Chesterfield 2-0 AFC Wimbledon – League 2

ProactAFCW

On Saturday 9th February, I went to the Proact Stadium to watch Chesterfield play bottom placed AFC Wimbledon in League 2.

Of all the clubs in the football league, AFC Wimbledon have the most remarkable story. They formed in 2002 after the original Wimbledon FC was relocated to Milton Keynes. Amazingly, five promotions in just nine seasons saw AFC Wimbledon move from the Combined Counties League to League 2, where they successfully stayed up in their first season.

However, the 2012-13 campaign has been a struggle for the Wombles so far and they found themselves rooted to the foot of the league table ahead of their first ever visit to the Proact Stadium. No wins in their last four games, culminating in a 3-0 defeat to high flying Port Vale in mid-week, meant that Wimbledon were in desperate need of a victory in this game if they wanted to start climbing away from the drop zone.

This was also a very important game for the hosts, Chesterfield, who sat in 11th position coming in to the game and were still in with a shout of the play offs if they could hit a good run of form. The Spireites had picked up just a single victory in 2013 so far and Paul Cook’s side knew that they couldn’t afford to drop points to the team placed 92nd in the football league.

We arrived at the ground just as the visitors team coach pulled up and I met manager Neal Ardley, who made 245 appearances for the original Wimbledon and took charge of the new club in October 2012. Ardley made a bit of history earlier in the season by taking charge of the Wombles in their first ever meeting with MK Dons, a game which they lost 2-1 to a stoppage time goal. Prior to kick off, I also had pictures with Wimbledon’s Neil Sullivan, Jack Midson, Pim Balkestein and Rashid Yussuff.

Both managers made a few changes to their line ups from the previous game. After a 1-1 draw at Rochdale last week, Paul Cook made two alterations to the Chesterfield team with Mark Randall and Drew Talbot replacing Craig Clay and the injured Tendayi Darikwa. For Wimbledon, Ardley made four changes after a 3-0 loss to Port Vale on Tuesday night. Jonathon Meades, Stacy Long, Jack Midson and Luke Moore took the places of Pim Balkestein, Sammy Moore, Rashid Yussuff and Toby Ajala.

The opening 45 minutes were far from enthralling and there was very little for either set of supporters to get excited about.

The home side had the ball in the net early on when Sam Togwell’s header crashed off the crossbar before the rebound was tapped home by Danny Whitaker, but the linesman’s flag was already up and so the game remained goalless.

Just over 20 minutes in to the game, lone striker Marc Richards picked up a knock and was replaced by Jack Lester. The veteran forward has become a legend at Chesterfield FC and rumours of his unrest due to lack of playing time in recent weeks has caused anger amongst some supporters, a feeling that hasn’t been helped by the rumoured interest from rivals Rotherham United. This was the perfect opportunity for Lester to prove to the manager that he can still be a vital part of the side even at 37 years old.

The best chance of a dismal first half came for Wimbledon when the ball fell to Gary Alexander in front of goal, but pressure from Liam Cooper meant the new signing could only send his effort harmlessly over the crossbar.

Something had to change and both managers clearly recognised this as they each made changes at the break. AFC Wimbledon saw a simple change of personnel as Jack Midson was replaced by Toby Ajala, while Cook decided to change from a 4-5-1 to a 4-4-2 formation for the Spireites, bringing on striker Armand Gnanduillet to replace Mark Randall.

This proved to be an excellent decision by the manager as just before the hour mark the Spireites broke the deadlock, courtesy of a goal from the half time substitute. A neat one-two between Whitaker and Nathan Smith left the midfielder with plenty of space and his low cross met Gnanduillet, whose first time strike left Sullivan with no chance. It was the Ivorian’s first goal in English football and he enjoyed the moment with a very enthusiastic celebration. As one fan said after the game, it looked like he had scored the winning goal in a cup final!

Fellow sub Jack Lester went in search of a goal and he came close when he twisted and turned on the edge of the area before firing a deflected strike which clipped off the top of the crossbar.

By this point it was all Chesterfield as they looked to put the game beyond doubt. Drew Talbot came close to doing just that when he sent a powerful first time strike goal wards, only to be denied by a fantastic diving save from Neil Sullivan.

With 7 minutes to play, the Spireites finally sealed the victory as the Ivorian turned from scorer to provider. The 6ft4 striker charged into the area before playing a simple ball to the unmarked Lester, who fired the ball in to the bottom corner to make it 2-0.

Wimbledon came close to pulling a goal back in the dying moments but a weak effort was comfortably held by the goalkeeper and the game ended 2-0 to the hosts.

It was a deserved victory for Chesterfield, with the introduction of Gnanduillet and change of formation at half time proving the difference between the two sides on the day.

The result saw Chesterfield move up a place to 10th in the League 2 table while AFC Wimbledon remain in 24th position. Next up for the Spireites is their first ever trip to the New York Stadium for the derby game against Rotherham United. Chesterfield are now just four points from the play offs and so victory in the game against the Millers would put them in with a real chance of breaking in to the top seven before the end of the season.

Chesterfield 20 AFC Wimbledon

Gnanduillet ’59, Lester ’83

Lee, Smith, Trotman, Hird, Cooper, Togwell, Whitaker (Brindley ’90), Randall (Gnanduillet ’46), Talbot, O’Shea, Richards (Lester ’21)
Sullivan, Mitchel-King, Fenlon, Meades, Bennett, Hussey, Long (McCallum ’69), Sweeney (S Moore ’79), Midson (Ajala ’46), L Moore, Alexander
 
Attendance: 5,235
 
The visitors team coach

The visitors team coach

AFC Wimbledon manager Neal Ardley

AFC Wimbledon manager Neal Ardley

Goalkeeper Neil Sullivan

Goalkeeper Neil Sullivan

Jack Midson

Jack Midson

Pim Balkestein

Pim Balkestein

Rashid Yussuff

Rashid Yussuff

Jack Lester warms up with the substitutes after rumours about his future during the week

Jack Lester warms up with the substitutes after rumours about his future during the week

The Wimbledon mascot helps put the balls in the bag

The Wimbledon mascot helps put the balls in the bag

The away supporters

The away supporters

Haydon the Womble stands on the Proact Stadium pitch before the game

Haydon the Womble stands on the Proact Stadium pitch before the game

Flags on the away stand

Flags on the away stand

The players line up before kick off

The players line up before kick off

The official photographs are taken

The official photographs are taken

The game starts

The game starts

My view of the action

My view of the action

AFC Wimbledon search for an early goal

AFC Wimbledon search for an early goal

The Womblesmake their first visit to the Proact Stadium

The Womblesmake their first visit to the Proact Stadium

Neal Trotman receives treatment early in the game

Neal Trotman receives treatment early in the game

Jack Lester replaces an injured Marc Richards after 21 minutes

Jack Lester replaces an injured Marc Richards after 21 minutes

An uneventful opening 45 minutes

An uneventful opening 45 minutes

The 40 year old mascot takes a penalty against Chester during the break

The 40 year old mascot takes a penalty against Chester during the break

Haydon the Womble is beaten from the spot

Haydon the Womble is beaten from the spot

Toby Ajala replaces Jack Midson at half time

Toby Ajala replaces Jack Midson at half time

'Super' Jack Lester

‘Super’ Jack Lester

Armand Gnanduillet celebrates his first ever goal in English football

Armand Gnanduillet celebrates his first ever goal in English football

The Spireites come close to doubling their lead

The Spireites come close to doubling their lead

Looking towards the away supporters in the East Stand

Looking towards the away supporters in the East Stand

The fans celebrate the second goal

The fans celebrate the second goal

Jack Lester is the scorer

Jack Lester is the scorer

The full time score

The full time score

The players shake hands at full time

The players shake hands at full time

The Wimbledon coaches discuss the game at pitchside

The Wimbledon coaches discuss the game at pitchside

Man of the match and goalscorer Armand Gnanduillet

Man of the match and goalscorer Armand Gnanduillet

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s