Tooley’s Take

Phil Tooley takes a look at the game and its context  

Chesterfield 1 York City 3 National League Match #41

Hands up if you saw that coming. This is the third season I’ve been doing this column (according to Nick Johnson’s numbering sequence, the break in now 147) and never, ever before have so many people said to me after the game ‘What are you going to write about that?’ To be honest, my answer was (slight poetic licence) that I was snookered.

First loss against York City in 20 games, first loss this season after scoring first, second loss for words following the same outcome, same grass, similar performance against Woking. At least that day, Woking were excellent; in this game City were better than Town, but they were a notch or two below world-beaters.

Having started writing about the Spireites in 1980, and started talking about them on the wireless in 1991, I’m often asked about what was the worst performance I’ve witnessed. In this day and age of social media immediacy, every defeat seems to have some following for nadir status, and on reflection, they are never quite that bad.

I’ve never been one to save newspaper cuttings, but one I did clip out was our 1-0 defeat at York on a miserable Halloween night in 1987. The Minstermen hadn’t won in 15, we mustered only one shot in the game, late on from full-back Jamie Hewitt. Dave Caldwell sprinted the length of the pitch to headbutt a City player who’d just fouled one of his colleagues to effectively end his time with Chesterfield (within a week he’d been shipped off to Torquay in his record-breaking five red card season) and I felt at the time, things couldn’t get any worse, and to ensure I never forgot it, the scissors came into action a day or two later. How we’d all love our next disaster to be a 1-0 away defeat in Tier 3 of the EFL!

The latest haunting by York (in 2014 York was named as the world’s most haunted city with 504 recorded hauntings) did not match that frighteningly bad 1987 performance, but there were certainly plenty of disturbing experiences to startle even the most staunch ghoul disbelievers, and the match certainly joins the Woking calamity in sending many a Town fan to seek solace via spirits!

And, despite a few early dangerous apparitions, it all looked good when Mandy fired in a cracker. Score first, job done, and it felt like, at that point, the players thought it was job done. But in reality, you have to keep working and not assume taking the lead is a Kenneth Wolstenholme moment.

The game was far from over at that point. When Paddy McLaughlin hit York’s third through a forest of legs on 73, it was over then. There were plenty of people on the pitch, but only the ones in burgundy looked like they were meant to be there.

Concessions one and two were horror shows, with players failing to take heed of earlier similar warnings. Two great strikes, two unnecessary gifts. Stephen King, as we speak, is writing a screenplay about them, Misery 2 is the working title. The King of Horror also wrote a book called Revival, and that’s what is needed right now, or the Daggers will be drawn (or worse still, lost).

As the clock ticks down, nerves get ever more frayed and disappointment when things go badly is heightened. In this case, the frustration is intensified because we looked flat, the key to unlocking the visiting defence, despite ten second half corners, could not be located, but we were actively handing over our PIN numbers,  seemingly preparing for a steal. Combined with Woking coming from behind to win, it made for a major session of post-match weeping and wailing.

But the distress comes on the back of 17 points from seven games, York’s equaliser was the first concession in almost seven and a half hours  and, on Monday, the right results could see the play-offs become a mathematical certainty much earlier than in the last two seasons. Down, but certainly not out.

Dagenham & Redbridge had a good Friday, winning  1-0 at belligerent Boreham Wood. They’re six points off the play-offs with five to play, making it a game that both home and away supporters will deem as a must-win encounter.

Our last three trips to the home of the Ford factory have all ended in draws, the two before that saw away wins. We must-ang on to Woking’s coattails and get back on the road to fiesta time and not get cort-ina trap of fourth to seventh spot. Buckle up for the ride.

Phil’s Positive: The crowd, a magnificent 8638, whish takes the HOME FANS average this season to 6420, the highest such average since the club moved to Whittington Moor. Magnificent.

The Spireites’ next game is on Monday, April 10, 2023, at Dagenham & Redbridge. 3pm kick-off; 1866 Sport will be live at the stadium from 2pm.

Chesterfield (4-2-3-1 to start): Fitzsimons; King, Palmer (Uchegbulam 88), Grimes, Maguire; Banks, Jones; Mandeville, Dallas (Asante 70), Colclough; McCallum (Quigley 70). Subs (not used): Horton, Oldaker.

Goals: Mandeville 18 (Chesterfield), Dyson 41, Duckworth 52, McLaughlin 73 (York)

Referee: Michael Barlow

Bookings: Colclough, Maguire, Jones, Grimes (Chesterfield), Hancox, Ellis (York)

Attendance: 8,638 (1,105 from York)

Netcoms IT 1866 Sport Man of the Match: Mike Jones (chosen by Chris Marples)