Tooley’s Take

Phil Tooley takes a look at the game and its context  

Chesterfiel3 Barnet 1 National League Match #5

There’ll be plenty of Spireites taking interest in two particular games on Saturday afternoon; Gateshead v Wealdstone and Solihull Moors against Dorking Wanderers, as the Stones and the Moors are the only two sides that could usurp Chesterfield at the head of the National League this weekend following Paul Cook’s charges excellent win over previous top-dogs Barnet. 

It may only be five games in, but any supporter would rather have their team at the top of the table than in any other position, and the Spireites’ start to this campaign has been, by any standards, pretty impressive. 

Barnet entered the game with three wins and a draw from four with plenty of goals scored. Their preparation was clearly hampered by losing star man Ephron Mason-Clark, who was on Town’s radar last season, to League One Peterborough United earlier in the day. 

Their preparation was further hampered when Ollie Banks scored after just 95 seconds, sweetly hitting through a crowd after a corner had been partially cleared. Great start. 

The Bees weren’t knocked too far off their stride, and they were soon back to parity when Sean Shields, who has already played against Chesterfield in the National League for Ebbsfleet (in our first game in the section), Boreham Wood, Notts County, Weymouth and now Barnet, hammered home beyond returning keeper Lucas Covolan. 

The sweeper keeper made a great one-on-one save from Nicke Kabamba, a man given his first chance in the EFL when he was signed from Hampton & Richmond by Portsmouth, then managed by a certain Paul Cook, whilst a Spireites one-on-one saw Armando Dobra fire just wide. Despite those chances going begging, the football on display was of excellent quality. 

Akwasi Asante bagged his third of the season in just his fourth appearance to show he’s back to his pre-injury best, to give the Spireites a narrow halfway advantage.

The hosts stepped up a notch in the second half, buoyed on by another impressive crowd on the Technique’s first Friday night fixture in just over ten years (Bournemouth, 1-0 win, brought forward as we were on TV for the JPT semi-final second leg at Oldham Athletic on the Monday). 

The number of crosses into the box from King and Horton was huge, keeper Laurie Walker made three or four cracking saves and Joe Quigley back-headed a corner onto the bar.

But despite substantial territorial advantage and a much higher chance count, Barnet’s counter-attacks were always dangerous, Dale Gorman rattling the post from range at 2-1, so at no stage could the one-goal lead be taken for granted. 

Well, at least until the introduction of Mr Tshimanga. Kabby had played less than an hour off the bench this season, in appearances against Aldershot Town and Notts County, but when Dobra popped him in for another one-on-one, the whole crowd seemed to sense this was his moment. 

His first touch of the game saw him control, his second touch a second later, game over, crowd erupts, a very special moment, although having scored five against the Bees last season, and two for Boreham Wood against them the season before, it should have been no surprise! 

Those eight goals means the Bees have conceded more career goals to Kabby than any other team. He’s scoring at better than a goal a game already, one every 75 minutes to be precise; Akwasi, at a goal every 105 minutes this term, needs to pull his socks up!

These two sides went into the game as the only two in the NL not to have been behind at any stage in any game this season. Now Chesterfield are in a list of one in that regard, let’s hope that continues for a little while longer. 

Congratulations to Jes Uchegbulam for making his debut, he certainly looked confident during his short spell on the park. By all accounts, his performances in training earned him a spot on the bench, so let’s hope his development in the professional game continues at a pace. 

Two tough away tests in the north-west coming up, initially at there’s only two Phil Parkinson’’s Altrincham. Town have lost both visits to Moss Lane, but dangerman Matty Kosylo, who scored for the Robins in both encounters last season, is out injured. 

Then next Saturday there’s a trip to John Sheridan’s Oldham Athletic, a ground where the Spireites have an appalling record.

In 35 visits in all competitions, Chesterfield have won just four times and each time they’ve won, the season ended in Town being relegated! Offer me three points on Monday and one on Saturday and I’d snap your hands off!

Phil’s Positive: more than solid show against a very good Barnet side and the first time both Asante and Tshimanga have scored in a home game. I’ve got a feeling it won’t be the last! 

The Spireites’ next game is at Altrincham on Monday, August 29, kick-off 3pm. Can’t get, or even going? Full match build-up on 1866 Sport Live starts at 2pm, so listen via the App, Smart Speaker or online. 

Team v Barnet (4-2-3-1 to start): Covolan; King, Williams, Grimes, Horton; Oldaker, Banks; Mandeville, Dobra (Cooper 80), Asante (Uchegbulam 88); Quigley (Tshimanga 70).

Subs (not used): Maguire, Jones

Goals: Banks 2, Asante 34, Tshimanga 73 (Chesterfield), Shields 17 (Barnet)

Referee: Matt Corlett

Booked: Kabamba, Hall, Pritchard (Barnet)

Attendance: 7,094 (129 from Barnet)

1866 Sport Man of the Match: Ollie Banks (chosen by Tom Denton)