Tooley’s Take

Phil Tooley takes a look at the game and its context  

Chesterfield 1 Oldham Athletic 1 National League Game #4

Colin Larkin was the last Spireite to score a home goal that clinched all three points against Oldham Athletic. That was in a season lit up by Carling Cup wins over Wolves, Man City and West Ham, and a season that also saw Town relegated. Home wins over the Latics clearly mean diddlysquat in the long run! But this should have been a home win.

Oddsmakers have these two sides as #1 and #2 in the National League rankings, so whatever had gone before in the opening three games was irrelevant, it was always going to be tough and it was also this season’s first encounter with a side determined not to lose.

Whilst we always seemed to struggle against bus parkers, this was this side’s first go at it, and whilst there were precious few edge of the seat moments, Paul Cook’s side teased out a lead, looked solid at the back against the counter-attacks, and created a couple of great chances to double the lead, but didn’t take them. Not winning the game, for me, was more of a function of this rather than the stoppage-time leveller.

In commentary, before Dan Gardner’s last-gasp shot, I felt the keeper should have caught, not punched. But I didn’t see it as a mistake, he clearly came out to punch it and connected well, but it may have been a misjudgement, the sort of thing that experience guides you along the way, and without a huge back catalogue of games, shots happen.

Then what did look like a mistake occurred, but who knows the interpretation of the offside law from one day to the next. Mike Fondop was (in my opinion) clearly interfering with play by undoubtedly limiting the view of Tyrer, whose save was anticipated best by Norwood, who incidentally used to play for Paul Cook at Ipswich Town, and the first four from four start to a season this century was cruelly snatched away from us.

The scorer, who earlier had aimed an obscene gesture at the home fans in The Van Yard (West) Stand (I know, I witnessed it), unwisely celebrated in front of the same group of supporters rather than his own, and that (again in my opinion) was a major catalyst for what followed.

Rarely has nicking a point in the fourth game of a season been celebrated in such a manner, something we should take heart from. We can also debate why the referee didn’t restart the game afterwards when there was clearly some time remaining, albeit measured in seconds rather than minutes, but he didn’t and I’m sure there’ll be no criticism of him in that regard by the authorities.  

You can’t expunge stoppage time, but if you could, the performance from Chesterfield was good, against a clearly capable side. Maybe a tad predictable at times as Oldham defended in numbers, maybe at times, potential killer balls were not delivered, and maybe at times it was a tad slow.

Oldham had some good counters, and probably should have scored, but clearly over the regulation 90, The Spireites were the better side on the day against the on-paper second best side in the section, and that can’t be bad. It’s sad and a little frustrating that, in the final match analysis, much of that will be forgotten.

Another set-piece goal, a fine header from Ash Palmer. He’s the seventh different player to score for us this season; only seven NL teams have scored more than seven so far, so that’s a remarkable statistic. Add to that, of the players yet to score, five more have assisted goals showing just how deep the squad goes and how important the team, rather than individuals is, but that clean sheet Holy Grail still eludes us.

Unbeaten Altrincham and fourth-placed Hartlepool United to come over the Bank Holiday weekend. Palmer scored our late winner at Moss Lane last season against a side that have always proved to be difficult, whilst in six NL games against Pools, we’ve only picked up two points, so that’s another tough test.

It’s easy to say we’d all have settled for ten points from four games, and we would, but we know that it should have been 12, and after sleeping on it, the pain hasn’t eased a great deal. 

Let me just cheer you up a bit by outlining that in our last championship season, 2013/14, with Cookie at the helm, after four games it was W3 D1 and we went on to win games five, six, seven, eight and nine! Same again please, gaffer.

Phil’s Positive: Chesterfield were the better side against the bookies’ second favourites.

Next Match: It’s a Bank Holiday weekend double-header starting with a trip to Greater Manchester, with the game at Altrincham on Saturday, August 26 kicking-off at 3pm. 1866 Sport will be on air from 2pm.

Chesterfield (4-2-5-1 to start): Tyrer; Sheckleford (Williams 46), Palmer, Grimes, Horton; Naylor, Oldaker; Mandeville Dobra (Jacobs 75), Colclough; Grigg (Quigley 83). Subs (not used): Banks, Berry.

Goals: Palmer 60 (Chesterfield), Norwood 90+6 (Oldham)