Tooley’s Take

Phil Tooley takes a look at the game and its context  

Chesterfield 2 FC Halifax Town 0 National League Match #39

The conundrum on how to win at home has now been solved, albeit after the clock sadly ran out on the last five attempts. After a frustrating run of Ls and Ds in the home column, we were able to feast our eyes over a much loved consonant, W. Bring on the vowels (EIEIEIO, up the table we will go, one small number to get into the top row please).

Success is so often about pressing the buzzer first, and again Town managed it. A testy start, control established after 20 or so minutes, pressure building, Banks raided but couldn’t quite find the combination, Halifax put their bodies on the line for some painful blocks before the vital deposit was made. Ollie got the laurels with a well-placed header to convert a Maguire cross to put the Shaymen into a fine messmoments before the interval. Deserved.

The second half was like a comfortable pair of slippers, there to be relaxed in, casually watching something with not a care in the world, knowing without doubt there would be a happy ending, and with less than 20 minutes of the programme remaining, the Albanian Arrow pops up to find you your favourite cushion and a zen like level of tranquillity was achieved.

No plot twists looked likely, though for a second, the baddies did break through the defensive line, but a chap who we’d all forgotten was involved in the story, popped up to confirm the perfect Fitz of both slippers. No need to panic.

Three clean sheets on the bounce, first since the opening three games of last season. First home win since January. Dobra’s first goal in the kop end. I’m pretty sure he’s the first Town sub to score and be subbed (he didn’t look happy, but a great call from the technical area), but not forensically checked that yet.

First home win over Halifax in four attempts. Second time on the trot Town’s yellow card count was Maguire & Banks (why was he booked?) plus the gaffer. Twelfth NL home win this season, the first dozen maximums since PC lead us to the 2013/14 title, four more from the final four will equal the 2010/11 haul of 16.

Nine winless games and now five wins and a draw in six. What’s changed? Solidity at the back, for me, is the main reason. Three concessions in those six games, compared to 14 let in during the nasty-nine. But ironically, I feel that solidity has largely been due to the acquisition of the attack-minded Colclough and Dallas. Their introduction has lessened the need for the full-backs to bomb on and be the chief creators.

Before this game, the full-back positions had been directly involved in 22 NL goals, indicating their excellent raiding characteristics. The new two and their attacking prowess means the wide defenders don’t have to get forward quite as much, meaning the opponents, particularly the happy to sit back and counter-attack ones, can’t ping the ball over the forward thinking full-backs and find space behind them.

A major reason for concessions has been curtailed, whilst fortunately, the sharp end hasn’t suffered as a result, with the successful six game run getting back to the magic two-goals-a-game average (plus a hatful of chances not taken) that will win you a lot more games than you’ll lose.

We also witnessed, albeit briefly, another option for Paul Cook. With Dobs’ introduction, Dallas was pushed into the ‘one’ role, with Mandeville, Dobra and Colclough as the attacking three midfielders.

That brief 14-minute spell, which produced the vital second goal, very much a function of the format, gave us the opportunity to reminisce about the likes of Doyle plus Johnson, Roberts, Clucas and co, and #Cookball as we fondly remember first time round.

Options a-plenty, and post-match, Danny Webb indicated to me that Akwasi Asante is expected to resume full training this week, and he also hinted that Armando’s withdrawal was a precautionary measure, just a tight hammy, not that the 11-goal scorer agreed with that assessment!

Maidenhead. Comfy slippers have never been in my kit bag at York Road. LLDL there, scored three, conceded eight, never been in the lead, never looked like winning, never been biting our finger-nails whilst hanging-on, not even bitten off our noses to spite our faces. Maybe once!

We could possibly kick-off there in third spot. No midweek game for us, but Barnet’s continued presence in the FA Trophy means their scheduled fixture, at Woking, has been brought forward to Tuesday evening, so if the Bees nick a win at Kingfield, we’d definitely move above the Cards. That would be good, a draw on Tuesday wouldn’t be a disaster either.

The season’s countdown is well and truly on. Can seven consonants and just two vowels come up with a nine-letter word? T-H-I-R-D-S-P-O-T. But with seven games left, plus possibly two more, just make it WWWWWWWWW Rachel.

Phil’s Positive: Comfortable and controlled performance; early minutes apart, no scary bits.

The Spireites’ next game is on Saturday, April 1 2023, when we WILL WIN at Maidenhead United (early April Fools’ Joke), 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; Mandeville, Dallas (McCallum 78), Colclough; Quigley (Dobra 64) (Uchegbulam 82). Subs (not used): Horton, Oldaker.

Goals: Banks 45+3, Dobra 71 (Chesterfield)

Referee: Greg Rollason

Bookings: Banks, Maguire (Chesterfield), Golden (Halifax)

Spireites boss Paul Cook was also yellow carded.

Attendance: 7,091 (325 from Halifax)

Netcoms IT 1866 Sport Man of the Match: Mike Jones (chosen by Jamie Hewitt)