Big talking points as Kabongo Tshimanga scores a hat-trick in Chesterfield's entertaining win against Barnet
Kabongo Tshimanga scored a hat-trick as Chesterfield hit four past Barnet to continue their strong start to the season and remain unbeaten.
It was a dramatic night under the lights at the Technique as the Spireites led 2-0 after just eight minutes before being surprisingly pegged back before half-time.
But two more goals after the break sealed a deserved win to leave Town in second place in the National League.
If this had been a boxing match referee Andrew Miller would have had to call a stop to it very early on because the Bees were well and truly on the ropes.
Chesterfield could have scored four or five in the first 20 minutes and you wondered whether those misses might come back to bite them.
Gavin Gunning headed Jeff King’s deep corner back across goal for Tshimanga to slot in after just five minutes. Manager James Rowe said afterwards that it was a set-piece they had worked on and it paid off.
Just three minutes later Chesterfield doubled their lead. Stefan Payne, on his home debut, raced clear and was brought down by Barnet goalkeeper Sam Sargeant. Tshimanga did the honours from the penalty spot to put the hosts well in control.
Moments later Tshimanga scooped the ball over the crossbar after meeting Calvin Miller’s cross and then came a glorious opportunity to notch a third and probably kill the game off.
The big chance came when Saidou Khan rounded Sargeant but with the goal gaping he smashed the ball into the side-netting. Rowe joked that the midfielder would never miss such a chance again but it was no laughing matter by half-time.
Out of nowhere, Barnet drew level with two deflected strikes in three minutes before half-time from Serhat Tasdemir and Sam Granville to stun the home faithful.
The visitors should have been well out of sight but somehow they were level at the break.
It was a frustrating stop-start first 15 minutes of the second-half which is exactly what Barnet would have hoped for.
However, another nailed-on penalty settled everyone down. King was upended in the box and Tshimanga completed his treble and from there on in there was never any doubt Chesterfield would not take the three points.
The excellent Payne had a goal ruled out for offside before Gunning extended the lead with a deflected free-kick from distance. In true ‘Mad Gav’ fashion, he celebrated by running over to free-kick expert Danny Rowe, who was an unused substitute, as if to say ‘I can score them too, you know!’
Before full-time Sargeant denied King with a top save to keep out his header and Payne’s follow-up was blocked.
Overall, it was a thoroughly deserved win for Chesterfield. They made life hard for themselves but they got there in the end and that is what matters most.
That is now six unbeaten, including four wins, giving them 14 points. So far so good.
His hat-trick here takes his Chesterfield record to an impressive six goals in as many goals, making him the joint top scorer in the league with Joe Sbarra of Solihull Moors and Halifax’s Billy Waters.
His first goal was similar to the one he scored against King’s Lynn Town. That time he poked in at the far post from George Carline’s header, this time he was left unmarked to prod in from Gunning’s header back across the face of goal.
The other two were penalties but you have still got to score them and he did just that.
When asked how best to sum-up the hat-trick hero, boss Rowe replied: “Ruthless.”
It is not often a player scores a hat-trick and doesn’t get man of the match, but perhaps this is one of those rare occasions.
Take nothing away from Tshimanga, but Payne was outstanding and he had a big influence on the game.
His hold-up play was excellent and so was his work ethic.
He stretched the Barnet defence with runs in behind but he also came short and linked the play.
The striker won the first penalty and was unlucky not to get on the scoresheet himself.
Payne, a summer free transfer from Grimsby Town, had a good pre-season but has had to be patient following the arrival of Tshimanga.
He gave Chesterfield more mobility up front and it is going to be hard to leave him out for the next game at Yeovil on Saturday.
GAVIN GUNNING’S MAGIC
There can’t be many times the centre-half has bagged a goal and an assist in a game but his contribution went beyond actions on the pitch.
The centre-half played an instrumental part in the team talk at half-time and Rowe praised his ‘leadership’ in his post-match interview.
Having been one of the lucky ones still able to attend live games last season during the pandemic I got used to hearing his booming voice.
The thought of not being able to hear him barking orders with crowds back in saddened me a little but I should not have worried. His Irish tones can still be heard right across Derbyshire on a matchday at the Technique.
Keeping him fit will be vital, not just because of his determined performances but for his organisation skills and for the high standards he demands.
’Gavin Gunning’s magic’ was the chant from the Kop, and it’s hard to disagree.
(3-4-1-2): Loach; Kerr, Gunning, Grimes; King, Weston (McCourt, 80), Oyeleke, Miller (Whittle, 75); Khan (Mandeville, 61); Payne, Tshimanga. Unused subs: Carline, Rowe.
Attendance: 4,538 (49 from Barnet)
Next up: Yeovil Town away on Saturday.