pretty good in that position with a string of top saves in the second half, and if felt like we’d all see the name of Nathan Ashmore in the Non-League Paper’s Team of the Week and that W-free run would extend. 

Whilst the chance count improved, as did the possession percentage, the game remained a scrappy affair, ultimately settled by a terrific corner of the box shot from Akwasi Asante, which sneaked just inside Ashmore’s right-hand post. 

The 16+5 (which turned into 6) minutes remaining were very nervy, two Achilles heels in one, and Paul Cook looked as frustrated as every watching Spireite as the team seemed to sit back unnecessarily, as he frantically waved his charges towards the northern net. The relief on the final whistle (from a generally decent ref, though shirt-pulling wasn’t his thing) was palpable. 

It was hardly a mullering of the Magpies, but as Danny Webb said to me after the game, if the team plays like that but wins the next ten matches 1-0, none of us will worry! Bang on. 

The clean sheet was Scott Loach’s 15th in the NL – only three times this century has a keeper kept that many, Tommy Lee (20 in 2013/14, champions), Tommy again in 2010/11 (15), another championship  season, plus Mike Pollitt (19) in the controversial 2000/01 promotion season. Augurs well. 

Six of the top eight play each other on Tuesday night. Whilst we are at Altrincham and leaders Stockport County travel to struggling King’s Lynn. The rest of the step-up hopefuls battle it out between themselves. 

Fourth v third is Wrexham against FC Halifax Town, fifth-placed Solihull Moors travel to Grimsby Town (8th) and it’s 7 against 6 as Notts County host Boreham Wood, so a shake-up at the top is almost inevitable. All we can do is get three more points. 

It’s an even stevens record against the Robins, W1 D1 L1, but three of their five goals against us have been in the 84thminute or later, so be prepared to mess up your manicure during the late Moss Lane minutes.  

Phil’s Positive: Just beating Maidenhead United, it’s taken a long, long time, so no longer do we have to refer to them as the Berkshire Bogeymen! Next similar nut to crack, relegated Dover Athletic! P5 W0, they’re up here on St George’s Day. 

The Spireites’ next game is at Altrincham, on Tuesday, March 22, kick-off 7.45 pm. Can’t get to watch? Listen in on 1866 Sportfrom 7pm.

Team v Maidenhead United (4-2-3-1 to start): Loach; King,Grimes, Maguire, Whittle; Kellermann, Whelan (Rowley 63); Khan (Weston 85), Mandeville, Miller (Asante 63); Quigley

Subs not used: Williams, Gunning

Goal: Asante 76 (Chesterfield)

Referee: David Richardson

Booked: Mandeville (Chesterfield), Donnellan, Adams (Maidenhead)

Attendance: 5,518 (55 from Maidenhead)