Tooley’s Take

Phil Tooley takes a look at the game and its context  

Barnet 0 Chesterfield 2 National League Game #35

Another club record equalled. That was the Spireites’ 12th away win this season, equalling the total reached in 1994/95, the season of the Wembley play-off win. There’s still six more goes to get the record outright!

Paul Cook’s side are back to 23 points in front of their nearest two rivals, the vanquished Barnet and back in second place Bromley. The London pair can both max out at 95 points, just ten more than Town have in the bank and with a goal difference 25 better than Bromley and 27 better than Barnet, ten more points will do it. We’re on the final countdown. The blip looks as though it never happened.

The 85 points accumulated by Chesterfield is one more than PC’s championship side notched up in 2013/14; three more points will make the tally higher than the gaffer’s EFL2 title win with Portsmouth and eight more will top Wigan Athletic’s total when they were EFL1 champions with Cookie in the hotseat. The guy is good.

Grit and determination won this game. There was very little that was pretty. The back four and keeper were superb. Harry Tyrer didn’t put a fingernail wrong, both full-backs were at the top of their game, Grimes won everything in the air and had a hand in the early stages of both goals and Palmer’s return was faultless.

That solid bedrock was vital, as not all of the players ahead of the backline were at their best, but everyone put in a right good shift from an effort point of view and that ensured that, an early header onto the bar apart, The Bees lacked their usual sting, coming into this game with four wins and a draw in their last five home games.

Barnet sought to exploit the pace of their front two, and went long from the off. The Spireites dealt well with it and matched it with more long balls of their own, not always a feature of this season, and it had limited success.

Both goals, one in each half, were created down Chesterfield’s left. Grimes fed Bailey Clements whose chest down, control and cross was exemplary, enabling Michael Jacobs to add to the goal he scored in our 4-2 home win against the same opponents.

Tom Naylor drove forwards down the left, from halfway to goal line, before pulling back for Will Grigg to bundle in from short range. Whatever dubious goal panel you sit on, that represented his (at least) 20-goal mark in the NL. I’ve not credited him the ‘Was it Dobra or was it an og goal’ and Grimes scored the one he’s been credited with against Woking. So even without them, he’s hit every striker’s pre-season target, and it’s the first time he’s reached that landmark in eight years, when he banged in a career high 25 for Wigan Athletic.

The goal also led to another seasonal milestone, Chesterfield’s 100th goal in all competitions. That’s the first time three figures have been reached since 1956/57 (if that’s proved wrong, my caveat is I’m checking this at 2.30 am, Wednesday morning!)

Functional not fantastic. Gritty not glamorous. Result without recriminations. Aim routinely achieved. Pretty near perfect!

Kicking off early on Saturday could see Chesterfield, momentarily at least, an unprecedented 26 points clear before Barnet make the long trip to Hartlepool (who’ve won their last three home games) and Bromley host Halifax, who’ve won four on the trot, so nothing guaranteed for the teams in second and third spots.

Dorking Wanderers have three ex-Spireites in their ranks – Haydn Hollis, Joe Cook and Charlie Carter – whilst DJ Oldaker was signed from the club. They lost 4-1 at home to Ebbsfleet United last time out, meaning they’ve lost six of their last seven home games on their artificial surface. Key defender Tony Craig was dismissed against Ebbsfleet, so he’ll be suspended on Saturday.

Whilst nothing’s yet decided, the win at Barnet took the club to a points level that may not be reached by any of the chasing pack. Another win at the weekend will bring the EFL to within touching distance of the only target that has counted in the last six years.

I think it’s safe to get your flags and t-shirts printed and not check what dates the play-offs are due.

Phil’s Positive: Winning to a clean sheet on the grass of the team that are in second place and Town’s closest rivals. Very satisfying. Oh, and the defence was terrific.

Next Match: Saturday, March 2, my Sapphire Wedding Anniversary, so surely a day for Blues as Chesterfield travel to second bottom Dorking Wanderers for a televised game, kick-off at 12.30pm. 1866 Sport will be on air from noon. A win will open up a 26-point gap, for an hour or two at least!

Chesterfield (4-2-3-1 to start): Tyrer; Sheckleford, Palmer, Grimes, Clements; Naylor, Jones; Jacobs (Mandeville 77), Banks, Dobra (Berry 87); Quigley (Grigg 65). Subs (not used): Hobson, Williams.

Goals: Jacobs 29, Grigg 79 (Chesterfield)

Referee: Andrew Humphries

Bookings: Palmer (Chesterfield)

Attendance: 2,393 (756 from Chesterfield)

Netcoms IT 1866 Sport Man of the Match: Ash Palmer (chosen Josh Marsh)