Phil Tooley takes a look at the game and its context
Rochdale 1 Chesterfield 2 National League Game #12
Has Paul Cook’s side just come of age? This was Town’s 21st points-offering win at Spotland, they’ve not won on any away ground more times. The youthful exuberance and excitement witnessed in games 1-11 were not so much in evidence. What we witnessed in the north-west was a proper, grown up performance, do what you need to and largely strut around with a new found maturity and confidence. I loved it.
The only downside was the concession, a simple straight ball through the middle for ex-Spireite Kairo Mitchell to run on to, but that gap was soon tightened and there was no repeat performance. Mistakes were learned from. Mature.
Not my normal morning after the night before cup of tea in bed Take today. An early drop of for a software recall, so I’m typing my words in the Land Rover showroom at the bottom of Whittington Hill, evoquing (sic) memories of John Duncanesque defenders and enjoying the discovery that Armando Dobra can put in a right good shift that doesn’t just involve going forwards.
Two crosses of the highest order enabled Dobs and Tom Naylor to grab our goals, Michael Jacobs conjured up something of beauty for the opener, which threatened to stay out for a while until it popped in, whilst Mandy again clicked up his goal contributions from another set-play, his value to this team is immense, whether right-back, right-mid or #10. Adult.
Rochdale were a proper side too. They could play and they had plenty of strengths, their holding pair of Ryan East and Adam Clayton (I thought he was brilliant, U2?) had a wonderful battle with Naylor and Mike Jones, highlight of the game for me, four good footballers at the top of their games. National League? You’re having a laugh.
After the concession, the solidity of the back-line was exactly what we need to see, week-in, week-out. With speed birds Sinclair, Uchegbulam, John and Oduroh operating down Rochdale’s flanks and Mitchell in the middle, Town couldn’t rest. The high, team press worked a treat and the hosts had to reset their attacking intensions time and again as their creators continually hit orange cul-de-sacs. Not the exciting, buzzing, creative side of #Cookball, but the essential ingredient on which everything else is based. Whilst the second half ended 0-0 and not many major openings were created by Chesterfield, that 45 was a close to a perfect awayday show. Whilst the scoreline remained close, the victory never really looked in doubt, and it felt very, very good.
Roared on by 8,002 fans, well that’s what the 802 sounded like, this was all a bit surreal. Quality from both sides that belied the pyramid position they operate within, a match that was non-stop even without spawning chance after chance, and another step on the way towards the success we all desperately crave,
Our first magnificent seven since the 1967/68 season, which started off in spectacular fashion before fading in a disappointing manner. This squad doesn’t feel like it will replicate that disappointment (I’m not prepared to research the last eight-on-the spin as we’re at Maidenhead United on Saturday, so no point in wasting time). A great stat, but my favourite is that in all 12 games so far, Chesterfield have, at some stage (and on ten occasions at the final whistle) been in the lead. That has never happened before from the start of a season, and it shows what a fantastic squad we are dealing with.
The Spireites have been champions of their division on six occasions over the years. After 12 games, their respective records have been: 1930/31 W8 D2 L2, 1935/36 W5 D6 L1, 1969/70 W7 D2 L3, 1984/85 W8 D3 L1, 2010/11 W7 D4 L1, 2013/14 W7 D2 L3. This season, W10 D1 L1, which even beats the stunning start of the 2000/01 season which ended in promotion despite a points deduction, the opening dozen games then were W9 D2 L1, and at that point, every supporter felt as though Nicky Law’s side were the divisional Gold Standard. This has every bit the same feel for me, perhaps even more so. The manager, his staff and the Board have put together an exceptional squad that can achieve whatever they want to achieve. Our biggest competitor this season is complacency, and in PC, we have the best possible person to ensure complacency doesn’t lose the league.
But is can only be a special season if we win at Maidenhead United!
Phil’s Positive: A superb controlled second half. No scares, no Dale chances, no panic.
Next Match: Away at bogey side Maidenhead United on September 30. 1866 Sports coverage starts at 2pm with kick-off an hour later. Is this the year?
Chesterfield (4-2-3-1 to start): Tyrer; Mandeville, Williams, Grimes, Freckleton; Naylor, Jones; Dobra (Banks 86), Jacobs, Colclough (Berry 69); Quigley (Grigg 69). Subs (not used): Palmer, Banks.
Goals: Dobra 7, Naylor 26 (Chesterfield), Mitchell 13 (Rochdale)
Referee: Michael Barlow
Bookings: Jones, Colclough, Freckleton (Chesterfield), Oduroh, Uchegbulam, Henderson (Dale)
Attendance: 3,044 (802 from Chesterfield)
Netcoms IT 1866 Sport Man of the Match: Armando Dobra (chosen by Phil Picken)