On Tuesday 26th February 2013 I went to the Proact Stadium to watch Chesterfield play Aldershot Town in League 2.
Chesterfield came in to this League 2 tie sat in 12th position in the table after a frustrating 2012/13 campaign thus far. Two consecutive 1-0 defeats to Rotherham United and Gillingham had left the Spireites quite a distance from the play off spots and just two wins in 2013 many angry supporters had even begun questioning manager Paul Cook just four months in to his reign at the Proact Stadium. Aldershot had themselves recently seen a change of management with Andy Scott replacing Dean Holdsworth at the helm and the new boss had got off to the perfect start with 2-0 win against Fleetwood Town on Saturday. However, the Shots still sat just four points off the relegation zone in 20th position and so it was a very much must-win game for both sides for different reasons.
Paul Cook’s side was plagued with injuries in the build up to this match which meant Armad Gnanduillet, Craig Clay and Sam Togwell were all absent while captain Sam Hird was also missing due to suspension. The manager decided to introduce on-loan teenagers Alex Henshall and Jordan Clark in to the starting eleven to take the place of Clay and Togwell. Shots boss Andy Scott made three changes to the side that had beaten Fleetwood Town at the weekend with Anthony Tonkin, Danny Rose and Craig Reid replacing Aaron Morris, Adam Mekki and Asa Hall.
This match also saw the return of Terrell Forbes, who joined Aldershot Town in January after being released by Chesterfield. Forbes had joined the Spireites in the summer and was a regular in the side until the arrival of new manager Paul Cook, who felt the defender was surplus to requirements which resulted in him having his contract cancelled at the start of the new year. I had a picture with Terrell as he arrived for today’s game and he spent a good few minutes chatting to supporters before he made his way through the players entrance.
The game got underway on a rather chilly evening in Derbyshire in front of quite a sparse attendance. The supporters numbered 3,968 which meant it was the first league game at the new stadium to see the attendance fall below 4,000 – a clear sign of frustration from the supporters with many deciding to stay away.
It was the visitors who started stronger, having the majority of the possession and creating a few chances to take the lead. A weak kick from goalkeeper Tommy Lee almost gifted the Shots an early goal as Peter Vincenti headed the ball to Craig Reid, who rounded the goalkeeper before seeing his strike from a tight angle blocked by Liam Cooper.
Reid had another opportunity soon after when he pounced on the rebound of Danny Hylton’s strike, but his attempt was blocked by the Lee and the goalkeeper quickly grasped the ball to bring the danger to an end. And the attacker was again causing the Chesterfield defence problems as he forced yet another save out of the ‘keeper from just inside the area.
It was a dismal first half for the Spireites who rarely looked like creating anything of goal, often simply resorting to kicking a long ball forward to the lone striker Marc Richards. A weak header from Richards in to the arms of Shots goalkeeper almost summed up the opening 45 minutes for the home side.
The Chesterfield manager decided to replace youth with experience to try and change the game. Cook had already replaced 19 year old Richard Brindley with Danny Whitaker after less than half an hour and he clearly recognised that something needed to change as he introduced Jack Lester for Alex Henshall and moved to a 4-4-2 formation.
This clearly made a difference and the veteran striker appeared to be the catalyst for a flurry of chances early in the second period. Lester first picked out Whitaker who sent a shot over the crossbar, before setting up Jordan Clark with an opportunity. However, the Barnsley loanee hesitated when given the chance to pull the trigger and when he eventually did so, the effort rolled harmlessly in to the arms of the goalkeeper Jamie Young.
Defender Neal Trotman came close the breaking the deadlock when he met Jay O’Shea’s cross but his headed attempt went just wide off the woodwork.
Lester then himself came close as he turned in the box and fired goalwards but his shot hit the side netting – leaving a few home supporters briefly thinking that the ball had hit the back of the net!
Despite early dominance, the Spireites failed to get the goal they desperately wanted and as the Shots began to grow in to the game it became an unspiring watch with few chances for either side.
In stoppage time, Sonny Bradley came agonisingly close to snatching all three points for the visitors when his header was cleared off the line by Whitaker. In the end though, a scoreline of 0-0 was probably exactly what this game had deserved.
The result saw Chesterfield fall to 14th in the league table, leaving the season all but over for the Spireites and doing little to counter any doubts that may be creeping in to the mind of supporters about the new manager. Of course, it is still to early in to Cook’s reign to judge him and the real test will be the 2013/14 campaign when he will be able to build his own team. For the Shots, a valuable point saw them rise up to 19th place but still just two points clear of the drop zone.
Chesterfield 0–0 Aldershot TownLee, Smith, Trotman, Brindley (Whitaker ’29), Cooper, Townsend, Henshall (Lester ’46), Talbot, O’Shea (Randall ’77), Clark, Richards Young, Herd, Tonkin, Vincenti, Forbes, Bradley, Risser, Cadogan (Morris ’83), Rose, Hylton, Reid Attendance: 3,968