Chesterfield 5-1 Torquay United (National League)
I’ve been working on gaining my level 2 talent identification certificate all day, watching an old match on my laptop between Barcelona and Paris Saint-Germain, I’ve been asked to pick out a player to ‘scout’ for my coursework and for some strange reason I’ve chosen Frenkie de Jong… He’s had an absolute shitter and Barcelona are beaten 4-1… The scouting’s the easy bit, ‘passes a lot, runs a lot, crap defensively’, now I’ve got to come up with a fancy template for my résumé so the PFSA can mark me up!!! It’s 3pm and I’m still in my pyjamas, I need to get ready for tonight’s game, Chesterfield v Torquay United in the National League.
The Gulls are the form team of the division right now and have won their last five but are still in the relegation zone 21st in the table, Chesterfield are third and are looking to secure their spot to ensure home playoff semi-final advantage with just three games to go, Woking up their arse, both teams need a win for very different reasons.
I’m quickly showered and out the house for 5pm battling through the Nottingham traffic which thankfully isn’t too bad tonight as I head down the cities ring road up to junction 26 of the M1.
It’s a bright spring day without a cloud in the sky as I pass the stunning Hardwick Hall on my right and head up to J29 where I pull off for the A617 heading into Chesterfield centre. Driving north up the A61 I’m off before Tesco and onto the Sheffield Road by the Donkey Derby pub as I aim to park where I did last time, when a steward told me to stick my Merc outside a derelict building most recently used as a gym.
I’m indicating to turn left opposite the stadium, but it’s all fenced off… Looks like the gyms being knocked down and I won’t be parking here tonight… I’m driving around the houses to find a nice spot before pulling up outside ‘King Carpets’ where I notice it’s free to park after 6pm.
A few fans plod past as I get out of the car to walk back down the Sheffield Road, literally a two-minute walk past Tool Station and Greggs to my right, Aurora Beauty to my left where I spot through the window an old bird getting her nails done.
I’m cutting through the car park as I’m asked for some change by a fan who wants to buy a programme, I’ve only got cards in my wallet so can’t help but continue my journey towards the West Stand entrance where I get my pass off a steward to walk straight in.
From the outside, the venue is modern, spacious, pleasant looking, built in 2009 it’s red bricked, grey panelled, blue painted, tall thin floodlights in each corner and curved roofing for two of the four separate simple looking but plush new stands.
I’m in early to grab a bite to eat as haven’t had anything since my Crunchy Nut Cornflakes at 9am, first through the turnstiles I’m straight to the kiosk under the concourse for a cup of Yorkshire Tea and super ‘hot’ steak and ale pie at a price of £7.
After a quick pit stop, I’m up through the ground level entrance and to my seat thirteen rows high in the press area, pitch looking fab backed by the blue seated stands and blue skies above as I say ‘hello’ to an old friend I met last time I was here.
The old boy and his wife who I got chatting to during Chesterfield v Wealdstone are sat directly behind me again, still no clues to what they do but they provide a real friendly energy amongst the radio presenters and newspaper writers that otherwise sit silently amongst themselves.
The Twitter guy from Chesterfield has appeared all ‘excited’ as he says his club are about to send out a tweet of a mascot getting ‘high fives’ from his players in response to Arsenal’s recent controversial tweet where their ‘superstars’ ignored a young supporter when signing her shirt!
I’m chatting to the old boy as I ask about recent form, he says ‘the roof nearly came off on Saturday’ when his side overturned a two-goal deficit to win 3-2 with a last-minute winner v Eastleigh. He says ‘we’ve been threatening to give someone a good hiding all season’ will tonight be the night?
As the sun sets and chill creeps in, I’m joined by a scout from Hull City besides me, the game kicks off and Chesterfield are immediately on the front foot, they create chances and play with purpose, a real energy and zest about their style, I say to the old boy “It’s a great start” who replies “we started like this on Saturday and found ourselves two down”.
I feel they’ll regret missing some chances as they pepper the goal with early efforts but there’s something about them tonight, they know they must win, they know Torquay aren’t a pushover after recent winning form, they have to be on their ‘A’ game and player for player they’re impeccable.
It takes 25 minutes and a slice of luck, for that first goal to come, Ollie Banks letting fly a shot from outside the area which takes a huge deflection over the goalkeeper to send the home crowd wild.
Within a couple of minutes, it’s two. Colclough who’s brilliant down the left crosses in to McCallam who heads against the bar but Andrew Dallas follows up to nod home, it’s the least Chesterfield deserve as Torquay don’t know what’s hit them, already Manager Gary Johnson is making a substitution for the Gulls.
That sub makes no difference as Dallas then picks the ball up from outside the area to strike the goal of the game, a stunning effort from twenty plus yards into the top corner of the net, it really is beginning to look like Chesterfield’s night.
It’s a standing ovation from the spectators at half time as one guy in front of me lumps on his mobile betting app for plus six home team goals. I’m intrigued to see how Chesterfield come out again as the match is already but won, Torquay have been completely outplayed and although had a couple of sniffs themselves, have hardly put two or more passes together, Chesterfield dominant themselves pass crisp, firm, with intent, play high tempo and with confidence to ‘get the job done’.
They start where they left off and any concerns of a miracle comeback are quashed soon into the second half, Liam Mandeville who I’m told by the old boy should be the clubs ‘player of the season without a doubt’ when announced next month, smashes home from close range, before Andy Dallas get’s his hat-trick, prodding home from inside the area a left wing centred Jeff King free-kick.
Torquay do get one back, it’s all a bit sloppy as Maguire loses possession (sound familiar) and Fitzsimons can’t reach the ball ahead of Collins who plays it wide and the cross in is slid home by McGavin, off the bench, the 150 away fans in attendance start to sing “we’re gonna win 6-5” and “were just to good for you”.
The sounds of the Torquay support however are drowned out by the constant noise the home crowd make, the fans behind the goal to my right are ‘bouncing’ as they drum up a real racket, I tell the old boy "player for player your lot have been on point tonight" mightily impressed with a dominant victory, I fear for Notts County who might end up playing them in the Playoff final if all goes to plan.
As the whistle goes the fans are singing to Rod Stewart’s ‘We are Sailing’ Paul Cook, captain Jamie Grimes and the boys in blue steering their ship towards their best performance of the season so far, peaking at the right time? I tell the old boy who clenches my hand on exit, “I might see you next at Wembley”.
On a night where one to eleven Chesterfield were devastating player for player, one of those rare occasions when it just felt right and everything went to plan, Andrew Dallas, a loan signing from Solihull Moors at 23 looks to be a proper striker who knows where the net is, playing with confidence he now has four in two and looks very much a footballer that fits the ‘system’ which Manager Paul Cook is trying to instil.
Journeyman strike partner Paul McCallum was exceptional against one of his old clubs too, the former Leyton Orient, Barnet and Dagenham forward a perfect foil for Dallas, winning aerial duels and used largely as a battering ram whilst the likes of Mandeville and Colclough strutted their stuff out wide. Ollie Banks brilliant in midfield alongside Darren Oldaker who’s a personal favourite, socks rolled down he’s spraying balls still with swagger and more importantly to huge attacking effect.
In defence, Chesterfield played a high line which might be undone against better opposition, but Fitzsimons swept relatively well and Jamie Grimes is a true leader and good old fashioned centre half, he kept Aaron Jarvis and Frank Nouble quiet who themselves have forged a decent recent attack for Torquay.
I was keen to see 19-year-old Nico Lawrence do well for the Gulls but sadly tonight wasn’t his night, not many of the away side can take much credit, watching Brett McGavin in the warm-up I certainly liked his finishing qualities and his confidence, on the scoresheet following a late cameo, he’ll be one I’ll be keeping an eye on, but tonight was all about Chesterfield, who proved they have plenty of talent, many good enough for the Football League.
That loss for Torquay might knock the sails out of Gary Johnson’s survival chances, three points below safety with two games to go they still have an opportunity to stay up, but sadly it is no longer in the clubs own hands.
Chesterfield still have some work to do themselves to guarantee third and a home playoff semi-final draw, four points from their two remaining games should be enough, and you wouldn’t put it past them, on this form, to go all the way and return to blighty, after four years absence from the football league.
Chesterfield: Ross Fitzsimons, Jamie Grimes, Laurence Maguire, Liam Mandeville, Ryan Colclough, Paul McCallum (Tim Akinola 67), Jeff King, Ashley Palmer, Darren Oldaker (Joe Quigley 67), Ollie Banks, Andrew Dallas (Jes Uchegbulam 80).
Torquay United: Mark Halstead, Tom Lapslie (Ali Omar 28), Aaron Jarvis, Kieron Evans, Shaun Donnellan, Nico Lawrence, Dean Moxey, Jack Stobbs, Kevin Dawson (Brett McGavin 67), Lewis Collins, Frank Nouble (Ben Wyatt 67).
7:45pm Kick Off. Tuesday 18th April 2023, Technique Stadium, Chesterfield (att 6,005).