Tooley’s Take

Phil Tooley takes a look at the game and its context

Oxford City 1 Chesterfield 2 National League

One of the questions about a good player or a good team is ‘but can they do it on a Tuesday night at….?’ and you can insert your own team name. On this particular Tuesday night, insert Oxford City, and you’d get a bit of a Vicky Pollard answer, ‘yeah but, no but, yeah but, no but….’ Performance? No but. Result? Yeah but.

In a points mean prizes competition, it was a bit of a Brucey Bonus when Will Grigg converted after just about the only real quality move of the game, and just about the only shooting sniff he’d had, on 88 minutes to add to Tom Naylor’s first Spireites goal, right at the end of the first half, a header from a fine delivery from the corner flag by debut-maker James Berry. How many times have Town conceded at the end of either half in their National League life? Far too many, so it’s great to be on the right side for once.

The Hoops played well, though their equaliser came out of the blue, down to a sloppy Town pass, at a time when Chesterfield were stepping it up, but after that, they had chances to win it themselves, and they will be aggrieved that they remain pointless in the table. They were much better than I expected.

Chesterfield gave it their all, I detected plenty of endeavour by the team who were visiting Oxford City for the first time, and it was of course old Bill, sorry, young Will, that ensured the prize was nicked. During the game, the Spireites took their foot off the gas fewer times than The Sweeney in a car chase, but it felt like they were driving a dodgy second hand Austin Allegro rather than a pedigree Ford Granada Ghia, veering off-track time and again but generally going in the right direction. Do you understand my obscure references? Any Thaw-ts? I’ll send some clues via Morse code.

The new man? Had a few direct runs, delivered some good crosses (including an assist), and showed some great pace. A few rough edges, but a bit of time working with Paul Cook will see those elements soften and Berry will soon be a smoothie.

Jacobs? I’ll resist any cheesy crackers references, but he showed he’s a class act that will deliver plenty of benefits over the course of the season. He got his chance as the management made the eminently sensible decision to keep Dobra off the artificial pitch to protect his hamstrings, and Williams was similarly left out after he was subbed at half-time on Saturday. Assistant manager Danny Webb revealed that Tyrone was just about fully fit, but the pitch offered too much risk to select him.

The brand-new artificial pitch looked terrific, but it didn’t suit plenty, Coco and Naylor in particular seemed to slip substantially more than you’d expect, and Spireites passing was far from its best, but it’s a win, three points and the only NL 100% record. Top of thelLeague, we’re having a laugh. I asked Danny Webb if that was the performance of champions, he said no, but added it was the result of champions. Dorking, 90+9 minute winner, Fylde 4-0 up in less than 50 minutes, Oxford City, 88 minute winner. Early days, great signs.

There’s no Spireite who wouldn’t have accepted this: P3 W3 F10 A6 and whilst we still await a first clean sheet of the season, the clues are there, not quite as tricky as Ted Rogers’ ones, but 3-2-1 is moving in the right direction.

Jamie Grimes was my Man of the Match and my co-commentator, Bailey Clements, gave his vote to Ryheem Sheckleford. Branden Horton had an excellent first half before he was subbed after starting to tighten up and Ash Palmer was always solid, all positive stuff.

It’s a lunchtime telly date with Oldham Athletic on Saturday. Their up and down season, which started with a 4-0 loss at Southend United and a 5-1 home win over Aldershot Town, took another down at Boundary Park on Tuesday, leading but lost 2-1 against FC Halifax Town, with almost 8000 fans in the house. It’s set to be a great atmosphere at the SMH Group Stadium as Spireites seek to make it four Big W’s at the start of a league season for the first time for 69 years. Get your tickets to potentially witness a bit of history!

Paul Cook will have one of those great positive problems regarding his team selection. Will Williams come back? Dobra (surely) will start? What about left-back, Horton withdrawn, King subbed in there, will Loz feature? Mandy was quiet on Tuesday, but Berry and Jacobs gave the gaffer plenty to be positive about. At City, the formation started as a 4-3-3, but I’d expect it to revert to 4-2-3-1, which will mean changes. Plenty of bar room debate to come before the starting XI will be revealed at 11.30 am on Saturday.

But every optimist, pessimist and Chesimist will all agree. We all know it counts for zip, but looking at that table feels good, very good, and I bet there’s not one Spireite out there who’s only glimpsed at it once. It’s the law that you have to keep looking at it, just to check it’s real.

This squad, this backroom team, these fans. Believe me, they’re all the real deal.

Phil’s Positive: Three points when the team was far from its best, the sign of potential champions.

Next Match: Saturday, August 19 will see the Spireites host one of the promotion favourites, Oldham Athletic, in a televised lunchtime match, which kicks-off at 12.30pm. 1866 Sport will be at the SMH Group Stadium from noon.

Chesterfield (4-3-3 to start): Tyrer; Sheckleford, Palmer, Grimes, Horton (King 72); Naylor, Mandeville (Oldaker 85), Jacobs; Colclough, Berry (Banks 57), Grigg. Subs (not used): Jones, Quigley.

Goals: Naylor 45+1, Grigg 88 (Chesterfield), Parker 61 (Oxford City)

Referee: Farai Hallam

Bookings: Colclough (Chesterfield), Miccio, Fleet (Oxford City)

Attendance: 1,361 (641 from Chesterfield)

Netcoms IT 1866 Sport Man of the Match: Ryheem Sheckleford (chosen by Bailey Clements)