Phil Tooley takes a look at the game and its context
Chesterfield 3 Dover Athletic 2 National League Match #40
Let’s start with a bit of a stat attack; that was our first ever win over Dover Athletic, the first time the Spireites have won having twice had to equalise since Curtis Weston’s last-minute winner against Wrexham in February 2020, the first National League brace for a midfielder since Charlie Carter scored two against Aldershot Town in August 2018 and the first game at The Technique since the January 2020 goalless draw with AFC Fylde that featured no cards at all.
The win means, mathematically, Paul Cook’s side will guarantee a play-off spot if they reach 81 points, that’s eight more than the current tally with four games to go but should Boreham Wood fail to win at Southend United on Tuesday evening, that will fall to needing just six more points.
If all results go our way, there’s a chance that a win at Bromley could clinch a seasonal extension (on Saturday, the Daggers are at Wealdstone and Boreham Wood at Stockport, though that’s the late kick-off, so we’d know on our way home from South London). It’s getting that close.
Weekend hosts Bromley also play on Tuesday, at home to Aldershot, so there’s a tad more recovery time for Chesterfield, which can only help.
That’s the context, what about the game itself? Another typical ‘you just can’t turn off’ National League game. Bright start, individual error, one down to Michael Gyasi’s busy burst through.
Soon level again with Manny Oyeleke and Saidou Khan combining well to end a 20 NL appearance drought for the scorer. There followed plenty of first-half possession, but nowhere near enough positivity and penetration. That said, Dover were up for it and no easy opponent. Underwhelming first half.
Tom Denton replaced the injured Akwasi Asante and the second half started brightly with Dover’s French keeper Alexis Andre becoming the star of the show with a series of fine saves which not only kept his team in the game but was the foundation that enabled the visitors to potentially win it when some pretty ropey defending from a corner enabled Jake Goodman to shock those in blue.
That said, I reckon that concession won it for Chesterfield. Without it, I could see the game petering out to a draw, but Khan’s second, and one Andre will dread seeing again, straight from the restart, gave the crowd and the team the spark that was needed for Jeff King to bang in the winner.
At 1-1 it was far too flat, a minute later at 2-2, you could sense a home win was on and it subsequently appeared, and we could all go home reciting the ‘at this stage of the season it’s results that count’ mantra.
Seven more scrappy wins, no-one will moan, and we’ll be looking forward to playing Doncaster Rovers next season. Whether you’re Brynner and McQueen or Washington and Hawke, let’s hope we can cue up Elmer Bernstein’s classic theme tune. It would be truly magnificent.
At the start of the season, in the friendlies, one of the major highlights was seeing Oyeleke and Khan together in midfield, a fledgling partnership with oodles of promise.
This was the first time they’d started together in a NL game since New Year’s Day and, unbelievably, only the seventh time in the league season. The team’s results when they’ve both started? WDWWDWW. Not bad, a pair we could do well to maintain. They also started together in the FA Cup win against Southend and in the memorable trip to Stamford Bridge and one of the draws in that sequence was at home to Altrincham. Both players were subbed when Chesterfield were leading 2-0. The other draw was the destined to win comeback game at the Daggers when Jamie Grimes’ red card halted our progress.
As individual starters this season, Oyeleke’s record is W11 D6 L1 and Khan W10 D7 L3. Critical combination, please keep them fit.
Bromley next up, never an easy game, both sides have scored in each of the seven meetings (just one CFC win, three for BFC), with around 40% of the goals coming in the final 15 minutes of the games. Grow your nails this week, they’ll definitely get shorter during the Hayes Lane encounter.
Phil’s Positive: Beating Dover Athletic! In our previous five encounters, four draws and a defeat and an aggregate of just two goals (one of them in the loss), so after doing the same against Maidenhead United last month, it feels great, even though it shouldn’t!
The Spireites’ next game is at Bromley on Saturday, April 30, kick-off 3pm. Can’t get to the match? Listen in on 1866 Sport from 2.30pm.
Team v Dover (3-4-2-1 to start): Loach; Williams, Maguire, Grimes; King, Weston, Oyeleke (McCourt 67), Whittle; Mandeville (Whelan 81), Khan; Asante (Denton 46)
Subs not used: Kellermann, Miller
Goals: Khan 24, 82, King 85 (Chesterfield), Gyasi 14, Goodman 81
Referee: Scott Jackson
Attendance: 5,291 (49 from Dover)