Tooley’s Take

Phil Tooley takes a look at the game and its context  

Wrexham 2 Chesterfield National League Match #33

Emergency, nine nine nine. Is the patient breathing? Very much so, but we need someone or something to inject more life into the vital organs. There’s clearly a major blockage in the critical zone that needs urgent attention. Time is running out and if we have to count to ten, by the weekend, it may be too late. 

Does the patient have a history of ill health? Yes, for five years, there was a rapid deterioration in well-being, but some major surgery saw an upturn, and for a couple of years, the new approach worked a treat. But early in the new year, after a great party with some friends from Birmingham, despite there continuing to be great enthusiasm, teeth have started to drop out, there’s an unsteadiness on the feet, and abilities previously taken for granted have begun to fail, more so in some places than others. 

Self-confidence has visibly dropped and that has had a severe effect on all of the patient’s friends, who are now equally despondent and increasingly lethargic. There are predators closing in ready to take advantage of the patient’s ill-health, and unless there’s a turnround pretty quickly, I fear at least another year of being in a bad place.  

Half-time approaching, 1-0 down to a team with 27 wins and three draws in their previous 30 home games in regular NL matches, and MOTM Ryan Colclough delivers a peach of a cross, but the most gilt-edged of gilt-edge chances wasn’t taken, and in an instant, it was 2-0.

After the break, a Colclough diving header bought about a new version of Pele v Banks, and in the scramble immediately afterwards, King was unceremoniously dethroned by Mendy, who should have been sent to the Tower, but he somehow escaped without penalty.

Slow start, quick learning, a few uneasy moments, but that 1-1 to 2-0 blink of an eye was the killer blow in a run of winless games where no previous killer blow hurt as much as that one.

No-one knows if being 2-0 up at the break enabled Wrexham to change their approach for the second half, but whether it did or whether it didn’t, in that final 45, there was only one team in it, and it wasn’t the one celebrating St David’s Day by being top of the table. Dragons’ boss Phil Parkinson, at one stage, leapt from his dug-out to encourage the crowd to play its part having gone pretty flat as they were pinned back for large parts of the latter stages.

Colclough’s first goal in Town colours was a good one, more than deserved, but sadly too late to affect the result, but it did (as with the same score defeat against Notts) show that in a one-off game with either of the league’s behemoths, the Spireites can more than match them.

But to qualify to be able to match them, wins need to come, and they need to come immediately. Who would have thought, a few weeks ago, next week’s trip to Southend United (who host Barnet on Friday night) would have been as pivotal as it will be.

Gateshead on Saturday is the first real must win game of the season. Not mathematically, but for reasons of sanity. None of us can quite get our heads round why a two points, two goals a game team has stopped scoring and stopped accumulating points. Success has clearly dropped more than performances have dropped (some, of course will vehemently disagree with that), but few teams will have performed as well as Town did against Boreham Wood, Notts, Oldham and Wrexham and come out with zip.

My 1866 co-commentator Josh Marsh said he was fed up of sounding like a broken record, and sadly it has become that sort of run. Play well, miss chances, individual errors, praised by the opposing manager, fans frustrated, tumbling table.

Weekend hosts Gateshead are battling on two fronts, they’re out of the drop zone only on goal difference, and a week after our trip, they host Farsley Celtic in the quarter-finals of the FA Trophy. The Heed have accumulated the fewest home points (15) in the section and the 19 goals they’ve scored inside the athletics track only has Yeovil Town with fewer on their own patch.

Computer says ‘No’ to the must win scenario, supporters say ‘Yes.’

Phil’s Positive: Giving it a right go. Achilles heel apart.  

The Spireites’ next game is on Saturday, March 4, 2023, when we will be travelling to Gateshead, 3pm kick-off; 1866 Sport will be live at the stadium from 2pm.

Chesterfield (4-2-3-1 to start): Fitzsimons; King, Williams, Grimes, Clements; Oldaker (Akinola 73), Jones (Quigley 83); Mandeville(Uchegbulam 73), Banks, Colclough; McCallum. Subs (not used): Maguire, Sheckleford.

Referee: Scott Tallis

Bookings: Jones, McCallum, Grimes (Chesterfield)

Attendance: 9,854 (742 from Chesterfield)

Netcoms IT 1866 Sport Man of the Match: Ryan Colclough (chosen by Josh Marsh)