Tooley’s Take

Phil Tooley takes a look at the game and its context  

Solihull Moors 2 Chesterfield 1 National League 

Never can the gap have been greater! I’m not talking about the quality of the two teams or comparing examples of tactical masterclasses, just the massive gap in height of the two Solihull Moors scorers. Joe Sbarra, 5’6”, got on the end of a rebound to pounce and score the home leveller whilst deep into stoppage time, 6’9” Ryan Hudlin headed in to condemn the Spireites to a first defeat under James Rowe.

Surely there’s never been a 1’3” gap between opposition goalscorers! Even a statto like me wouldn’t know where to start checking such things out!

Did Chesterfield deserve anything from the match? You bet they did. Whilst Ryan Boot in the Moors goal wasn’t asked to make save after save, the Spireites’ raids throughout the game were plentiful and good opportunities were created.

Akwasi Asante carved out an opportunity for himself that thundered against the upright at 1-0, it would have been the Goal of the Season had it gone in. Curtis Weston had a great one on one chance at 1-1 and at the same scoreline, there were a number of almighty scrambles in the Solihull penalty area. 

That said, in the final ten minutes or so, Moors did put substantial pressure on Chesterfield’s rearguard, winning corners, free-kicks and attacking throw-ins that pinned the white & green kitted Spireites back in a manner not previously seen under Rowe.

Keeper Kyle Letheren was first to admit he could possibly have done better with the winner, but if he manages another nine hours plus without conceding, that’ll soon be forgotten. 

On a very narrow pitch – it’s more than 11 feet narrower than the Technique – play was always going to be crowded. Chesterfield’s wing backs had little room to manoeuvre whilst several players frequently misjudged long-range balls which reduced the effectiveness of the visitor’s game. 

Rowe had said before the game that he felt it came too soon after the enforced Covid lay-off. His two substitutions, both before the hour-mark, he confirmed afterwards were as a result of fatigue rather than being tactical.

The manager had made just one change, Josef Yarney in for the suspended George Carline, whilst Moors made five changes from three days earlier and they were clearly more adept at using the pitch better. The win made it eight wins from nine games on their own grass this season. 

Tom Denton’s goal, a header from a left wing Jak McCourt corner, was his ninth in the National League this season, putting him level at the top of the scoring charts with Maidenhead United’s Sam Barratt and upcoming weekend opponent, Bromley’s Michael Cheek, he of the famous last-gasp Will Evans save against Ebbsfleet United. 

Pre-game, we were treated to another episode of James Rowe’s New Faces! Jack Clarke (21), a midfielder on loan from Aston Villa and striker Marcus Dinanga (23), borrowed from Stevenage. Clarke, who had a spell at Yeovil Town earlier this season, has represented Ireland at U21 level and been a regular in Villa’s U23s and U18s for many years. 

Dinanga came through the ranks at Burton Albion and had loan spells at Mickleover Sports and Matlock Town at the time Spireites supporter Glenn Kirkwood was joint-manager. I spoke to Glenn ahead of the match and he indicated he’s quick, intelligent and he predicted he’d be a good foil for Denton, the man he replaced just before the hour-mark.

Marcus was an 89th minute sub against Chesterfield on August Bank Holiday Monday, 2018 whilst on loan at Hartlepool United. He’s made nine appearances for Stevenage this season, scoring a couple of goals. 

Sitting just behind the Chesterfield dugout for the match, it was clear to see how disappointed the manager, and his assistant George Foster were, when the last-gasp winner went in. ‘They’ve only had two shots’ was Rowe’s edited version of the gaffer’s frustrated shout, whilst Foster reverted to his playing days tactic and gave the advertising hoarding an almighty kick! 

That frustration summed it up for the Spireites; we’d all have taken a point but, like we had to endure against Torquay United, Altrincham and Notts County, goals when the fourth official is about to or already has held up his minutes-board are gut-wrenching. 

Phil’s Positive: Plenty of chances created, could easily have been 2-0 up

Spireites next game is on Saturday, January 9 at Bromley in the National League, kick-off 3pm.. 

Team v Solihull (3-5-2 to start): Letheren; Evans, Hollis, Maguire; Yarney, McCourt, Weston , Whelan (Mandeville55), Taylor; Tom Denton (Dinanga 59), Asante. 

Subs (not used): Clarke, Smith, Cropper

Goals: Chesterfield – Denton 34, Solihull – Sbarra 61, Hudlin90+3

Ref: Tom Bishop

Yellows: Taylor, Hollis, McCourt (Chesterfield), Cameron, Coxe, Hudlin (Solihull)