It was a case of ‘men against boys’ at Sandygate on Monday 20th July 2015 as Hallam comfortably defeated a young Chesterfield side 4-1.
Two goals in either half gave the dominant North Counties East League club a deserved victory, an own goal from defender Josh Statham providing their only blemish on the score sheet for the hosts on a chilly summer’s evening at the world’s oldest football ground.
For me, it was the fourth consecutive season that I had begun at Sandygate – which has been the home of the second oldest football club since 1860. It is always a pleasurable occasion and the stadium, with it’s impressive 210-seater stand, never fails to be an enjoyable venue for football.
Chesterfield’s youngsters headed to Hallam for the third pre-season in a row. Last season’s contest ended in a 1-1 draw, whilst the Spireites had earned a memorable 6-2 victory against the non-league club in the campaign prior to that.
But under the management of Ryan Hindley, who took over the then bottom-placed club in October, Hallam had improved in recent months – finishing 14th place in the NCEL 1st Division last season having been pointless at the time of his appointment.
And the hosts showed that their aims of promotion were not far-fetched as they started this friendly fixture strongly, despite the uniquely non-league disadvantage of kicking uphill in the first half!
In front of 105 attendees, the home side almost took the lead inside five minutes as Joe Boggild’s glancing header bounced just wide of the far post.
Boggild had another opportunity to open the scoring around the 20 minute mark. Jack Hargreaves played the attacker through on goal, but his strike was blocked and then smothered by Chesterfield goalkeeper Dylan Parkin, who was sporting the name of reserve stopper Myles Wright on the back of his shirt to confuse us all!
With 21 minutes on the clock, Hallam’s dominance finally led to an opening. A pinpoint cross from the wing found the head of Callum Greaves, who nodded the ball home from close range to give the home side a deserved advantage.
Chesterfield went searching for a leveller and found it 14 minutes later. Some good fortune for the visitors saw defender Statham head the ball into his own net, a touch from goalkeeper Jack Dennison not enough to deny the own goal.
But just three minutes after seeing their lead vanish, Hallam regained it in style with a neat, Pirlo-esque lobbed finish from Danny Barnsley giving the hosts an interval lead.
The second period was only moments old when the advanatge was increased to 3-1. Half-time substitute Steve Brammer made an instant impact as he powered past multiple Chesterfield players before firing home.
The Spireites almost hit back quickly, but a superb double save from Dennison denied the youngsters after another mistake from Statham had almost proved costly once again.
Hallam put the result beyond doubt in the 54th minute however, as Michael Blythen headed past Parkin to increase the lead to a seemingly unassailable three-goal margin at 4-1.
And the home side remained dominant until the end, coming lose to scoring again in the final ten minutes – the Chesterfield goalkeeper was forced into an excellent double save of his own before Blythen hit the post from close range.
It was a good performance from the home side, who had defeated the Chesterfield XI at the third time of asking and in impressive fashion. They now look ahead to the visit of Sheffield United a week on Tuesday, as the non-league club look to remain unbeaten in pre-season with victories over Sheffield FC and now the Spireites.
There isn’t long to wait for Chesterfield fans until the next action involving their side, as the Derbyshire club host Championship side Hull City tomorrow evening in their first home friendly of the new season.
Hallam 4-1 Chesterfield
Greaves ’21, Statham (og) ’35, Barnsley ’38, Brammer ’46, Blythen ’54
Attendance – 105