Chesterfield remain top of National League going into 2022 after draw against FC Halifax Town - talking points

Chesterfield remain top of the National League going into 2022 after fighting back to earn a draw against promotion rivals Halifax.

By Liam Norcliffe
Wednesday, 29th December 2021, 10:43 am
Jack Clarke scored Chesterfield's equalsier against Halifax.
Jack Clarke scored Chesterfield's equalsier against Halifax.

The Shaymen’s Matty Warburton fired in from the edge of the box on 18 minutes but substitute Jack Clarke equalised with five minutes remaining.

FAIR RESULT

This much-anticipated clash between the league’s top two teams was a classic game of two halves.

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For me, Halifax are the best side the Spireites have faced this season and deserved to be in front at half-time. The visitors played some quick, eye-catching football through the thirds and looked a threat every time they went forward.

It was a good, accurate strike from Warburton for the opener but he was given far too much space and time.

After 17 days without a game and following a Covid outbreak at the club, the Blues understandably looked rusty in the opening 45 minutes. Too many passes went astray, they could not get control of the game or build-up any momentum.

But, despite all of that, Scott Loach did not really have another notable save to make in the whole of the game after Warburton’s opener.

However, after a couple of changes and a tweak in formation, the hosts were much better in the last half an hour and deserved a draw. They started landing on second balls more, they pressed higher up the pitch and they moved the ball quicker.

Substitute Clarke popped up with the equaliser, slotting in from close-range after determined work from Alex Whittle.

Unfortunately, Clarke appeared to pull his hamstring in the dying seconds so there will be an anxious wait on him.

In the end, the promotion rivals could not be separated and on this evidence there won’t be much between them come May.

COMEBACKS

There were a few eyebrows raised when long-term absentees Akwasi Asante and Gavin Gunning were named in the starting line-up but it appears the men they replaced, Liam Mandeville and Jamie Grimes, have been struggling with Covid and were not ready to start from the beginning.

Asante, back after eight months out with a ruptured ACL, got 60 minutes under his belt which is a solid base to work from. It was clear that he was not at full speed but that was to be expected after such a long time out.

Gunning, back from two months out after broken nose, wore a mask on his return and had a difficult first-half but improved after the break.

It is great to see them both back for the New Year.

CONTROVERSY

Referee Garreth Rhodes awarded Chesterfield a penalty with 20 minutes remaining for handball. However, after consulating with his linesman, Rhodes overruled his initial decision after being informed it was the Spireites’ Tyrone Williams who had handled it. It is hard to understand why an official some distance away got a better view than a man a few yards away. Baffling.

ATTENDANCE

A bumper crowd of 8,106, including 778 from Halifax, watched this one. It is the biggest attendance at the Technique since 2016 against Sheffield United. It is another sign that the club is on its way back.

TEAM

(3-4-2-1) Loach; Kerr (Clarke, 78), Gunning, Whittle; Williams, Weston (Mandeville, 46), Oyeleke, Miller; Kellermann; Asante (Khan, 60), Tshimanga. Unused Subs: Grimes, Payne.