Phil Tooley takes a look at the game and its context
Chesterfield 2 Notts County 3 National League
I made a major error at half-time. After Jonathan Smith had scored his first goal of the season, a crisp strike following some neat build-up play, to put the Spireites back on par following County’s scrambled opener from a corner, a goal no-one in the press area could hand on heart say who’d finished it, I had a sneaking feeling, so checked out the last time Chesterfield had come from behind to win. Wrexham 3-2, back in a pre-Covid February, the day Curtis Weston hammered home a last-minute winner.
When Tom Denton headed namesake Tyler’s cross in with 12 to go, I felt that little stat could feature in my full-time radio report. Seconds after that goal, a little laugh came from my right, resulting from a fan’s Tweet that had said they’d take a 2-2 right now, typical gallows humour that’s been necessary for all Blues over recent years. In retrospect, we’d all have taken a 2-2 now!
As the fourth official held up the additional time board with a big red ‘3’ on it, we could all reflect back on a job well done by John Dungworth, the ship had been steadied and the table would look a lot healthier than has been the case.
The 4-4-2, which Dungworth indicated afterwards would have been employed anyway, even if John Pemberton had been in charge, seemed to have suited the team better. Jordan Cropper appeared to benefit and looked the most creative he’s been all season whilst Tyler Denton on the opposite flank also added much needed width. There was plenty of endeavour all round (nothing to do with formations) and it looked like any new manager would have a slightly happier starting point.
Then it all unravelled. The two concessions in added time had nothing to do with formations and everything to do with the team’s Achilles heel when defending as a group. Two headers from two more set-pieces, with needless free-kicks conceded to give County ammunition they weren’t loading themselves. Heartbreak.
I never quite know what ‘Game Management’ really means, I think it’s new-speak for time-wasting, not being stupid orfeigning injury, but looking back, at no stage at 2-1 with time ebbing away, did the home side try and wind the clock down a bit more with the, albeit frustrating, take-it-to-the-corner-flag tactic, or making a substitution just to break-up play a bit.
It all brought back memories of a similar scenario back in January 2014 when, 2-0 up at home to Rochdale on 90, an Ian Henderson goal and a Peter Vincenti penalty meant that Paul Cook’s team threw away two points. A win that day would’ve seen the team move into the automatic promotion places rather than the fourth place that Spireites ended the eveningin; ever the optimist, that late horror show preceded a run of four wins and a draw in five, but that day’s line-up was Lee, Talbot, Evatt, Cooper, Smith, Ryan, Morsy, O’Shea, Banks, Roberts & Richards with Hird, Darikwa, Doyle, Gnanduillet, Gardner, Humphreys and Dunbavin on the bench. Six years on, it’s not been anywhere near six of the best!
Where next? Other than the obvious answer of Weymouth, it’s all about who the next gaffer will be and how much licence they’ll be allowed to change the squad, because it clearly needs personnel changes, mentality changes and a massive confidence boost if we’re to avoid a sixth straight battle at the wrong end of the table. Oh, for mid-table obscurity, something we’ve not yet witnessed on Whittington Moor!
Phil’s Positive: The 4-4-2 formation seemed to suit the players better, at least for 90 minutes
Spireites next game is on Saturday 28th November at Weymouth, Kick-off 3pm
Team v Notts County (4-4-2 to start): Addai; Yarney, Evans, Maguire, Buchanan; Cropper, Smith, Weston, Tyler Denton 89; Boden, Tom Denton.
Subs (not used): Wharton, Hollis, Mandeville, Hutchinson, Rawson
Goals: Chesterfield – Smith 33, Tom Denton 78, Notts – Boldewijn 22, Rodrigues 90+1, Wootton 90+3
Ref: David Richardson
Yellows: Cropper (Chesterfield), Kelly-Evans (Notts)