Phil Tooley takes a look at the game and its context
Chesterfield 1 Portsmouth 0 Emirates FA Cup First Round
Best ever win in the FA Cup? Computer says …… YES!
Believe it or not, this is only the second time EVER Chesterfield have beaten a team two divisions higher in an FA Cup tie. Nottingham Forest in the 1996/97 season, in the fifth round, is the only other, and we were going pretty well in level three that season, whilst they were floundering in the murky waters near the bottom of the Prem. So the 48 places between Pompey and the Spireites represents the biggest gap in the pyramid that Chesterfield have successfully overcome in this competition. Wow.
And it was no spawny, lucky, how did we manage that sort of game. Chesterfield were the best side, most and best chances. Portsmouth boss John Mousinho, who hadn’t seen his team lose (one penalty shoot-out excepted) since March, said he thought his side looked like they had only ten men in the second half. And Pompey started with the same XI that started at Reading a week earlier in League One.
They gave Chesterfield maximum respect, Chesterfield gave Portsmouth as tough a test as they’ve faced this season. Paul Cook’s squad is good enough to compete much further up that 48-rung ladder.
When did I think Town would win? After about five seconds, when Will Grigg charged down the keeper’s clearance from the kick-off. It showed the hosts were more than up for it and it clearly rattled the unbeaten visitors; you could see the boys in blue immediately realised that Portsmouth were fallible. That said, it still required 100 more minutes of play from the likes of Mandeville, Palmer, Naylor, Banks and Grigg, who were all at the top of their games, to work like crazy to keep the salmon downstream.
Mandeville, like the Duracell Bunny, was like a man possessed, defending with a strength that, had you suggested after he’d played about ten games for Chesterfield in 2019 he’d be doing what he did against Portsmouth, you’d have been dismissed as being devoid of any footballing knowledge. Cook’s recipe for ‘Mandy’ is worthy of many Michelin Stars. On Bonfire Night, for me, Mandy was The Guy, the man on fire (sorry, Will).
Palmer must have had spinach for his pre-match meal. Like Popeye, he beat off attacker after attacker, using every part of his body to repel, block and tackle. His heavy lifting was immense.
Naylor made a couple of mistakes, but both times just went and got the ball back. His header for Mandeville’s tenth assist of the season was awesome, getting in just ahead of the keeper’s intended punch. Bravery of the highest order (though he told me afterwards, he’d not seen the goalie, just the ball!) Goal #8 of the season, equalling his best ever seasonal haul. We are so lucky to have him.
Banks got everything right (apart from his shooting), pulling Portsmouth from pillar to post, playing the role of chief destroyer against the club from the Navy’s base. If his artillery had been a bit more accurate, we’d have been talking of his performance for years and years.
Grigg knew there’d be more long balls than normal. Playing a team that plays just like Chesterfield, which means they are susceptible to a long ball, Town used that tactic more than normal, and Will’s movement meant that his markers were all at sea. Danny Webb said after the game that his first-class movement makes an average ball look like a world beater.
Picking out that famous five doesn’t mean that they were the only reason for the win, the other six starters (and subs) all performed their job descriptions to the full to make this a close-on (bearing in mind the quality of opponent) perfect show. A team game played as a team, showing a fantastic team how to approach an extremely tough task.
And what an atmosphere. Portsmouth’s big following showed what we are missing, fantastic, but when three sides of the ground were belting out Sailing as the final five minutes clicked on, it was highly emotional and I’m sure there were plenty of tears of joy around the stadium.
I was really pleased I held it together to describe the scenes at the end of the game, alongside another genuine Chesterfield supporter, Jamie Hewitt, who knows a thing or two about Cup upsets, but rest assured, we were both right on the edge!
A good draw for the second round, too, at home to mid-table League One side Leyton Orient, who are where we aspire to be, having won the National League in our first season in the competition and gaining promotion again last season. Managed by ex-Blackpool, Leicester City and Doncaster Rovers man Richie Wellens, like Portsmouth and Paul Cook, he loves an attacking 4-2-3-1 line-up. It’s teed up for another potential classic.
But no time for a breather, Barnet are in town next Saturday. They squeezed through to R2 with a 1-0 win at Curzon Ashton, but with seven wins and two draws in their last nine NL games, they will give the Spireites a real test in what may be a game with only three points at stake, the two managers will both emphasise that, but they’re very wrong!
For every supporter of both teams, there is much, much more at stake than that. It may not be a season defining match, but for those that will be amongst another bumper SMH Group Stadium crowd, they will treat it as exactly that!
Big, big game. Would you take a draw?
Phil’s Positive: Where do I start? From first whistle to last, it was 45+5 and 45+5 more of positivity. No point in searching for just one positive!
Next Match: Saturday, November 11, 2023, first v second, Barnet at home, a huge game. If you can’t be there, or even if you are, 1866 Sport coverage starts at 2pm. Don’t forget to subscribe to the After the Whistle podcast to hear all of the post-match reaction.
Chesterfield (4-2-3-1 to start): Tyrer; Mandeville (Sheckleford 81), Palmer, Grimes, Horton (Freckleton 71); Naylor, Oldaker (Berry 81); Jacobs, Banks (Colclough 64), Dobra (Jones 71); Grigg. Subs (not used): Boot, King, Curtis, Cook.
Goal: Naylor 31 (Chesterfield)
Referee: Will Finnie
Bookings: Jones, Naylor, Palmer (Chesterfield), Rafferty, Kamara(Portsmouth)
Attendance: 8377 (1566 from Portsmouth)
Netcoms IT 1866 Sport Man of the Match: Tom Naylor (chosen by Jamie Hewitt)