Tooley’s Take

Phil Tooley takes a look at the game and its context  

Oldham Athletic 2 Chesterfield 2 National League Game #39

Chesterfield, 92 points (new club record). GD +44 (FYI the club record is +53). Games left, seven. Barnet, 68 points. GD +17. Games left, eight. Maximum points, 92. Bromley. Out of the equation. Barnet will not win their last eight games, Chesterfield will not lose their last seven games. A 27-goal swing will not take place.

Make a space in the trophy cabinet, get the Vanarama Champions flag printed, if there’s any fancy staging involved, pop the address label on for the couriers (1866 Sheffield Road). Nip out to your car, open up the Previous Destinations tab in your SatNav and delete York Road, Maidenhead, Broughinge Road, Borehamwood, Stonebridge Road, Northfleet. Leave in Grosvenor Vale, Wealdstone because there’s a fancy dress party to attend there.

It’s like being first in the queue at a Peter Kay gig, like having a Golden Ticket on your way to Willie Wonka’s gaff, like winning a night out with Jeff Hall on the Spire Lotto. You know it’s going to happen and you just want the critical moment to arrive to enable you to finally, after a long, long wait, to be able to feel the trappings of success.

Back on April 27, 1985, Town won 1-0 at Stockport County to put them in, using a golfing term, a dormie position (for promotion rather than the title), John Duncan’s team could be caught on points, but goal difference was a solid separator. With no scheduled midweek match for the Spireites, me and some pals, including John Taylor and Alan Martin, drove over to Sealand Road to witness Chester City coming from behind to beat Hereford United, meaning the Bulls couldn’t catch us.

On Tuesday, nearly 39 years on, the three of us (plus multiple Spireites Covid interactive quiz winner, Pilsley’s Real Ken Foster) are preparing to travel down to The Hive to see if Eastleigh can nick a point or more to enable the Vanarama entourage to officially withdraw Chesterfield from next season’s fixture calculations. If we have to wait 24 hours until the game at Halifax, winning the title on the park is much better, whilst if Town slip up at The Shay, on TV at home against a team that we’ve come to associate with the NL is pretty near perfect.

As for Boundary Park, they started well, we didn’t. Shocking passing, predominantly in midfield, meant the back line was under pressure far too often. Clear penalty, no 12-yard hat-trick for HT#1. Dan Gardner, respect from him, top man, after he seemed to put the game away from Chesterfield but, hello, there’s some life there. Joe Quigley, fine work, first time starter Bailey Hobson, even better finish. His first ever goal at this level was on loan at Kidderminster Harriers, against Oldham, his first for his parent club, ditto. 

That gave some hope even though the 4-3-3 (some would sat 4-3-2-1, but there was never any likelihood of a blast-off on the day) formation wasn’t achieving what Cookie’s crew had hoped for.

Colclough and Dobra’s introduction saw a switch back to the usual and within minutes, Hobson clipped, pen. Banks and Grigg, the two spot-kick takers, both on the bench, so Big Joe stepped up, his first penalty in two and a half years (Yeovil at Stockport, scored), and a casual roll to the corner levelled things up, a massive turnaround for a team that was all but beaten 25% into the game.

That was away goal #37, another club record, and it’s worth noting that after Quigs’ last pen, he also scored for the Glovers in the next match, against FC Halifax Town.

Both teams hit wood, Dobs’ shot was a cracker, and both teams could have won it (though 4-3-3 Chesterfield probably wouldn’t have) but over the 90, a fair result. Disappointing that Oldham have managed to be unbeaten against us, but Boundary Park is a ground where Town’s league record is appalling, so it’s hardly a surprise. The close on 1,700 travelling supporters though knew the point was good enough to ensure the aim of the season will be achieved.

Then on the way back, any smidgeon of jeopardy was removed when Salford City’s Kevin Berkoe scored on his debut on loan at Woking to mean Barnet picked up zip, ensuring the lunchtime gap of 24 points didn’t have to be amended. I bet BBC Radio Surrey have never had quite so many listeners from North Derbyshire!

Progress is what’s needed in football. Moving things forward, keeping things real. Town’s last five season’s in hell, 19th, play-off eliminators, play-off semi-final, play-off final, Champions Elect. On the pitch progress, slow but sure, but when coupled with off-the-pitch progress and new perfect-fit owners, supported by the community as a whole and the Community Trust in particular, the future looks bright.

With a few tweaks in the squad in the summer (by the way, there’s been no new signings at the club for an amazing 200 days, not one since the end of August, that’s amazing stability), I’d be extremely surprised if the Spireites aren’t in the bookies’ top four teams for promotion from League Two next season. 

I’m really looking forward to our final seven games this season knowing we’ll not be in the NL next season and, from a wholly personal point of view, what with the Covid break when supporters weren’t allowed to attend, and only missing a few games through having Covid and the odd holiday, I suspect I’ve been to more of the 255 league games plus five play-off matches than anyone else.

Attending Spireites matches at new grounds is always a pleasure, but in future, I just want it to be in the FA Cup when some plucky non-leaguers battle through to the first round and get us at home. Never again do I want to see NL (either meaning National League or Non-League) adjacent to the proud name of Chesterfield Football Club.

To the victors the spoils, even if that means trips to Crawley, Harrogate, Salford, Newport, Morecambe or Accrington. Sounds like heaven!

Phil’s Positive: A song I know well and love, Take it Easy, was on the random 70s mix I had on Spotify on the journey over the tops, but the relevance of two lines of lyrics made me forget the flat bed Ford, instead my ears tuned in to two lines in particular: ‘We may lose and we may win, though we’ll never be here again.’ Perfect regarding the NL. On the way home, we listened to the latter stages of Woking v Barnet before returning to the 70s mix. First tune, a Bowie Belter, the wholly appropriate Heroes.

Next Match: Wednesday, March 20, a visit to West Yorkshire and FC Halifax Town. It could be the day (or it could be 24 hours earlier without playing). 1866 Sport will be on air from 7pm for a 7.45pm kick-off. Join me and special guest Tom Denton at The Shay.

Chesterfield (4-33 to start): Tyrer; Sheckleford, Palmer, Grimes, Horton; Naylor, Jones (Colclough 56), Oldaker; Jacobs (Dobra 56), Quigley, Hobson (Mandeville 74). Subs (not used): Banks, Grigg.

Goals: Hobson 27, Quigley (pen) 62 (Chesterfield), Norwood (pen) 12, Gardner 23 (Oldham)

Referee: Garreth Rhodes

Bookings: Tyrer, Oldaker, Quigley, Sheckleford (Chesterfield), Kitching, Gardner, Garner (Oldham)

Attendance: 7,783 (1,682 from Chesterfield)

Netcoms IT 1866 Sport Man of the Match: Bailey Hobson (chosen Josh Marsh)