Phil Tooley takes a look at the game and its context
Torquay United 2 Chesterfield 0
National League Match #43
After bad defeats, there’s always talk of ‘worst ever’ or similar, and whilst this will have been close to many of the potential nadir moments of the Spireites’ National League career, whilst driving along in the Devon sunshine with the roof down on the car, the final scores of the afternoon games came in and Dagenham & Redbridge lost at ten-man Solihull Moors whilst Boreham Wood threw away a two-goal lead to draw at Yeovil Town.
It made things feel better. Only a bit, mind. But between 12.30pm and full-time, the performance we care about was woeful, unacceptable at any time, unbelievable with the play-offs all but there.
I remember about 45 years ago, I can’t recall the match Town lost, but the Derbyshire Times headline was along the lines of ‘No-one likes a gutless loser’ and when the final whistle at Plainmoor blew, my first thoughts were based around those harsh words, something I’ve not had to think about all too often in modern times.
Torquay played okay, nothing special, their two great talents, Conor Lemonheigh-Evans and Armani Little, were way off their best (good job really) and their centre-back Ali Omar won the Man of the Match award, showing a lack of attacking guile, and in truth, they were far from invincible.
In the first half, only a couple of Asa Hall shots caused Scott Loach to work hard whilst Joe Quigley, offside too frequently, and Akwasi Asante, pretty anonymous for an hour, worked hard, there was nothing positive for any Spireite to get their teeth into. However, a bright start to the second-half came along but melted away far too quickly in the Devon heat and United took the lead with one of those turning attack into concession moments that have blighted Chesterfield in recent times.
Ten minutes later, with only a Danny Rowe special that hit the post to purr about, those that have seen the telly images felt the penalty award was harsh. At the time, my one look in real-time had me thinking Jim Kellermann was reckless, bordering on foolish, for putting his arm across Little in a not in the least dangerous position and giving the referee a choice. Pen or not, there was a decision to be made. Spot-kick. Game over.
Paul Cook’s hand won’t have been helped by the fact that neither Gavin Gunning nor Saidou Khan had been able to train in the week, and it looked like both Oyeleke and Asante left the game with injuries, not that they’d been ripping up the show, but for the second Saturday in a row, no-one played anywhere near their potential (maybe a tad harsh on Tyrone Williams at Plainmoor) and the gaffer will be wondering what his part in that will have been and what needs to be done to get the point that’s needed against Woking on Sunday to earn a place in the play-offs. My feeling is the players are struggling to transition from a ‘this is exactly how you do it’ to the ‘go out and express yourselves’ style that is Cook’s trademark.
Truth is, too many players are making far too many mistakes, on and off the ball, delivering passes or making decisions. It’s painful to watch as we know what the guys are capable of. Changing formations and amending jobs will add confusion, of course, but suddenly being unable to deliver an accurate ten yard pass or get a cross in from a perfect position or fail to head a ball into space when unmarked is nothing to do with what position you or others are playing in. At least the fans put in a performance, 894 on a Saturday lunchtime televised game and a 500+ mile round trip. Quality.
The same chewing over the what might (and should) have been will also be rampant at Boreham Wood and Dagenham & Redbridge, because, when it comes down to the only thing that doesn’t lie, the league table, a draw at home to Woking will still have us all hoping that this is our year, even though at this very moment in time, it’s extremely difficult to reconcile that thought.
Phil’s Positive: The ice cream we had at Teignmouth shortly after the game was lovely; mine was vanilla & honeycomb, Sylvia went for Coffee Latte. Flakes in both of course.
The Spireites’ next game is on Sunday, May 15, kick-off 3pm athome to Woking. Can’t get to the match? Listen in on 1866 Sport from 2.30pm.
Team v Torquay (3-5-2 to start): Loach; Williams, Gunning, Grimes; King, Weston (Khan 82), Oyeleke (Kellermann 46), Mandeville Whittle; Quigley, Asante (Rowe 57)
Subs not used: Denton, Maguire
Goals: Duke-McKenna 70, Little (pen) 80
Referee: Thomas Kirk
Booked: King, Rowe, Mandeville (Chesterfield)
Attendance: 3,075 (894 from Chesterfield)