Tooley’s Take

Phil Tooley takes a look at the game and its context  

Chesterfield 4 Scunthorpe United 1National League Match #23

Obviously, promotion has been the ultimate seasonal goal for Chesterfield in every competitive season the club has contested since their original formation way back in the 1860s.

That elusive objective has been achieved on only eight occasions, six as champions, once via the play-offs and once as the third-placed side after having nine points deducted back in the controversial 2000/01 Brown-stained campaign.

If you take a close look at those eight seasons of success, and see how many points the Spireites had amassed by the 23-game halfway stage (adjusted to 3-points a win levels), it reads 2013/14 (champions) 41, 2010/11 (champions) 48, 2000/01 (third place) 49, 1994/95 (play-offs) 39, 1984/85 (champions) 44, 1969/70 (champions) 49, 1935/36 (champions) 47 and 1930/31 (champions) 44. This season’s Spireites, after the first half of the season, have a 23-game halfway tally of 49 points, a level never surpassed in a successful Spireites season. Wow. This is clearly some team, or more accurately, some squad.

What looked like a dose of déjà vu for much of the game, the parallels to the Boxing Day 2-1 win at Scunthorpe United were plentiful, 2-1 up after conceding first and a few worries at that point, but the latter stages of game management moved up a gear this time, with two more goals being added to enable all Spireites in a healthy New Year’s Day crowd to relax, for seven or so minutes at least. Bonus.

Another solid opening which only lacked a goal, another against the run of play concession, another pretty quick equaliser and, once again, not too long to wait for the critical second goal. Dobra’s half-volley goal after his own header was blocked and flew back to him showed the speed of his reactions, whilst Asante’s effort, in first half-injury time, teed up by DJ, was a fine team goal that eased the nerves on three sides of the ground. There were nerves because United hit the post at 1-1 through the impressive Cameron Wilson and they constantly looked dangerous on the break.

Nerve ends were only really allowed to retreat when sub Akinola was upended and Kingy banged in another free-kick, his eighth goal of the season, a tally only exceeded by his collection of nine cards, none of them featuring Robins or Wise Men!

Kabby erased any lingering doubts about the result with his seventh of the season, scored in the equivalent of just over eight full matches worth of minutes, another fine example of his talents in the attacking penalty area. Those two goals highlighted the benefit of a strong bench and a deep squad, and the second half of the season will need to see that strength in depth at least maintained.

Whilst 1866 Sport’s Jamie Hewitt gave Armando his Man of the Match nod, and I agreed, Jeff King, Ash Palmer, Bailey Clements and Mike Jones could all have nicked it within another solid team performance, which is a true trademark of the gaffer. Last season’s huge reliance on a single scorer who subsequently missed a major chunk of the season through injury, shows the value of a fully-functioning team, and long may that continue. Chesterfield’s next NL goal will be their 50th of the season, the next point will also be #50, two near milestones with the season only halfway done.

Two wins in seven days over a Scunthorpe side who, despite being bottom, are far from the worst team Town have played this season, and six goals scored by five different players is a real positive. But Paul Cook and his staff will be disappointed by the two concessions, especially as they were both the opening goals in the two contests, but the Spireites average goals against this season is a little over a goal a game, so the stats have slightly improved in that department over the holidays. Didn’t feel like that when Chesterfield were one-down and the opponents seemed to have a fair few Irons in the fire.

Baggies up next, the five times FA Cup winners, ten times finalists and founder members of the Football League, visiting Chesterfield for the first time since 1948 back in the days when Town were in Division Two, the equivalent of the Championship. Spanish manager Carlos Corberan has really turned around their results since being appointed around ten weeks ago. He has full internationals from the Republic of Ireland, Nigeria, Australia, Scotland, USA, Netherlands and Turkey to call upon as well as a former Spireite in Conor Townsend, who made 20 appearances on loan from Hull City in Paul Cook’s 2012/13 season. This is Conor’s fifth season at The Hawthorns, with his only goal for the club coming three years ago in a 1-0 FA Cup win at West Ham United in front of a crowd of 58,911.

It will be only the second time a third round tie has been played on Whittington Moor, a replay win over Scunthorpe to earn at trip to Pride Park in 2014/15 was the other, and the time before that a tie at such an advanced stage was staged by Chesterfield was in our 1996/97 run to the semi-final, so next weekend is indeed something very special and, hopefully, there’ll be more than 9,000 in attendance to witness it.

Phil’s Positive: After those shock home defeats against Maidenhead United and Dagenham & Redbridge, Town have won six from six at The Technique, only Wrexham have won more at home to date.

The Spireites’ next game is on Saturday, January 7, 2023, when five-times FA Cup winners West Bromwich Albion visit us in the FA Cup third round. 1866 Sport will be live at the stadium from 2pm.

Chesterfield (4-23-1 to start): Fitzsimons; King, Palmer, Grimes, Clements; Jones, Oldaker; Mandeville (Uchegbulam 82), Asante (Akinola 73), Dobra; Quigley (Tshimanga 73). Subs (not used): Williams, Banks.

Goals: Dobra 27, Asante 45+2, King 83, Tshimanga 86 (Chesterfield), Wilson 20 (Scunthorpe)

Referee: Scott Jackson

Bookings: King (Chesterfield), Butterfield (Scunthorpe)

Attendance: 7751 (664 from Scunthorpe)

Netcoms IT 1866 Sport Man of the Match: Armando Dobra (chosen by Jamie Hewitt)