Phil Tooley takes a look at the game and its context
Chesterfield 0 Stockport County 1 National League Match #42
Very much a curate’s egg sort of match from a Spireites perspective. Of course, the partly bad bit was in fact very bad, the result. But the partly good bit was a major step-up in performance compared to the Bromley bashing. That said, I’d rather have seen the worst performance ever and won, and that said, almost anything would have been a step up from Saturday!
I know that many will still think that the performance level remained well below what is needed, and I see exactly where they are coming from, but the opposition that came to The Technique are at the top of the shop for a reason. Their away record is excellent, this was their 15th victory on foreign soil and in their now 21 trips, just 18 goals have been conceded and their scoring average is better than two a game on their days out. Recent wobble or not, they are good. Very good.
Having established County’s credentials, they only won thanks to a controversial penalty (having seen the replay, it was the right call). Seemingly awarded as outside the box by the ref and as a corner by the linesman, somehow the decision was then changed to a penalty, no VAR, not sure of the process used. Paddy Madden, the best man on the park by a mile, missed his last pen but had the guts to step up and roll the ball home. A tough task got tougher.
With winger Elliot Newby giving the man whose arm got in the way for the spot kick, Calvin Miller, a torrid time, County were the better side in the first half, but with Gavin Gunning’s leadership shining again, the defence prevented the Hatters from forcing any pre-break significant action from Scott Loach, though wood was struck by Courtney Duffus. In summary, a pretty good show from the back line, but little up front to remember.
The Spireites stepped things up in the second half. Paul Cook told me his game plan was all about keeping County out and then, in the final 20 or so minutes, bring on Asante and how happy are we to see again Danny Rowe, for a late assault. Fitness levels prevented them being selected from the start, but their addition did see things step up, many Spireites will understandably argue it was too late.
Jamie Grimes blazed over a gilt-edged one and Jeff King forced the game’s only real save from Ben Hinchliffe. Had one or both of those gone in, that Monday evening feeling would have been very different.
Was it a negative approach from the manager or, given match fitness levels, was it a pragmatic one? *Delete as necessary. Your call, neither option can be said to be wrong (or right) as the game was lost and the already shredded nerves and annihilated nails took another turn for the worse.
Similarly, even the optimists will be thinking that if the play-offs are confirmed, either on the English Riviera or after Sunday lunch in a couple of weeks, is the squad in the right shape to take advantage?
Let’s look at the run-in. Five teams in a battle for positions 5 – 7. Let’s assume Notts and Grimsby will take fifth and sixth, it’s clear the Spireites are looking over their shoulders, not ahead. That leaves us, the Daggers and Boreham Wood fighting for seventh. BW travel to Yeovil next Saturday and Grimsby three days later. Even if those two games are won and we lose at Torquay, Chesterfield will still be a point in front going into the final game with Woking, whilst Wood host Solihull.
Dagenham & Redbridge, three behind us with a goal difference worth a point, travel to third place chasing Solihull ahead of hosting potential champions Wrexham. Not a pick your own sort of finale. They need to pick up three points more than us over two games, assuming there’s no hammerings in there so, in short, a draw and a win for Cookie’s crew and we’ll travel to the team in fourth on May 26 (as with everything, subject to change).
I hear many saying we’ll not manage that sequence, and I can’t offer too much solace to argue against that view, but I’m still expecting to play at least one extra game this season and, with Gunning, Rowe and Asante with a bit more fuel in the tank, plus who knows who else (pray now) anything can happen.
Finally, hats off to the Hatters supporters, fantastic. Only the Blades have brought more to Whitt Moor and their presence made it the biggest NL crowd we’ve seen at home. It serves a lesson to us all about how we miss the EFL and many more atmospheres like that, which makes our current travails even harder to bare.
Phil’s Positive: Whilst far from a textbook performance, the basics absent at Bromley were largely back. Plenty of desire and determination that would have been enough against virtually any other NL team.
The Spireites’ next game is on Saturday, May 7, kick-off 12.30pm at Torquay United. Can’t get to the match or watch on TV? Listen in on 1866 Sport from noon.
Team v Stockport (3-4-2-1 to start): Loach; Williams, Gunning, Grimes; King, Weston, Oyeleke, Miller (Asante 70);Mandeville, Kellermann (Khan 56); Denton (Rowe 77)
Subs not used: McCourt, Maguire
Goal: Madden 35 pen (Stockport)
Referee: Elliott Swallow
Booked: Miller, Gunning (Chesterfield), Johnson (Stockport)
Attendance: 9,198 (2,632 from Stockport)