Phil Tooley takes a look at the game and its context
Chesterfield 1 Notts County 2 National League Match #28
How do you feel now? All a bit strange! Result? gutted; performance? Solid, very solid; emotion? Frustration.
The frustration element is very much a result of losing a game against the very best when, at 11 v 11, and at 1-1, every True Blue was eyeing up and hoping for (maybe even expecting) a win. More frustration was manifested out of the goal conceded. The section’s leading exponent of proper football hoofed up a Route One, which sliced us open good and proper, it shouldn’t have done.
The manner of the red card was frustrating too. I checked with the referee about King Jeff’s first yellow card, received on the halfway line after the Albanian Arrow’s first half stoppage time leveller, and it was for over exuberant celebrations, including kicking the ad-boards in front of the mass of County fans. When you’re on nine yellows and one away from a two-match ban, keeping your nose clean seems to me to be a basic. That said, you also have to question Dobs’ decision not to celebrate in front of home fans. We know he plays best on the edge, but there are edges and edges, and that was the wrong edge!
King’s second yellow, in County’s own half, when you’re on a knife-edge, was as a result of a split second call, when the ball was there for the winning to start an attack, but in that position (on the field and in the notebook), not giving the ref a choice is the only decision to make. Shorthanded against a team unbeaten in five months and 21 games is not ideal.
I’ll wait for confirmation, but I’m pretty sure that the two yellows equals a red, Jeff’s first of the season, so a one-match ban (Valentine’s Day at home), and they are therefore not yellows that count in the tally-up process, so he remains on nine, meaning one more yellow will be a two-match miss. Double bubble. And talking about these sort of things, I also found out that Langstaff’s shove on a ballboy has been included in the referees report. I’m led to believe that the ref didn’t see it, hence no action at the time, but it was subsequently picked up on and there will be a letter in the post.
Probably too much waffle about that, but it was the most pertinent moment in a terrific game, probably the best match (for a neutral just watching the football) we’ve participated in during our unwanted NL tenure.
Result and frustration excluded, that third element I opened up with, performance, was what I’ll come away with in a happy mood. Play-offs at best, for sure, but with performances like that (before the numerical disadvantage, and for substantial parts of our time shorthanded) I fancy our chances against anyone in a one-off game. Ifs buts and maybes of course, but on the hour at 1-1, with attacking midfielders Akinola, Dobra and Mandeville the three leading exponents on the park, I genuinely felt Town were on their way to a memorable win.
Notts gave us plenty to think about, but I’d be surprised if many teams have given them as much to think about as Paul Cook’s men did in this game. From Fitz in goal showing his prowess, there were plenty of solid shows, both individually and collectively. Mistakes were there, of course, but I’d hazard a guess that the mistake counters out there had more ticks against the visitors than The Spireites, the hosts forced loads.
Mike Jones added that solidity, Dobra teased them and wound them up (nothing too unexpected there) and Gunner Tim surely gave a performance that will see him start at Tuesday’s army town venue. We can all pick out key elements when one of our guys should have done better, that’s wouldn’t be too difficult, but the number of times the lads gave their all and did the right things, unlike Tuesday’s first half disaster against Woking, dwarfed the number of times they erred.
The four straight losses is our worst NL run since the early days, six on the bounce under Mad Dog Martin, whilst in contrast, the magnificent 9706 attendance is our highest home attendance in this unforgiving division, beating last season’s Technique turnout against Stockport County (9198). What a great atmosphere.
Five points behind Woking with two games in hand and one point off Barnet who’ve played the same number of games as us confirms third spot is far from a gimmee, but that could change significantly on Tuesday. We need to win at Aldershot of course, and hope for home wins in Wrexham v Woking and Notts v Barnet.
I get it if you’re despondent, totally understandable after such a run, but with Paul McCallum in the building to add to the firepower, combined with the level of performance we witnessed against one of the League’s two forces of nature, somewhat weirdly, my confidence levels have grown. Not a logical call, but when did the National League last consider logic in any form? Wembley v the losers of the title race, bring it on!
Phil’s Positive: Just about everything bar the red and the result.
The Spireites’ next game is on Tuesday, February 14, when we make the long trip to FA Trophy quarter-finalists Aldershot Town, kick-off 7.45pm; 1866 Sport will be live at the stadium from 7pm.
Chesterfield (4-2-3-1 to start): Fitzsimons; King, Palmer, Grimes, Horton (Colclough 75); Banks, Jones (Sheckleford 67); Mandeville, Akinola, Dobra; Quigley (McCallum 75). Subs (not used): Maguire, Oldaker.
Goals: Dobra 45+3 (Chesterfield), Langstaff 25, Chicksen 72 (Notts)
Referee: Matt Corlett
Bookings: Quigley, Dobra, Sheckleford (Chesterfield), Jones, Scott, Rawlinson (Notts)
Red Card: King 63 mins (Chesterfield) for two yellows
Attendance: 9,706 (1,961 from Notts)
Netcoms IT 1866 Sport Man of the Match: Tim Akinola (chosen by Jamie Hewitt)