Behind Enemy Lines

Ahead of the Spireites’ National League home game against Weymouth, Kurt Bigg talked to Neil Walton of the Dorset Echo. Neil looks at the Terras’ squad and season so far.

Tom Denton and Akwasi Asante got James Rowe off to the perfect start as Chesterfield manager back in November when the clubs faced each other for the first time ever.

Weymouth were promoted from the National League South last season and have struggled this term.

1. Tom Whelan faces his former club after making the move in December. How much of a loss has he been for Weymouth?

Tom Whelan was at first a big miss for Weymouth, given a number of stand-out performances in the centre of the park.

But the Terras have since reinvested the money gained from his transfer fee to bring in six players in January and pay for accommodation for new signings based from more northerly clubs.

No like-for-like replacement has been made for Whelan, but Weymouth have adapted their formation to a flexible 4-5-1 – with Jake McCarthy, Andy Robinson and Josh McQuoid all part of the engine room since Whelan’s exit.

Form since Whelan left has also picked up, with Weymouth earning 19 points since the turn of the year

2. Who is the Terras’ standout player?

You could make cases for Aston Villa loanee Dominic Revan, who is a classy signing at centre-half, for Cambridge United loanee Dallas, or winger Sean Shields. All three have been excellent since joining the club this season.

But for me, the standout player right now is Josh McQuoid. The former Northern-Ireland international has scored seven goals in all competitions and pops up everywhere on the pitch.

In his Weymouth career he’s usually been asked to play up front or as a number 10, occasionally playing out wide. 

This season manager Brian Stock has integrated McQuoid into the midfield, with a hybridity to his role that enables him to get forward and support Dallas.

It’s been a complete transformation for the Terras’ captain and shows his ability to adapt.

3. The Spireites got the better of Weymouth back in November. What do you think will happen this time?

Chesterfield can expect a hard-fought game. Weymouth are a completely different team since the 2-1 loss to Chesterfield.

Stock’s men are more resilient in defence, keeping four clean sheets since Revan arrived and are generally more tough to break down, allied with an increased fitness achieved by an extra training session in midweek.

Dallas will run down the channels down the sides of the centre-halves, causing them problems, and Weymouth’s wingers and full-backs love to get forward given the chance.

I wouldn’t rule out any result given the open nature of the National League, but my hunch is something like a 1-1 draw.

4. Brian Stock has faced a tough start to his managerial career. How would you assess his time so far?

Stock’s time at the club has been like a footballing cliché – a game of two halves.

From October to December there were a series of losses where Weymouth would take the lead and lose – notably against Wrexham, where they were 2-0 up with 70 minutes gone.

Definitely the biggest negative was the Covid-19 infection that swept through 24 players and backroom staff following the impressive 2-1 win at Stockport on Halloween.

It cannot be emphasised enough how strongly the virus affects players in lengthening their recovery and sapping energy.

Goalkeeping coach Robbie Yates was also hospitalised, such was the severity of his illness.

Stock also had to deal with a 3-0 derby loss to bitter rivals Yeovil Town and the fallout with fans, which ended up being quite abusive.

Importantly, that game proved the turning point as Stock got the six new players in and results quickly followed.

Hartlepool, Stockport, Bromley, Aldershot and Wealdstone have all been beaten by the Terras since January.

Stock is proving to be a capable manager with excellent contacts, tactics and a tenacious appetite for victory.

5. There will be no relegation from the National League, meaning that Weymouth will stay in the fifth tier next season. How do the Terras prepare for next term?

It’s a tricky one to predict, we don’t actually have official confirmation of the absence of relegation. 

The FA Council need to ratify the National League survey and before they do, Weymouth have been scrapping for as many points as they can.

The Terras are currently just above the bottom three in 20th, with fellow promoted side King’s Lynn right behind them.

If you take away all the loanees from the squad, Weymouth will need to find another goalkeeper, a star striker and a new centre-half.

They would also need to look at the full-back and winger positions, but with Stock’s enormous contact list I’m sure Weymouth would be able to replace them adequately.

Ideally, they would need a box-to-box midfielder with a few goals in him, to really cement the Terras’ style of play.

Weymouth are also part-time and are considering becoming full-time if they can find investment, but the club is also keen to spend within its means and will be ultra cautious before making the switch.