Tooley’s Take

Phil Tooley takes a look at the game and its context  

Dorking Wanderers 4 Chesterfield 1 National League Game #36

I’ve been seeking to determine where the culpability lies following the horror show at Meadowbank. A chunk of it, and quite a big chunk, is Stephen King’s fault. The Dorking DJ played the great Insomnia by Faithless, also the title of a King horror novel. It was an Omen (I know David Seltzer wrote that one, by the end of this game, I felt that sick, I desperately needed his brother, Alka). King wrote Misery. And Rage. And The Dead Zone. And Desperation. All potential headlines for Town’s performance. I didn’t know King was a soothsayer.

Then there’s my wife, Sylvia. She must take a portion of blame. Saturday was our Sapphire Wedding Anniversary (45 years). The first half dozen games Town played on March 2 after our nuptials, were joyous, six wins from six, but our Silver Anniversary brought a first wedded defeat, at a snowy Hartlepool United. The last four anniversary matches have had a sequence of LWLW, so another L was inevitable. Needs sorting.

Of course, there’s the pitch to blame. But on this occasion, there were no plastic problems, the rubber crumb wasn’t the recipe for the Chesterfield Crumble. The Spireites have conceded four goals away from home on four occasions in their National League career, every time on an artificial pitch.

Dorking Wanderers, six losses in their last seven home games, were chiefly to blame, as they out Chesterfield-ed Chesterfield. High team press, force mistakes, ruthless acceptance of chances, in short, a terrific performance, everything that Paul Cook’s side have done so well at to get to where they are this season. Flipping annoying.

But the bulk of the blame lay with the Boys in Blue. Not PC Adam Collins or any of the Carrie creator’s law enforcement characters, but the ten men who stepped out in Chesterfield’s famous colours and made a right royal mess of it. Collective terror inducing moments, individual horror stories, Wanderers were the Dreamcatchers, Spireites the Bag of Bones.

I played the game over and over in my mind on the drive home. I couldn’t reconcile any of it. There were no redeeming features (bar keeper and subs). The performance was as far removed from the midweek win at Barnet as it was possible to be. Second top, super, second bottom, shocking.

When Ash Palmer pulled one back in stoppage time at the end of the first half, that should have been the catalyst for a step-up, a return to normality, but within three minutes of the restart, the first of two kamikaze pieces of play that ended any hope of a second-half redemption. More Tyler saves, a number of near misses and it could have been even more embarrassing for the visitors.

Dorking genuinely earned their win. Had Chesterfield been 50% better on the day, maybe 75%, Wanderers would still have won, they were a joy to watch.

As TNT telly folks took up much of the small car park at the ground, the team coach had to park on the High Street at the top of the hill. Cookie ought to have nipped into one of the shops and bought a mirror and asked his players to take a good, hard look into it. No Talisman, nothing Shining, no Running Men, no Joyland, no Revival. Just horrified faces wondering where the plot went wrong.

At the end of that road where the coach parked, on the roundabout, is a statue of a giant cockerel, a reminder that the small town of Dorking has a first-class poultry heritage, indeed there’s a breed of chicken called The Dorking. Locals will know all about pecking orders, and in this match Wanderers had all of the alpha males, with their opponents unable to even find scraps to feed off.

But, in fairness, it’s taken 36 goes to put in such a horror show. King has written 75 books, and Cell, which is a Zombie-style story, is often considered to be his worst novel. One review says this: ‘Cell is often considered the worst Stephen King novel. It’s hard to argue. Characters are flatter than usual, the book never feels like it has any particular destination in mind.’ I told you he did a bit of soothsaying, decent summation of an horrific day at Meadowbank.

AFC Fylde on Saturday. Three visits to the north-west coast, three wins. Two times we’ve hosted them, two draws! Aaaaaagh. Town minds need to move away from the beach and concentrate on the Coasters and their gaffer, Chris Beech.

Phil’s Positive: Not that it had anything to do with Chesterfield’s shocking show, but that’s artificial surfaces done with! Other than that, the three subs for Town did OK, as did the keeper, despite conceding four, and our anniversary meal the night before the match was as good as being 20 points clear at the top pf the table.

Next Match: Saturday, March 9, AFC Fylde roll into town, kick-off at 3pm. 1866 Sport will be on air from 2pm.

Chesterfield (4-2-3-1 to start): Tyrer; King, Palmer, Grimes, Clements; Naylor, Oldaker (Dobra 67); Mandeville, Jacobs (Hobson 67), Berry(Curtis 67); Grigg. Subs (not used): Banks, Williams.

Goals: Palmer 45+1 (Chesterfield), Pybus 9, Rutherford 25, 66, Blair 48 (Dorking)

Referee: Dale Baines

Bookings: Clements (Chesterfield), Pybus, Fuller, Taylor (Dorking)

Attendance: 2,420 (828 from Chesterfield)

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