Tooley’s Take

Phil Tooley takes a look at the game and its context  

Chesterfield 3 Eastleigh 2 National League Game #21

There’s not much in the world that is more aurally aesthetic than the growling of a Rolls-Royce Merlin engine powering that great British symbol, a Spitfire.

I once went to see Joan Armatrading at Buxton Opera House, and she was supported by a folk singer called Chris Wood, who performed a song about that sort of stuff, unsurprisingly called Spitfires. I’ve listened to it regularly ever since.

The great Joan went on to perform her classic, which is of course all about the Spireites, Love and Affection, before belting out a number that is surely her only ditty, and perhaps the only song ever written, that implicitly outlines the tactical requirements to nullify Eastleigh FC, aka the Spitfires, Drop the Pilot. It’s playing on the smart speaker right now as I sip my Twinings Everyday

For 75 minutes, Paul McCallum couldn’t find his flying helmet and the NL top scorer and his mates were rudderless as #Cookball swung into action and Chesterfield were flying high, soaring to a level rarely seen in the National League. Level Five? You’re having a laugh.

This performance, before taking 15 minutes of unexpected flak as we turned for home, was right up there with the best of the best, a successful raid with the mission all-but accomplished without any issues. But We’re All Town Aren’t We? Surely we expected some level of turbulence, and for a few minutes, there was chaos and confusion in the ranks, but we managed to limp over the line only to then salute an even greater victory when Wealdstone scored a last gasper! Welcome to Chesterfield. Documentary territory?

I can’t recall purring quite so much about a goalless 45 minutes. Town were superb before the break, that Spitfires man Wood came into play twice as the Spireites’ midfield five played in a formation that no opposition from this level would have been able to contain.

A bit of half-time sight-tweaking and the ammunition immediately began to hit the target and the platform laid before the interval was rewarded with three quick-fire goals, all of them of high-quality and based on solid and logical decision making.

For the opener, I asked DJ afterwards if he was thinking of shooting and he responded, ‘One Million Percent, Yes,’ but then he spotted Banks in space, delivered a peach and Grigg turned in the resulting cross in. Perfect decisions in the heat of battle.

The effervescent Armando then took on the role of navigator to twice precisely locate Ollie and bang, bang. Game over. Apart from the fact that it wasn’t.

Tom Naylor’s intercept and lay-off to enable the second and Tyrer’s stunning save from the other Quigley boy at 2-0, then within ten seconds it was 3-0, making another big crowd drool, and with more wood work action required, ‘should be eight’ was about the average fan-view.

But then the pilot woke up, 3-1, his wingman made it 3-2 and all of a sudden we saw previously invisible holes in the fuselage that threatened to negate what had all but been hailed a successful mission, but just about enough adrenaline remained in the tanks for the Spireites to limp home and land the points, enabling us all the pleasure to spend the rest of the weekend just staring at a 21-game league table that sees Town 11 points ahead of the field. Bad news is that the staring will have to last for three weeks as it’s knock-out time for a fortnight now.

Next Sunday, Leyton Orient visit us in the FA Cup; four times we’ve been drawn together in knock-out competitions, two FA, two League Cups, and in every one of those, the victors have been away from home (includes 2005 when we drew away and lost the replay). Richie Wellens’ side are mid-table League One, having won promotion last season, but they’ve won just one in eight in all competitions. They have a midweek trip to Bristol Rovers on Tuesday.

Scoring has been a problem, just 17 goals in 18 L1 games, with Ruel Sotiriou at the top of the charts with six plus one in their 3-1 first round win over Carlisle United.

Southport in the FA Trophy before we get back to points offering action at Hartlepool United on December 16. Bet there’ll be a fair few Spireites make the trip there.

Back to the here and now, those goals mean that the last 15 home NL goals have all been scored in the second half. Every NL game so far has featured a Spireites goal, all 21, so scoring at Hartlepool United would equal the all-time club record of scoring in the first 22 games of the season (2000/01, Nicky Law’s promotion-winning side in the controversial off-the-park season). In all competitions, that’s ten straight home wins (well short of a record still), but still the sort of run that doesn’t come along too often.

This maybe non-league football, but this is special football.

Phil’s Positive: The sheer quality of play for 75 minutes, easily the best #Cookball of the season. It was a real pleasure to witness, and had it not been for the late switch-off, the performance would have been right up there with the very best.

Next Match: Cup time for the next couple of weeks, starting with League One Leyton Orient visiting us in the FA Cup second round on Sunday, December 3, with an earlier than usual start on a later than normal day. Kick-off is at 2pm with 1866 Sport on air from 1pm.

Chesterfield (4-2-3-1 to start): Tyrer; Mandeville, Palmer, Grimes, Horton (Freckleton 85); Naylor, Oldaker; Dobra (Jacobs 69), Banks,Colclough; Grigg (J.Quigley 72). Subs (not used): Berry, Sheckleford.

Goals: Grigg 53, Banks 56, 68 (Chesterfield), McCallum 75, S.Quigley80 (Eastleigh)

Referee: David Richardson

Bookings: None (first time since St George’s Day 2022 that no cards for either side, Chesterfield 3 Dover Athletic 2)

Attendance: 7,260 (53 from Eastleigh)

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