Tooley’s Take

Phil Tooley takes a look at the game and its context 

Chesterfield 1 Wealdstone 1 National League Match #31

A bit more lemon than sugar on a flat Pancake Day. Despite giving it lots of thoughts with my Wednesday morning cuppa, I can’t think of any more appropriate pancake puns. If I could only think of just one!

However you dress things up, seven without a win, three unbeaten, still in fourth, Barnet lost at home, oodles of shots, this is a party that’s far from enjoyable at the moment and the entertainment on show needs to buck-up its ideas sharpish, or the previously happy party-goers will start to dwindle and the main event will fizzle out. We need to move from damp squibs to fire-crackers pretty quickly.

The blue touchpaper hasn’t been lit since those Baggies Boys were in town, subsequently only an 87thminute Ash Palmer goal against Altrincham has sent Spireites fans home happy. The only just stayed up truncated by Covid 19/20 season was the last time we witnessed a seven match spell without any W’s, and Shez oversaw a W-free seven match and a ten match spell that term, the worst season in our history.

Statto good news! The last time Town went up, under Paul Cook, in 2013/14, we endured a seven match winless run, which included battering our neighbours but succumbing to a sucker punch, and losing at Morecambe after being 3-0 up at half-time. The run ended with a 2-0 win at Torquay United with the opening goal being scored by Ollie Banks! Cookie is the only manager in Town’s history to oversee a promotion season featuring a seven match winless run. Repeat please.

We’ve all got out theories about what to do, but for me the top of the shopping list is to send the players out in confident mood. Everyone in the game says winning breeds confidence, can’t disagree with that, so on the flip side, not winning must drain confidence, and that’s pretty apparent at the moment.

Data may well say that in those seven games, Chesterfield should have outscored everyone bar Woking, but we didn’t. Why? Million Dollar question. But, for me, it’s lots of split second decisions. Not crossing first time when the opening was there, taking a touch when a snap-shot could have been dispatched, looking for a pass out of defence when you’ve not quite got the ball under control, not gambling at the far post ahead of the ball delivery. Nothing major, just lots of little things that earlier in the season, #Cookball was doing naturally. We were purring, now the purrs have changed to growls, and they’re coming from the seats, not the grass.

There will be those out there suggesting major surgery is needed in every part of the Blues’ body, the Welsh town sequence of LLLLDDD is a solid promoter of that viewpoint. Two up-front is a powerful argument at the moment, changing a defence that only occasionally keeps a clean sheet, can’t ignore that, barring Dobra, only one goal (Mandeville in the Woking debacle) has been scored by a midfielder since the 5-1 win at Torquay on 12 November, that’s a shocker in itself. Major surgery has legitimate devotees.

But I just want to see the team come out of the tunnel, bit of a swagger, front foot and score first. This is the sequence of NL results this season when Chesterfield have scored first: DWWDWWWWWDWWWWW. The draws were the ten men Dorking season opener, the Notts comeback and the draw at York, all away games. Those apart, score first, we’ve won.

When the confidence flows, we are much more likely to witness wins. At the moment, not scoring first means we’re chasing the game, not where you want to be when chins are on the ground.

Last time we played Oldham, 1-0 in a minute through Quigley and 2-0 by the eighth minute thanks to King. We need a ‘Same again Saturday’.

Oldham have steadily lifted themselves out of the dreaded zone. Since Christmas they’ve won four, drawn three and lost two, solid, but they lost 2-1 thanks to a late Marcus Dinanga goal at Gateshead on Tuesday night with a squad that included Josef Yarney and Mike Fondop. Dan Gardner’s there too but missed the trip to the North East. David Unsworth’s side have won eight at home and only one away, but that was a 5-1 triumph at Dorking Wanderers with Fondop claiming the match-ball.

There’ll be a more than decent following from over the Pennines, so hopefully Yogi and Co can drum up the positive vibes from the first whistle to guide The Spireites to the first goal and a first win in far too long.

No more Pancake Days please, we want (and need) a rising Souffle Saturday.

Phil’s Positive: Realising that at the age of 62, being short-sighted and unfit, I still have a great chance of making it as a referee.  

The Spireites’ next game is on Saturday, February 25, when Oldham Athletic make their first trip here in six years, kick-off 3pm; 1866 Sport will be live at the stadium from 2pm.

Chesterfield (4-2-3-1 to start): Fitzsimons; Sheckleford, Palmer, Grimes, Horton; Oldaker, Jones (Dobra 62); Mandeville, Akinola, Colclough (Uchegbulam 83); Quigley (McCallum 62). Subs (not used): Banks, King.

Referee: Andrew Miller

Bookings: Oldaker, Jones (Chesterfield), Obiero, Ilunga (Wealdstone)

Attendance: 5,472 (93 from Wealdstone)

Netcoms IT 1866 Sport Man of the Match: Liam Mandeville (chosen by Jamie Hewitt)