Phil Tooley takes a look at the game and its context
Matlock Town 1 Chesterfield 3 Pre-season Friendly #2
Lovely night, big crowd, strong team, Ernie tribute, Town win. What’s not to like? A lovely evening that ended on a personal high when, total unexpectedly, James Rowe finished his post-match interview, in the middle of the pitch, by wishing me a happy birthday and presenting me with a bottle of Merlot. I’m not often lost for words, but that gesture was as close as it gets! Thank you. And please note, it’s the gaffer’s birthday on Friday.
I’ve not checked every match detail yet but reckon the 1,614 attendance may be the highest for one of our trips to Causeway Lane since a few dozen more attended there just over three months after we thrilled the world of football in the FA Cup semi-final in 1997.
There was certainly a positive atmosphere and Chesterfield, with an extremely strong starting line-up, started in fine fettle, with Stefan Payne teeing up Liam Mandeville to open the scoring after just 140 seconds.
Payne, yet to get on the scoresheet himself, grabbed a second assist in first-half stoppage time when his move forwards saw him check and spot Danny Rowe in space to enable the striker to hammer home one of his trademark thunderbolts. No stopping that one. Payne himself certainly looks feisty, looks like there’ll never be a dull moment with him!
The inevitable round of substitutions punctuated the second half. Three more triallists, and if my eyes, a year older than they were at Alfreton, didn’t deceive me, they were all different to those used at the Impact Arena. I liked the look of the chap who came on for Gavin Gunning, who started in midfield before dropping back to right centre half.
The staccato second period ended with a Saidou Khan burst – he’s already done a few of those – to feed Nathan Tyson in his 22nd pre-season as a pro, to fire home to conclude the scoring.
Laurence Maguire and Manny Oyeleke, as well as Grimes, completed the full 90 minutes as the squad, set for a training camp at Loughborough University ahead of the next match against the Bantams, continues its sharpness build up.
Rowe reported no injuries after the match, so just George Carline, Jack Clarke and Fraser Kerr (long-term injuries excepted) to get up to a level that will enable them to bank some minutes.
The squad, as it stands, looks strong. Tyson and Denton on as subs for Rowe and Payne looks where you want to be, whilst Khan, Calvin Miller and Joe Rowley replacing Jak McCourt, Alex Whittle and Jeff King reinforces the strength in depth the manager has assembled.
Whilst it’s impossible to garner too much meaningful information about the team’s potential in the National League this season from early doors visits to two Derbyshire neighbours, anyone can see that there are going to be some very good players on the Spireites’ bench for the trip to Aldershot Town next month.
King v Carline, Whittle v Miller, Oyeleke & McCourt v Khan & Weston, Clarke v Mandeville, Rowe & Payne v Denton & Tyson; the list of combinations that are going through supporters’ heads are many and plentiful and one of the joys of pre-season, when we all have our own views about the strongest starting XI.
Both games have started as 3-5-2, so maybe that’s the formation most likely, but there are plenty of options for 4-4-2, 3-4-3, 4-3-3 and more in there. Don’t you just love pre-season permutations? Well, I do.
Phil’s Positive: Jamie Grimes. Played all 180 minutes of the two games so far and he looks very solid. The left-footer played on the right of three centre backs, but the balance looked fine.
The Spireites’ next game is on Tuesday, July 27, KO 7.30pm, at home to Bradford City.
Team v Matlock Town (3-5-2 to start): Loach (Triallist 46); Grimes, Gunning (Triallist 72), Maguire; King (Rowley 58), Oyeleke, McCourt (Khan 55), Mandeville (Triallist 55), Whittle (Miller 46); Rowe (Tyson 46), Payne (Denton 58).
Goals: Mandeville 3, Rowe 45+3, Tyson 87 (Chesterfield), Byrne 38