Tooley’s Take

Phil Tooley takes a look at the game and its context  

Welling United 2 Chesterfield 0 Isuzu FA Trophy Fourth Round

Consecutive Saturday knock-out defeats. Consecutive Saturdays where defeat hurt, but not by as near as much as pride overshadowed the negatives. Neil Cluxton’s academy prospects were right in the contest until National League South Welling United’s second goal after 83 minutes. 

The Wings, who were in the National League as recently as 2016, may be struggling in their section this season, but when you consider the players in their side, it helps to explain just how well the young Spireites did. 

The hosts players included Anthony Grant, who’s made over 650 first team appearances in the EFL, having made his debut in the Premier League for Chelsea, plus he’s a full international for Jamaica. Keeper Reice Charles-Cook played for Bromley on Whittington Moor in last season’s play-off semi-final and he’s also played against the Spireites for Coventry City and Swindon Town. 

Chiori Johnson (Torquay & Yeovil), TJ Bramble (Dover) and Dominic Odusanya (Maidstone) have also played against Chesterfield, whilst Crossley Lema (Sutton) and Cameron Green (Wrexham) have played National League football. Lachlan Byrd has appeared in Scottish senior football for Airdrie, Antony Papadopolous has made League Trophy appearances for Leyton Orient and both Enoch Muwonge and Jack Burchell were with Watford U23s.

There is no comparison between the levels of experience between the two sides who battled at Park View Road, and the young Spireites, with just a handful of FA Trophy appearances between them at kick-off time. Chesterfield’s last match had been a 5-0 win, played at Shirebrook Town’s ground against Ollerton Town reserves. 

From the whistle, on a slightly sloping ground, Chesterfield were on their game. The opening ten minutes saw the visitors play some expansive football and look the far better side, and with 20 on the clock and no scoreboard action, it felt like a very even contest and that balance continued until the break, albeit with Welling starting to enjoy more possession and create more chances. 

Their breakthrough came when one of their own, David Kamara, turned well to fire home from ten yards but between then and the second, scored by Muwonge, who was a late addition to their starting line-up after Adam Roscrow (ex-AFC Wimbledon and EFL1) pulled up injured in the warm-up, The Wings had been rattled. The experienced Grant, whose career the Chesterfield players can only dream of, was using the knowledge gained in a lifetime in the game to nudge, shove and generally wind-up, on and off the ball, and his frustration was emulated amongst his team-mates, and only when the second was notched could the hosts begin to feel some level of comfort. 

I could wax lyrical about a host of Chesterfield performances, but the shining light for me was attacking midfielder Tommy Marshall (20). I’d love to see his running stats because he was here, he was there, he was every flippin’ where, causing havoc, mainly but far from exclusively, down Town’s right and negating the attacking flair of Welling full-back Green, identified by the Chesterfield management as their main threat. 

In the same breath, left-back Koby Eratt-Thompson (17) tackled, ran, crossed and shot for the full 90 minutes, catching the eye with a fantastic performance. The only pro in the side, keeper Luke Chadwick (19), mopped up cross after cross, made a number of good saves and ensured there was always plenty of calmness in the approach of the defence, especially when Welling delivered in from their eight corners, whilst skipper and central defender Ryley D’Sena (20) was also a tower of strength at the back. 

Defeat but no disgrace. 

NL action returns to the SMH on Tuesday when the Spireites will be looking to avenge a rare zero-pointer against Altrincham, who fielded a strong side at Kidderminster Harriers on Saturday in the Trophy, only to lose on penalties having seen a late regulation time penalty of their own (Chris Conn-Clarke) saved. 

Their last four NL fixtures have seen them beat Barnet (thank you) and draw with Bromley (cheers) but they were unable to beat FC Halifax Town in their Christmas double-header. Away from home, their four wins is the lowest number in the section’s top ten. 

Another crucial game in hand, neither Bromley or Barnet play in midweek, both have FA Trophy matches to slot into their schedules after they both won at the weekend, whilst next weekend, Chesterfield travel down to The Hive for a crucial game. 

It’s a HUGE week for the Spireites and it was a huge day for the younger Blues, who came out of their battle with their heads held high.

Phil’s Positive: Seeing an extremely youthful Chesterfield team go toe to toe with a much more experienced semi-professional side. 

Next Match: More National League midweek action, as fifth-place Altrincham visit the SMH Group Stadium on Tuesday, January 16. Kick-off is at 7.45pm with 1866 Sport on air from 7pm. 

Chesterfield (4-2-3-1 to start): Luke Chadwick; Jack Brassey, Charlie Wragg (Harvey Thomas 46), Ryley D’Sena, Koby Eratt-Thompson; Sam Hooper, Jay Abudu (Ali Mohiuddin 59); Ben Rossiter (Luke Mitchell 71) Tommy Marshall, Liam Jessop; James Simmonite. Subs (not used): Ashton Rinaldo (GK), Max Cook, Barnaby Smith, Josh Millen. 

Goals: Kamara 51, Muwonge 83 (Welling United)

Referee: Paul Johnson

Bookings: Wragg (Chesterfield), Grant, Odusanya (Welling)

Attendance: 452 

Netcoms IT 1866 Sport Man of the Match: Tommy Marshall (chosen by Justin Tellus)