Tooley’s Take

Phil Tooley takes a look at the game and its context  

Solihull Moors 2 Chesterfield 0 National League Game #24

The writing was already on the wall that Chesterfield would lose this Christmas fixture. Two previous defeats this season, at (A)ltrincham, (S)outhend and now a loss at (S)olihull, and you have an Ass, wholly appropriate at this time of year. Away and in danger.

Overseeing it all was the big Whing man, hovering on the touchline in archangelic style, and with the Moors at 5-1 to win the game, his followers pulled off a minor miracle, despite there only being two gifts from the usually wise men, who opened the game more like shepherds counting their Jeeps in the adjacent Land Rover factory.

With 13 starts this season and 13 wins, Mike Jones would be the last person you’d predict would err for the early opener by Mark Beck whilst Moors’ second soon afterwards saw some neat football and crisp passing, but an alarming absence of collective team defending to allow Callum Maycock to make it 2-0. It was the sort of goal Chesterfield like to score, and we all purr about, but when it’s conceded, you see the lack of pressure, tackles and physicality. Disappointing.

Will Grigg converted from a Miguel Freckleton ball in, but an offside flag wiped that effort out. The video evidence, whilst not 100% conclusive due to the angle, did make it look like there was a strong case for claims that the goal should have stood. It was the start of an afternoon of in-box frustration for all Spireites, particularly in the second half when Town created more than enough chances to have comfortably got back into the game and more.

With Ryan Colclough continually beating his markers and delivering into the box down the left and Ollie Banks feeding from the right, Grigg on a few occasions, Naylor, Jones, the returning King, who had one blocked and one when he fell (he wasn’t fouled but he was booked, he told me afterwards that ‘sometimes they’re given’), Colclough, Dobra and Jacobs all notched up great chances that were either saved, blocked, hit wood or simply guided wide. Not scoring for the first time this season after the relentless second half pressure was another miracle.

I don’t think Solihull had any meaningful second-half openings but their back three, supplemented by seven others and a keeper, played out of their skins to prevent potential goals as previously outlined. Gaffer Whing said afterwards that his team ‘led a charmed life’.

Chesterfield had a disappointing spell from ten to 20 minutes and on 90+3 when skipper Grimes, somewhat uncharacteristically, decided to lay something on his opponent, Jack Stephens. I, like the stream camera, was following the ball, so was in Arsene Wenger territory and didn’t see the event, but headbutt, shove, or whatever, there was no need and Jamie will be in bits, knowing he’s let the team down, having started every NL game since Paul Cook returned. With just 11 yellows in his last 110 appearances since his two bookings red at Dagenham & Redbridge in October 2021, that stat shows that he plays things extremely fairly.

Defeat #1 at Altrincham was followed by a magnificent seven straight wins, defeat #2 at Southend United was followed by six of the best in all competitions, so a similar response will be hoped for, starting with the return fixture with Solihull on New Year’s Day, when every home supporter will be hoping for at least an aggregate win.

What went wrong at Damson Park? One individual error, a possible linesman’s error, and that was about it. What went right? Lots. Box entries, crosses, chances created, all of the vital statistics that analysts love to measure will be right up there with the very best, but as we all know, they count for zip if you can’t get the ball into the onion bag and on (hopefully) one rare occasion, that was Chesterfield’s issue.

Only Hartlepool United had managed a two-goal lead against Town this season, but that ended in a fine comeback 3-2 win, and I suspect the magnificent second half we witnessed in that match didn’t spawn as many second half chances as at Solihull.

Does that mean we can chalk this off as simply, ‘one of those things?’ I’m hoping so, but the perfect measure will be when Whing’s outfit fly into our territory in a few days and Cook finds a recipe for revenge.

Phil’s Positive: Colclough down the left was superb and the number of chances created was high, but sadly the vital finishing touch was missing.

Next Match: Not until next year! Solihull Moors again, on our grass this , on New Year’s Day, January1, 2024. Kick-off is at 3pm with 1866 Sport on air from 2pm.

Chesterfield (4-2-3-1 to start): Tyrer; King, Palmer, Grimes, Freckleton; Naylor, Jones (Dobra 70); Mandeville (Jacobs 70), Banks, Colclough(Berry 81); Grigg. Subs (not used): Quigley, Sheckleford.

Goals: Beck 10, Maycock 15 (Solihull)

Referee: James Durkin

Bookings: King, Dobra (Chesterfield), Hayes (Solihull)

Paul Cook was also yellow carded.

Red Card: Grimes 90+3 (Chesterfield)

Attendance: 2,614 (1,141 from Chesterfield)

Netcoms IT 1866 Sport Man of the Match: Ryan Colclough (chosen by Josh Marsh)