Tooley’s Take

Phil Tooley takes a look at the game and its context

Woking 0 Chesterfield 1 National League Match #38

Despite being the weekend where the possibility of gaining automatic promotion was mathematically withdrawn, I’m sipping my morning brew with a sort of smug smile on my face and, reminiscent of those old Ready Brek ads, with a warm glow around my body.

As weekends go, it was very much a Carlsberg one (not that I’d ever compromise my real ale roots and drink that stuff). Me and Sylvia cashed in a Santa sent gift, lunching on Friday at a super fish restaurant in Hackney Wick, then attending the mind-blowing technological marvel of ABBA Voyage, close to West Ham’s gaffe.

Minor blip when we discovered a slow puncture as we arrived at the Woking FC car park (thanks to one of the many brilliant stewards for spotting it and the wonderful chap at Kwikfit), and after the incredibly professional performance on the park, an evening of live music in Hammersmith listening to the wonderful Blackheart Orchestra, the band that supplies the track I use at the start of the 1866 Sport Live programmes.

To be honest, the only thing that could have messed up the weekend was the performance of 11+3 chaps on a bit of Surrey grass. Fortunately, they didn’t. Not only didn’t they mess it up, they elevated the status of the weekend to one of the most memorable ones for a long time.

Funnily enough (solely with the benefit of hindsight), not taking any of the myriad of chances created to bag more goals weirdly made it feel better, as it severely tested the squad’s resolve. With Woking always feeling they were still in the game, the narrow lead factor seemed to strengthen the Boys in Blue’s tenacity. Despite the narrow advantage, odd expected nervy moment apart, the confidence increasingly permeated through our heroes on the pitch as well as the 298 Town fans in the ground. Surprisingly, fingernails remain intact.

One-nils are never comfortable, but this one seemed to be, and as it seems to have made a major difference to the season’s objective, it’s hard to show any emotions other than pride, a feeling bizarrely boosted by more six yard profligacy which could have put the game to bed. But for me at least, on this rare occasion, misses maketh man! But no mistake from 12 yards, Banksy’s blast made it three pens in three games, more of the same will help going forward.

Relatively new faces Colclough and Dallas were my co-commentator Bailey Clements’ short-listers for MOTM, but that list could have been easily lengthened by the addition of any one of the back four, whilst many there or watching on BT will have seen plenty more staking a claim for top-dog spot, just the sort of contest you want as the play-offs rapidly approach, with the next three or four games vital to try and firm up our challenge for third spot.

Whilst the disappointment of not being able to go head to head with Wrexham in the race for the title is obvious, it’s worth remembering just how good a statistical season this has been. This was NL win #20 in game #38. The last two play-off seasons, that milestone was reached in #40 and #41, in PC’s 2013-14 Championship season, #43, meaning the first season at Whitt Moor, when John Sheridan’s free-flowing side thrilled us, was the last quicker race to 20. A 2-1 win over Northampton, with goals from that campaign’s superstars Davies and Lester, came in game 36. Speaking of that 2010/11 season, the pinnacle performance, the 5-0 drubbing of the not so mighty Millers, also came on March 18, so let’s hope for an equally satisfying end of season outcome.

The last couple of seasons have seen critical close to the end of season wins over FC Halifax Town, one to reach the play-offs, one in the play-offs, both at The Shay, but the corresponding home fixtures were pretty disappointing. That means next Saturday’s match (three cheers for a Tuesday off) needs to see sequence busters for both home games in general and home games against Halifax in particular.

Hopefully, Chris Millington’s side (like us) will have Wembley on their minds. Not via the play-offs, but through the FA Trophy. Seven days after their Technique trip, they visit Altrincham in the semi-finals of a competition they won in 2016 (1-0 v Grimsby Town, 46,000 crowd), and with the top seven not realistically achievable for a team sitting in 16th place, who are also a comfortable nine points ahead of the drop-zone, knock-out glory will clearly be their seasonal objective, which hopefully will work in our favour on a day when Woking visit rock bottom, almost sure to be relegated, Maidstone United. Both sides will be looking for a goal difference boost.

Thirteen points from five after that barren run has relaunched the season, but we now need to relaunch the home form, especially as five of the eight remaining fixtures are at HQ, starting with the side with the fewest away goals (12) to their name. Let’s hope for a big, noisy and positive home crowd to roar the boys into third spot ahead of our visit to our nemesis. In six hours of football in Maidenhead, Chesterfield have never, ever been in the lead, but with WWWW on our current away record, maybe this time? Where’s the Ready Brek?

Phil’s Positive: Back to back clean sheets for the first time since August in what was an incredibly confident and largely untroubled performance against our major third placed rival. Right up there at the top end of the performance charts and certainly on the shortlist for ‘Best Away Performance of the Season’. And can’t ignore Dobra’s return.

The Spireites’ next game is on Saturday, March 25, 2023, when we host FC Halifax Town, 3pm kick-off; 1866 Sport will be live at the stadium from 2pm.

Chesterfield (4-2-3-1 to start): Fitzsimons; King, Palmer, Grimes, Maguire; Banks, Jones (Uchegbulam 79); Mandeville, Dallas (Uchegbulam 80), Colclough (Dobra 80); Quigley (McCallum 90+4). Subs (not used): Sheckleford, Oldaker.

Goal: Banks (pen) 37 (Chesterfield)

Referee: Lewis Smith

Bookings: Banks, Maguire (Chesterfield), Moss, Ince, Kellermann

Spireites boss Paul Cook was also yellow carded.

Attendance: 3,119 (298 from Chesterfield)

Netcoms IT 1866 Sport Man of the Match: Andrew Dallas (chosen by Bailey Clements)