On Saturday 10th August 2013, I went to the Proact Stadium to watch Chesterfield’s first home game of the new season against Cheltenham Town.
The first home game of a new season is always an exciting occasion. Most supporters are still full of pre-season optimism and excitement ahead of the new campaign and it is also at the height of summer which in my opinion is the most enjoyable time to watch football. The first visitors to the Proact Stadium for the 2013/14 season were Cheltenham Town.
The match previews showed that Cheltenham, who have been defeated in the League 2 play offs in each of the last two seasons, had a terrible record against Chesterfield. The Robins’ two previous visits to Chesterfield’s new stadium had seen them defeated 4-1 and 3-0 while they had picked up just a single victory in 13 attempts against the Spireites.
Chesterfield were looking to continue a good run of performances that had seen them win their first league game against Bury before a narrow defeat to Championship Leeds United in midweek. Meanwhile, today’s visitors came into the game on the back of a 4-3 League Cup victory against third tier Crawley Town after drawing their first game in the league against Burton Albion last Saturday.
Robins boss Mark Yates named the same starting eleven from the cup win on Tuesday evening while Paul Cook made two changes from the trip to Leeds. Marc Richards and Jay O’Shea regained their places in the first eleven from the first league game of the season while Tendayi Darikwa and Eoin Doyle returned to the substitutes bench.
The home side dominated the majority of the first half in the summer sunshine, keeping the ball well and playing football at times that wouldn’t have looked out of place in higher divisions. Marc Richards came close to opening the scoring early in the game with a diving header that flew just wide of the target.
Cheltenham’s first strike on target came after around a quarter of an hour with a long range strike that was comfortably saved by Tommy Lee. However, it was the Spireites who deservedly took the lead in the 23rd minute. Gary Roberts picked up the ball just outside the box and after a couple of step-overs and turns, he fired the ball home to put the home side in front.
Roberts almost added to his tally with a free kick strike that forced a diving save from Cheltenham goalkeeper Scott Brown, but not before cheekily pulling down the shorts of Russell Penn who was standing over the ball as he lined up the kick!
On the counter attack, the Robins came very close to levelling the score. Byron Harrison went through on goal and lifted the ball past on-rushing goalkeeper Lee but defender Ryan Edwards managed to get back to clear the ball before it could cross the line.
And the visitors had the ball in the net early in the second half when Troy Brown headed home from Matt Richards’ free kick. However, as soon as the ball found Brown’s head the assistant raised his flag and the goal was disallowed by referee Mr Bull, who was taking charge of only his second league match.
Cheltenham were much improved in the second period and created another good chance to level when Harrison cut past a number of defenders before his effort was blocked by Lee in the Chesterfield goal.
Despite the oppositions pressure, Chesterfield continued to create opportunities of their own as they looked to finish the game off. Tendayi Darikwa, who replaced Nathan Smith at the break, raced through on goal but Brown was the hero for Cheltenham as he managed to stop the wingers strike.
Jay O’Shea, scorer of the Spireites’ first goal of the new season, then had a couple of chances to double the lead. Roberts created the first for the Irishman, who hit the strike just wide before charging past a couple of defenders and forcing the Robins’ keeper to make an excellent save shortly after.
The away side piled the pressure on in the final few minutes as Chesterfield defender their slender lead desperately. However, any nerves suddenly disappeared in the final minute of normal time when substitute Eoin Doyle doubled the lead. The summer signing received the ball from Roberts and hit a shot that deflected into the bottom corner to seal the 3 points for Chesterfield.
The victory continued Chesterfield’s 100% league record and saw them move into the automatic promotion places, albeit after just two matches. Cheltenham are still looking for their first league victory after earning just a single point in their first two games. However, after two consecutive seasons in the play offs, the Robins have to be one of the favourites to challenge for a top seven spot once again and it would be no surprise to see them up there at the end of the season.
Chesterfield 2-0 Cheltenham Town
Roberts ’23, Doyle ’90
Lee, Smith (Darikwa ’46), Hird, Talbot, Edwards, Morsy, O’Shea (Togwell ’83), Roberts, Ryan, Humphreys, Richards (Doyle ’65)
S Brown, T Brown, Elliott, Jombati, Braham-Barrett, Deering (Kotwica ’78), McGlashan, Richards, Penn, Harrison, Gornell (Vincent ’52)