Words and images: Michael South
From the spire to the bridge...
Welcome back Spireites and let me start by getting straight to the point. I'll not beat about the bush here. No Siree. I'm going to just cut right to the chase and spit it right on out. Ready? Well let's just take a moment to get focused and I will begin. Err where was I? Oh yeah, we lost. BUT we did score a goal against the kings of Europe, so that's a fantastic memory for Asante after coming on a sub for us in the second half.
Anyway, let's move on, back to the bread and butter of league football and getting us back into League 2. But before we do, we should really recognise the significance of that game.
To play Chelsea, the Spireites first had to see off League Two's Salford City. Liam Mandeville and James Kellermann bagged a goal apiece to secure the blues their place in the FA Cup third round draw, the first time since 2015.
Over 6000 Chesterfield fans travelled down to Stamford Bridge to witness what should have been the CFC v CFC cup final of 1997. For many Spireites the game was one for the memory banks, a match to brag “I was there!” The FA Cup is for many a dream cup where normal rules of football don't apply. Giant killings do happen and will continue in the years to come. That's the magic of it all in my book but it wasn't to be for us this season.
Now, before we focus on our ongoing league 2021/22 season, let's go back 117 years for a brief second. Believe it or not, we've played Chelsea before, prior to this season's fixture, 7 times to be exact. It should have been 8 but due to an incompetent referee back in 1997 against Middlesbrough, we got robbed. If you don't know what I mean by that, ask your dad. (Hint, Jamie Hewitt scored that famous header). Anyway, back in October 1905 Chesterfield Town (as we were known back then) played the first-ever fixture against Chelsea in the old Division 2, which we won with the only goal of the game away down in Chelsea. It was also Chelsea's first-ever defeat at Stamford Bridge. All in all, between 1905 and 1950 we played a few more times, losing 4 and drawing twice to be precise. A few were in the FA Cup too.
Right, history lesson over, back to the present.
With injuries still a huge problem in the Spireite camp, with key players still out, a few positive risks had to be made by James Rowe prior to the Chelsea tie to stay top of the league. Asante and Gunning started in the squad against FC Halifax and in my opinion sat pitchside, both didn't look 100% match fit. Gunning sporting a face mask from his broken cheek/nose didn't seem as confident as usual in the air going up for the challenging headers and Asante didn't really look as fit as he did last season. Yes, it's been a while since Asante hobbled off the field many, many months ago but maybe Rowe should have rested him longer? He only came on as a sub in the next game against Kings Lynn in the dying minutes from the end, possibly just to see the game out. We won though 1-0 with another Mandeville goal in the 51st minute.
Jack Clarke also re ruptured his hamstring after being subbed on and then was left injured during the Halifax match. He's now added to Rowes recovery list, and out for the foreseeable future. It's important to mention though to be fair, Clarke did net the equaliser just before he departed to earn a crucial point with a 1-1 draw in a scrappy end, which at least kept us at the top of the league. Halifax started and ended that game in second place. Was funny though to hear their fans chanting “We are top of the league” when they were 1-0 up until Clarke's goal went in, and we reclaimed the honours of the chant...and the top spot!
Now let's just hope we stay there until the season ends and we get back to the football league!