Phil Tooley takes a look at the game and its context
Maidenhead United 0 Chesterfield 0 National League Match #40
Mamma Mia! Here we go again. Nightmare. Just two of the appropriately named films made just up the road from York Road at Bray Studios. Several Dr Who episodes were also made there, so we need to get into the Tardis to see if we ever do manage to win at the home of Maidenhead United since 1871. More likely to beat a Dalek XI, probably played at a neutral venue, somewhere like Exeter-mate.
My final words to Paul Cook at the end of my 1866 Sport interview were to make sure we never have to return to the sloping pitch that has produced so much Spireites meh-football… EVER! That said, we should all have been celebrating a win, Andrew Dallas will be tormented by his missed chance, earned when Sam Beckwith slipped, but the Scot, having rounded the keeper, was unable to find the target and Town’s best ever chance to take the lead at the bottom of the hill was gone.
A dominant first half and several great positions in the second failed to produce the quality ball in, something that was hampering the team a few weeks ago, and a fourth straight clean sheet (though the Magpies did fail to steal anything from a couple of shiny openings) didn’t really compensate for the missed opportunity of returning to third spot.
As has been the case so often in 2023, opponents were putting their bodies on the line to block shots and stop crosses, and when combined with Chesterfield’s flair players not quite being at the races, a nil in the visitor’s column always looked to be a solid bet against a side that have only lost one in seven at home now.
But at least, of late, the team has only needed to score once to win. The back line has become much more solid, and though the pace of McCoulsky threatened the equilibrium a couple of times, defeat never really looked like it was going to happen, but sadly, neither (before or after the one gilt-edged opening) did victory.
Best player on the day was home skipper Alan Massey. The big central defender, ably assisted by Will de Havilland, tackled, headed and battled as if their lives depended on it as Alan Devonshire’s team, watched on by celebrity supporter Timmy Mallett, seek to reach the magical 50 points safety score (they’re now on 48). It certainly was never easy for Town, either with or without the football at their feet.
Far too rarely did Chesterfield bring French keeper Alexis Andre into the action. A star of Amazon’s Lovestruck High (never heard of it!), he will no doubt right now be making a few Tik-Tok clean sheet based videos to feed the frenzy of his 4.3 million followers. Mentioning that shows that there’s little else to talk about from the game!
The draw leaves us 11 points clear of eighth place, so the play-offs are nailed on, five ahead of Barnet, who have a game in hand and, having lost on pens in the semi-final of the Trophy, now have only one aim, and we’re seven ahead of Boreham Wood. Woking’s goal difference is one better than ours as we prepare to host York City on Friday whilst Woking travel to Dorking Wanderers, who probably need just one more win to extinguish their relegation fears. The Minstermen are probably two wins away from comfort, so both of the rivals for third place will have determined sides in opposition next up.
Bogey-side or not, failing to win is disappointing, domination needs to turn into more keeper action, but at least we’re much harder to break down, something that has been far too easy at times this season. It’s frustrating when you miss chances, which has also been a problem, but it’s even more frustrating when you don’t create chances, and whilst the possession statistics will undoubtedly belong to Chesterfield, only one miss and only one half-decent save was the biggest frustration for me.
York City are ideal next opponents, no Town loss in the last 19 meetings in all competitions, April 1992 marks the Minstermen’s last maximum over the Crooked Spire side, and having ditched the shouldered monkey against another Yorkshire team last time at The Technique, it’s time to turn it on against a side that’s won just four from 16 in the NL in 2023. That said, York host Barnet on Monday, so we could do with them getting something from that match.
On the day that saw Maidstone United be the first team to suffer relegation from the section, Chesterfield’s clean sheet and single point is the 34th picked up on the team’s travels, equalling last season’s tally (albeit from 22 games, this season we’ve played 21 aways to date). You’ve got to think that to secure third spot, at least four of the final six games need to be won, four at home remain, so see off York City, Torquay United, Eastleigh and Maidstone United, and that coveted position could be in the bag.
Phil’s Positive: First ever clean sheet at York Road, won 10-0 on corners, played as well as we ever have there, but that’s saying three-parts of bog-all!
The Spireites’ next game is on Friday, April 7, 2023, at home to York City, best be a Good Friday. 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 (Oldaker 82); Mandeville, Dallas (Uchegbulam 80), Colclough; McCallum (Quigley 80). Subs (not used): Sheckleford, Williams
Referee: Gary Parsons
Bookings: King, Mandeville (Chesterfield), Adams, McCoulsky (Maidenhead)
Netcoms IT 1866 Sport Man of the Match: Ollie Banks (chosen by Josh Marsh)