Tooley’s Take

Phil Tooley takes a look at the game and its context  

Chesterfield 4 Barnet 2 National League Game #18

Official! Paul Cook’s team has formally come of age. Having got to 18 matches, I can confirm that this is the best-ever opening sequence in Chesterfield FC’s long history. Match #18 in Division Three North way back in 1933/34 spawned a 1-1 draw at Carlisle United. That meant that the club’s uber-impressive haul back then was P18 W15 D1 L2. This season, same 15 wins, but two draws and just the one defeat at Altrincham.

This team has grown up and become the most successful 18-games-old points gathering machine ever produced by the Spireites. Congratulations.

Four more goals to take the tally to 47; the 1933 version had bagged 48 by then but had failed to score in match #3, a 1-0 defeat at Accrington Stanley, whereas the modern day gladiators have netted in every match to date. Scoring in the next four NL games would see the record of Nicky Law’s side, who hit the target in the opening 22 league games of 2000/01, equalled. But with three of the next four games being away, that’s a tough ask.

The win over Portsmouth in the FA Cup was the perfect appetiser for the main course of first v second. Only twice since the move to Whittington Moor have Chesterfield gone into a game against the second placed side as league leaders, Christmas 2021 for a 1-1 draw against FC Halifax Town and towards the end of the 2010/11 campaign, when rivals Bury nicked a 3-2 win in an extraordinary game.

We all watched the metaphoric clicks as online tickets sold rapidly in the week, all of us desperate for the digital sales hatch to have its hyperlink removed, and that occurred on Friday, ensuring the ‘sold out’ sign was hung on the door. In November, not for some Championship decider or similar must-win encounter, or a local derby with them o’er M1, but for a nothing will be decided yet sort of fixture with Barnet, but as supporters, we all knew it would be a peg-in-the-ground sort of day.

First half, Barnet had all the pegs, but they couldn’t locate their mallet to hammer home their advantage, and it was a big, gaping advantage. Opinions were canvassed at the break, and it was acknowledged that Town’s tent was still in the back of the van, the groundsheet had gone missing and there was no can opener to get into the baked beans. Fortunately, those on the next door pitch had all the gear, but mercifully, no idea. How many times over the years have we said ‘if you fail to score when you’re on top ………?’ (Answer: just over 3.2 million times).

Akela Cook got the lads together, ensured his boys knew exactly how to tie the right sort of knots that would restrict the movement of the rivals and ensure all Barnet’s early pitching success would ultimately turn into technical hitches and plenty of glitches. Job done.

Colclough and Dobra switched flanks and immediately began to tie their markers in knots, and before you knew it, they had successfully linked up to find the net that had never looked within reach previously. Bit scrawny, but who cares?

What a start to the half, and that initial pressure intensified and new peaks were scaled as Grigg followed by subs Jacobs and Quigley ensured the summit would be adequately protected from any unwanted threats.

But being the Spireites, there were a few falling rocks late on as Barnet’s last-gasp efforts showed some guile, but not enough to get a ‘We Got to the Top’ badge.

We’d all have taken a 4-2 win pre-match, we’d all have taken a 0-0 draw at half-time and we all expected two more goals when the seven-minute board was held up on 90, but none of us expected any additional scored to go Barnet’s way!

The Bees were the best opponent we’ve encountered this season in the first-half. Easily. Chesterfield put on their very best show for the next 45 minutes and were untouchable, but with the game won, concentration levels dropped. Hopefully a major lesson learned.

Who won the game for Chesterfield? The back four and the keeper. The work they did to hide Barnet’s mallet was immense. Blocks, off-the-lines, luck rode, intervening bar, bad misses before the break, should have been at least 2-0 to the visitors, maybe more, but it wasn’t. And for a team that does Carlsberg second halves, 0-0 after 45 just isn’t good enough for any opponent, especially at the SMH.

Southend United host Chesterfield on Saturday. They lost 2-0 to in-form Altrincham this weekend to end a seven-match unbeaten run. The Shrimpers had just three men on the bench for that game and they look set to be without Charlton teenage loanee Daniel Kanu (he who scored four on his Southend debut) who has been called up for Sierre Leone international duty. Team-mate Noor Husin could also be away with Afghanistan, but at this moment, he has said (along with others) he’d boycott the match unless there are changes in the country’s football hierarchy.

You have to feel for manager Kevin Maher who has done an incredible job with his hands tied behind his back, but fortunately, we’ve just witnessed how good the Spireites are when top-notch knotwork is needed.

Phil’s Positive: Four second-half goals against your closest rivals, after being reminded that the team can defend with skill and passion as demonstrated in the opening 45. Some message to the NL.

Next Match: Saturday, November 19 2023 at Roots Hall, home of Southend United, the first of three away NL games in four fixtures. 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 most comprehensive post-match reaction.

Chesterfield (4-2-3-1 to start): Tyrer; Mandeville, Palmer, Grimes, Horton; Naylor, Jones; Colclough (Berry 81), Banks, Dobra (Jacobs72); Grigg (Quigley 79). Subs (not used): Oldaker, Freckleton.

Goals: Dobra 49, Grigg 60, Jacobs 76, Quigley 86 (Chesterfield), Kabamba 90+3, Hooper 90+4

Referee: Matt Russell

Bookings: Jones (Chesterfield), Collinge, Brunt (Barnet)

Attendance: 9,667 (664 from Barnet)

Netcoms IT 1866 Sport Man of the Match: Jamie Grimes (chosen by Jamie Hewitt)