Phil Tooley takes a look at the game and its context
Ebbsfleet United 0 Chesterfield 1 National League Game #9
Let’s forget the score and look at the match without the benefit of knowing the outcome.
Chesterfield, away from home, against a team that had scored in every one of their last 18 fixtures and had banged in 110 goals in 46 games last season. The hosts featured a hot-streak striker, ten goals in his last six games for club and country, and in six games against the Spireites, he had never tasted defeat.
Paul Cook’s side came out of the traps at the highest of high tempos, pressing the opposition as high up the pitch as it was possible to press, forcing error after error. They crossed from the left, they crossed from the right, there was only one fleet-footed team, the others took flight.
Harry Tyrer, two catches and quick feet from an awkward back-pass, his opposite number, Mark Cousins played the game of his life. Save after save after save after save. The continuous pummelling just made him even more belligerent. When he was beaten a couple of times, the post came to his rescue, and there were several off-the-line clearances from his colleagues.
Corner count? 16-3 to the blue team, but the season’s set-play successes slipped by, as did the ticking clock, until super-sub James Berry came on to tee-up Dobs to become the tenth different Town scorer with one of the earliest late goals of the season.
Fellow sub Joe Quigley gave a masterclass in keeping the ball in the corner, great game management, but Michael Jacobs, on a booking, gave the ref a call when he over-dawdled with a throw-in and he’ll miss the Halifax match on Tuesday. Not so great game management.
We’ve had a second yellow for time wasting before, Branden Horton, but it was subsequently proven to be mistaken identity and his suspension was overturned. No ID issues this time.
So, after the most dominating performance of the season from Paul Cook’s side, close to a perfect away performance, it still provided the customary nail-biting finish but (play a fanfare right now) a CLEAN SHEET was experienced. I saw Tyrer and keeper coach ‘Bucky’ looking very pleased with themselves when they came together after the match! Fair play to the keeper, but there were great defensive shows all over the pitch.
Dobra back tracked relentlessly, as did Jacobs and Colclough, whilst Grigg was responsible for many a turnover. Naylor was his usual unflappable self.
Whilst 36-year-old keeper Cousins was the undoubted Man of the Match, of the outfield players, it was our own 36-year-old Mike Jones that put in a ten out of ten show. He’s had an unbelievable spell at the club, he’s been admired week after week, made some breathtaking tackles, but at The Kuflink Stadium, his contribution was as near to faultless as you can get. Ebbsfleet just couldn’t keep up with him. Stunning.
This (not so) simple 1-0 win gave me more pleasure than any other game this season, not because of that elusive clean sheet, not because it put Town at the top of the league (thanks to Jes for having a hand in two of Rochdale’s four goals that helped beat Barnet 4-2), but because it was so controlled, so dominant, so close to what the manager is trying to achieve week after week.
Many will say that Ebbsfleet parked the bus. They didn’t, they weren’t allowed to have time to look for the keys. The Chesterfield side did miss a few, you can’t deny that, but they didn’t miss around ten or a dozen, they just found a keeper who had one of those incredible, inspired days, but the visitors never slowed, never gave up, never looked like not winning, and eventually got the reward they thoroughly deserved.
It would have been nice to have won 5-0 as could easily happened, but for me, the satisfaction was much, much greater having to continually stride for the breakthrough and ultimately achieving the aim of the day with what can easily be argued as being the best performance of the season. #Cookball.
No rest with the West Yorkshire misers at the SMH on Tuesday. FC Halifax Town, boasting the section’s tightest defence (as they always seem to), have leaked just seven in nine games, though they’ve only scored eight, so looks like patience may well be needed again.
The Shaymen, who incidentally are at Barnet next weekend, lost 1-0 at home to Dorking Wanderers on Saturday, their only defeat in seven games, but four of the others have been drawn.
Jacobs’ suspension will force a change, whilst two games in four days will also come into the gaffer’s thoughts as Chesterfield seek a fifth straight win for only the second time in ten years.
They will have to come up against another fine keeper, Sam Johnson, who was ever-present for Halifax last season and if you look at that campaign and add it to this season, he’s conceded just 55 goals in his last 55 appearances. He’s very good and very hard to beat. It looks like another clean sheet is mandatory if the points are to be maximised.
Phil’s Positive: Top of the league, 22 points, on Wrexham watch, that’s two points more than their nine game marker last season! Oh, and a clean sheet! And the first time Ebbsfleet United haven’t scored in 19 games. Plus Tyrer made two catches and their keeper played an absolute blinder.
Next Match: Back home on Tuesday, September 19 when FC Halifax Town visit the SMH Group Stadium. The match kicks off at 7.45pm with 1866 Sports coverage starting at 7pm.
Chesterfield (4-2-3-1 to start): Tyrer; Mandeville, Williams, Grimes, Freckleton; Naylor, Jones; Dobra (Banks 90), Jacobs, Colclough (Berry 77); Grigg (Quigley 80). Subs (not used): Palmer, Curtis.
Goal: Dobra 82 (Chesterfield)
Referee: Paul Johnson
Bookings: Dobra, Williams, Jones (Chesterfield), Martin, White, Cisse, Poleon (Ebbsfleet)
Red Card: Michael Jacobs (second yellow on 90+2 mins)
Attendance: 2,063 (347 from Chesterfield)
Netcoms IT 1866 Sport Man of the Match: Mike Jones (chosen by Josh Marsh)