Tooley’s Take

Phil Tooley takes a look at the game and its context  

Chesterfield 2 Rochdale 2 National League Game #34

A brief history of being a Chesterfield supporter in a couple of lines that I’ve randomly nicked: I’ve paid my dues, time after time, I’ve done my sentence but committed no crime, and bad mistakes, I’ve made a few, I’ve had my share of sand kicked in my face, but I’ve come through. And we mean to go on and on and on and on…… Regardless of any thoughts on the final whistle, we WILL be what Freddie and the lads predict. 

To Paul Cook and his team, the show must go on, these are the days of our lives, it’s all been a kind of magic, there’s clearly been one vision but we do want it all. All I want is the opportunity to go a bit ga ga on the radio to call out the words We Are The Champions. That call will come, whether it’s against Oxford City, Oldham or Maidenhead United. Tears of joy will flow as the season’s objective is achieved, but achieved, it will be. We’re far from under pressure. 

Just a few thoughts. The Spireites are unbeaten at home, still, in February. First time this century. The Spireites have scored in every home game. First time this century. The Spireites have led in every home game. First time this century. The Spireites have reached 50 goals at home by the end of February. First time this century. The Spireites have a scorer who’s reached 20 goals before the end of February. Second time this century, Super Jack Lester is the only other, and he’s Super Jack Lester!

There’s no doubt Dale should have been out of the running. Harry Tyrer kept it alive in the first half, but after Tom Naylor (dubious goals panel are being lenient) and 20-goal Grigg gave Chesterfield a 2-0 lead, job done stickers should have been prevalent. Alas, not. A bit of long-Covid in there, the virus fighting back after we all though it had been binned. 

D’Mari Mellor, who scored Rochdale’s first was one of several of their players who impressed. He’s got a more than decent pedigree. He was a Manchester United player from aged 8 to 21, making a first-team appearance for them in European competition. 

Devante Rodney, who equalised with a fine shot on the turn, was in Manchester City’s academy for six years and he was at Salford City in 2018/19 when they were promoted from the National League. He’s no plonker. 

Their right midfielder Cian Hayes (20) caught my eye. He’s a Republic of Ireland U19 International on loan from Fleetwood Town, for whom he’s made 68 League One appearances. I was really impressed by him.

Chuck in the experienced Ethan Ebanks-Blake, twice a League One champion with Wolves and the Blades, Adam Clayton, 325 appearances in the Championship and 34 in the Premier League, League Two Play-off winner Harvey Gilmour and teenage sensation, the 18 year-old defender George Nevett, and it’s fair to say the visitors have a more than decent side. That said, good, bad or indifferent, Rochdale should have come second on the day, victory was all but assured, but maybe, just maybe, a bit of complacency set in at 2-0. 

Bromley helped us out a bit again, so despite the doom and gloom, the team moved an extra point ahead, back to the magic 20-mark. 

Big match on Tuesday, an opportunity to really show the NL we are still the best! Back in second spot Barnet host the Spireites whilst Bromley are at home to Halifax. Barnet beat York City 2-0 on Saturday, without star striker Nicke Kabamba, who’s not started any of Barnet’s last four games. However, Chesterfield-born Zak Brunt is in fine form and will be the Bees’ dangerman. 

Barnet can reach a maximum of 98 points, 16 above Chesterfield’s current tally, so a Spireites win would reduce that to 95, which would put the title within touching distance. 

Saturday may have been frustrating, but it’s far from being season defining. Tina Turner knows exactly what Town are this season! 

Phil’s Positive: The last time we were 2-0 up at home to Rochdale and finished the game at 2-2, back in 2013/14, Chesterfield were crowned champions! It’s a rite of passage!

Next Match: Tuesday, February 27, Chesterfield travel to second-placed Barnet, with the game kicking-off at 7.45pm. 1866 Sport will be on air from 7pm.

Chesterfield (4-2-3-1 to start): Tyrer; Sheckleford, Williams, Grimes, Horton; Naylor, Oldaker (Jones 83); Mandeville (Jacobs 88), Banks, Dobra; Grigg (Quigley 83). Subs (not used): Hobson, Palmer.

Goals: Naylor 47, Grigg 63 (Chesterfield), Mellor 69, Rodney 80 (Rochdale)

Referee: Andrew Miller

Bookings: Naylor, Williams, Mandeville (Chesterfield), Gilmour, Mitchell, Rodney, Nevett (Rochdale)

Attendance: 8,301 (423 from Rochdale) 

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