Phil Tooley takes a look at the game and its context
Boreham Wood 1 Chesterfield 0
National League Match #26
Has Nathan Ashmore-or-less condemned the Spireites to a maximum peak of third place this season? All logic points to Everest and K2 being conquered by Red Dragons and Magpies, whilst Town sit at base camp seeking to make it to the top of Kangchenjunga, a more than decent mountain, but not quite where you ideally want to be.
If Wrexham accumulate points for the rest of the season at the same rate as they have being doing to date, they’ll end up with a mighty 112, whilst Notts doing the same would accrue 109. Chesterfield sit on a creditable 52 from 26, so to get to 110 and pip County, we’d need 19 wins and a draw from our final 20 games, with our maximum haul being 112. Tall order.
All sorts can happen of course, but I’d wager that every Spireite would snap the hand off anyone that offers a third place finish on April 29, meaning that most people’s focus will now be on Woking and Barnet, currently separated by just three points, though Paul Cook’s side are in pole position as we speak, but a third straight defeat on Tuesday would put the Cards four points in front having played two games more. This match is a huge one, not yet in the ‘must win’ category (though it really is from a fans’ viewpoint), but it’s certainly a ‘mustn’t lose’ one.
Last week’s 3-0 loss at Barnet was a salutary lesson in chance taking. Covolan quiet, three shots, bang, bang, bang. Town chances, squandered plus any associated words in Roget’s masterpiece that help to make a long list. The DT’s Liam Norcliffe revealed the stats showed that, typically, that game should have ended as a Chesterfield win with the stats suggesting an unlikely 1.8 – 1.2 away win. I bet the XG (expected goals) figure for Boreham Wood will indicate a win of a much greater margin for the visitors.
But it didn’t happen. Optimist: Chances galore, keeper played a Worldy, play like that every week and we’ll win plenty. Pessimist: Toothless, why sell Kabby? Where’s the replacement? Where’s Gyasi? We need a Mullin or a Langstaff, Mandy and Quigs should have buried their chances, not good enough, we’re doomed. Pragmatist: somewhere in between.
It didn’t help that Akwasi pulled up lame in the week and, despite the gaffer and the board’s best efforts to bring in reinforcements, that didn’t happen. It will, whether it will be before Tuesday, who knows. But strikers are coveted by everyone, Wrexham’s budget is far from National League typical, Notts picked up a 26 year-old gem who’d never played higher than the National League North before, whilst it’s interesting to note that third-placed Woking have no player that’s reached double figures yet in NL games. Another thing to note is that Ruben Rodrigues was red-carded in Notts win at Torquay United, they have no midweek game, so he’ll be missing at The Technique next Saturday.
Ashmore is a figure that every National League supporter knows. For sure, he can be a wind-up merchant, but he’s a very good goalkeeper, and his early triple save to deny Liam Mandeville was the start of a phenomenal performance, with Mandy being the man most denied. Ollie Banks forced a top class save, Jamie Grimes headed onto the foot of the post and Joe Quigley put one over that will still he haunting him. Sadly, the key moment of the game saw Lucas Covolan save a drilled in Ilesanmi shot but the loose ball fell to fresh-on sub Josh Rees to tap in from a few inches. Fine margins.
Will Evans and his defensive colleagues blocked time and again to ensure a clean sheet, Wood have the section’s third meanest defence, whilst Spireites defence and approach play was excellent, but sadly it counted for zip as the North London nadir in front of goal continued. Very, very frustrating, especially as the top-two juggernauts continue unabated.
So is it time to give up hopes of top spot? No, but it’s difficult to see both of the top two imploding and I, like many, would settle for a guaranteed home play-off semi-final place, which would again be a third consecutive seasonal improvement. That all means the real battle this week is against Woking (who incidentally play Boreham Wood next Saturday), win that and The Magpies game becomes a game of much less pressure.
Don’t under estimate Woking; prior to their 1-0 loss at Eastleigh on Saturday, they’d won six away games on the spin, and seven plus a draw from eight. They know how to travel but they still have to travel to both The Racecourse and Meadow Lane.
Is Bronze the new Gold? Looks that way, so let’s make sure the medal is won and we celebrate with a couple of wins (but we do need a bit more help!).
Phil’s Positive: Ryheem Sheckleford, fine show in a rare appearance.
The Spireites’ next game is on Tuesday, February 7, when we host our third-placed rivals Woking, kick-off 7.45pm; 1866 Sport will be live at the stadium from 7pm.
Chesterfield (4-2-3-1 to start): Covolan; Sheckleford (King 87), Palmer, Grimes, Horton; Banks, Oldaker (Akinola 83); Dobra, Mandeville, Colclough (Uchegbulam 83); Quigley. Subs (not used): Maguire, Jones.
Goal: Rees 63 (Boreham Wood)
Referee: Jacob Miles
Bookings: Dobra (Chesterfield), Bush, Rees (Boreham Wood)
Attendance: 1,311 (396 from Chesterfield)
Netcoms IT 1866 Sport Man of the Match: Ryheem Sheckleford (chosen by Josh Marsh)