Tooley’s Take

Phil Tooley takes a look at the game and its context

Chesterfield 4 Dorking Wanderers 3 National League

Negatives galore, maximum points in the bag; the sort of game that’s impossible to describe succinctly, and exactly the sort of game that ticks off the needs of both optimists and pessimists.

Dorking Wanderers scored three, but went home empty-handed. The last 21 times the Spireites have conceded three or more goals in National League encounters, a total of zero wins and zero draws have been recorded, the 3-3 at Bromley in 2019 was the last time some reward was earned after such profligacy at the back. Welcome back to this bonkers division!

Lead, level, losing, level, lead, level, lead. I’m sure you could bang out a chant with that sequence, but the best and most welcome chant heard on the day was the one that followed Joe Quigley’s stooping header for the 99th minute winner, his first goal since his Boxing Day brace last year at Scunny and his first as a sub since the match immediately before that, a 3-1 win over Dorking Wanderers!

And don’t think along the lines of ‘it was only Dorking,’ very disrespectful for a side who lost just one of their final nine games last season and all 15 of their outfield players on the team-sheet were with the club last season, giving them the highest level of continuity for any side this weekend, barring the embargoed Shrimpers.

Award-winning Liam Mandeville’s brace was his first such reward for Town, and you have to go back to November 2016 for his one and only previous two-timer, for Doncaster against Orient, and both of those goals were penalties. Neither could possibly have been struck as well as his free-kick goal, banged in after Joe Cook joined Will Evans (Boreham Wood), Ollie Banks (Swindon) and Andy Whing (Oxford United) as the only ex-Spireites to be subsequently sent-off against Chesterfield.

And talking of sweet strikes, Ryan Colclough’s opener, his first ever opening day goal, will take some beating in the power stakes, a stunner that sparked the sevengoal thriller into high-octane action.

But for all of the positive attacking action, which could have been a lot more devastating had it not been for a string of fine debut saves by the Male man who was between Wanderers’ posts, the far too frequently witnessed soft Spireites underbelly will arguably lead to the majority of bar room banter. Unmarked half-volley, needless penalty and unmarked far-post roll in will give Paul Cook and his backroom team plenty to ponder this week.

Whilst everyone went home entertained to the hilt, the high blood pressure and palpitations amongst the highest ever home contingent at a first match of the season on Whitt Moor surely can’t be witnessed every week (Doctor’s Orders). No more Shaking My Head or So Much Hell at the SMH Group Stadium please; all we want is Stress Minimal Home games.

That said, of the ten most fancied by the bookies teams, only Chesterfield and Barnet won. No-one foresaw second favourites Oldham Athletic being tonked 4-0 at troubled Southend United, and the craziness of the section was further highlighted by the fact that of the four players who scored two on the day, two of them, Dorking’s Prior and Oxford City’s Parker, ended up on the losing side.

Four debut-makers for the home side. Tyrer had no culpability in any of the concessions and he made a couple of more than decent saves, whilst Naylor had a steady if unspectacular start, but the ex-Wigan Athletic man’s game style will rarely be spectacular.

Grigg’s awareness and movement was good, taking up threatening positions inside the danger area, but he will need better quality of service going forward, and sub Jacobs, who hadn’t even trained with the team, looked a bit special in his relatively late cameo. They’ve all unquestionably improved the squad that was already the best of the rest last season.

Of all the departed outfield players that represented Chesterfield last season, Paul McCallum made the most points-offering starts, 12, with only Tim Akinola (10) also reaching double figures. All 14 other 10+ outfield men are still with the club. That’s a level of continuity not seen much in the days since Cookie was last here.

Along with those on the scoresheet, the familiar face of Armando Dobra stood out the most. His trickery saw him take a heck of a lot of punishment which, on another occasion, could have seen the opposition even more short-handed. He could easily have bagged a goal or two.

Speaking to him after the game, he said he’d worked incredibly hard in pre-season and on his own before pre-season began, and he’s confident he’s more than ready to start substantially more NL games than the 23 he managed last term.

Plenty of possession, tons of territory, goals galore, excellent entertainment, but tightening-up training remains a must. We don’t want the Rolls Royce grace of classical #Cookball to turn into wham-bam #Bazball (which I happen to love in cricket and is welcome in the footy occasionally), most of our nerves couldn’t take it.

But let’s not kid ourselves, all we really want this season is winning football, regardless of how it comes about, and shredded nerves excepting, the table shows a Big W in the record books.

We’ve had enough of this hiatus from the EFL. I’m delighted Town are clear favourites, it shows that most people feel that PC is getting things PC (Pretty Correct) and this match showed that, like Wrexham and Notts had in abundance last season, we have the desire and fire-power to get out of scrapes at the death and accumulate points despite elements of frailty. Best not analyse too deeply how those teams did on their EFL return!

North-west coast next weekend. Just up the road, the Red Arrows will be at the Blackpool Airshow and every visiting supporter at Fylde will be hoping that the Spireites can mirror their perfect teamwork and serve up a bit of their motto, Éclat, which is French for Excellence, and in doing so, extend Chesterfield’s perfect win record at Mill Farm.

I’ll be in a darkened room until then to get all of my vital signs back to normal.

Phil’s Positive: Three points in the bank and four goals scored on the opening day of the season for the first time since the controversial promotion season in 2000-01 when York City were beaten 4-1.

Next Match: At AFC Fylde, where the Spireites have won on every visit, on Saturday, August 12, with a 3pm kick-off. Full coverage from 2pm on 1866 Sport.

Chesterfield (4-2-3-1 to start): Tyrer; Sheckleford, Williams, Grimes, Horton; Banks, Naylor; Colclough (Jacobs 84), Mandeville(Uchegbulam 90+1), Dobra; Grigg (Quigley 84). Subs (not used):Palmer, Oldaker.

Goals: Colclough 23, Mandeville 64, 82, Quigley 90+9 (Chesterfield), Prior 28, 52 (pen), Bowerman 90+3 (Dorking)

Referee: Ruebyn Ricardo

Bookings: Naylor, Williams (Chesterfield), Fuller, Taylor, Gallagher (Dorking)

Sending-off: Cook – two yellows, second on 81 mins (Dorking)

Attendance: 7,657 (164 from Dorking)

Netcoms IT 1866 Sport Man of the Match: Liam Mandeville (chosen by Dave Waller)