Phil discusses the Spireites ahead of the gameat Plainmoor
THE SEASON SO FAR
Two points a game average and one goal short of two goals a game average, very much the sort of statistics you want to see and very much a position everyone would have taken before a ball had been kicked. However, Wrexham and Notts County, who both dropped points to Chesterfield, are flying, which means there’s a tinge of disappointment with the season, especially as our three defeats (Maidenhead United, Dagenham & Redbridge and Eastleigh) were all winnable games. But it’s a long season and bar that three match losing streak, things have been solid.
A good bounce back from the three losses, five wins and a draw in the six games since, two of those wins in the FA Cup, most recently a fine 1-0 win at home to Northampton Town who are third in League Two. It was a big blow when we lost Ollie Banks to injury, but Mike Jones has come in and been superb as a holding midfielder and he’s been a major reason the winning streak has returned.
The 2-0 home win over Wrexham, when they didn’t have a shot of note until the 89th minute, showed just how well Paul Cook’s men can play, but I’d go for the ten-man come from behind 3-2 win over Southend United as the high-spot of the season. It was 1-1 at the break with Ollie Banks having been harshly red carded (it was subsequently rescinded), and we fell 2-1 behind in the first minute of the second half, but goals from Joe Quigley and right-back Jeff King turning things round. Since then, Southend are unbeaten in ten in the National League, showing how good a comeback that was.
Right-back Jeff King is top scorer, he bombs down the flanks, hammers in free-kicks and tees up plenty of goals for others. Key to snuffing out opposition raids is holding midfielder Mike Jones, who had to patiently wait to get into the starting eleven, but the experienced man is really making the team tick. Liam Mandeville, in his fourth season at the club, is now showing what we knew he had but we didn’t see enough, buzzing around in attacking midfield, creating openings and scoring goals. Armando Dobra, fit again after seven weeks out, will cause any team at this level plenty of problems by running at defenders and getting into scoring positions. Joe Quigley takes pushes and shoves galore, but holds the ball up extremely well to bring the guys behind him into play in what is a team that plays as a team.
Paul Cook, in his second spell at Chesterfield, is hugely popular, a real football fanatic with a larger than life persona. His preferred set up is 4-2-3-1 but of late has been playing more of a 4-1-4-1. Full backs getting forward is key to his game plan with the one up top needing to be able to hold up the ball to bring in the three or four attacking midfielders. Goals from all around the team is a major aim, and with 13 different scorers this season, that is happening.
No injuries reported from last Saturday’s win over Northampton in the cup, and with the midweek game at Wealdstone being rained off, players will have been able to recover well. Can’t see there being too many changes, the left back role being the one most likely to change as regular Branden Horton is available after suspension and sitting out the cup game, enabling Bailey Clements to get some much needed minutes. Last week’s line up was: Fitzsimons; King, Williams, Grimes, Clements; Jones; Mandeville, Whelan, Oldaker, Dobra; Quigley.
York City played really well in the second half of our 1-1 draw there, but we should have been out of sight by half-time, whilst it was good to see Gateshead really trying to play good football, they look capable of turning things around. Wrexham were outplayed by us and we conceded two in quick succession to lose a 2-0 lead at Notts County, but they were unable to put us to the sword after that, so neither of the top two (against Chesterfield) have looked overly impressive. Altrincham’s Ryan Colclough, as he always is against us, looks a proper player whilst two ex-Spireites, Eastleigh’s Charlie Carter and Gateshead keeper James Montgomery put in excellent shifts in their games against Chesterfield.
Not as many as if it was at the start or end of the season! Plenty will come down for the weekend, but I’d be surprised if more than 300 made the trip. The away support has been terrific this season and home crowds are also extremely impressive, but it’s a long trip, petrol is expensive, Christmas is coming and the next three NL away games are all local-ish, Halifax, Wrexham and Scunthorpe, so many will be saving their hard-earned for those trips.
STRENGTHS AND WEAKNESSES
The strengths of the team are that they play as a team. Plenty of chances are created with every outfield member of the team in with a shout of a goal. Conceding too many is the biggest problem, but of late that has improved. Keeper Ross Fitzsimons, in for the familiar Lucas Sweeper-Keeper Covolan, who is injured, has steadied things at the back and has an impressive P10 W7 D2 L1 record, with just eight goals conceded and five clean sheets, so gradually, that area is being tightened up.
With United having given everything last week against our County neighbours, plus a game on Wednesday and a trip to Derbyshire in the week, I think a rested Spireites side will have the edge, so I’ll go for a 1-0 away win.