National League's top two Chesterfield and Stockport County play out thrilling draw

The National League’s top two sides played out a thrilling draw at Edgeley Park on Tuesday night.

By Liam Norcliffe
Wednesday, 9th February 2022, 11:56 am

Goals from Kabongo Tshimanga and Akwasi Asante put second-placed Chesterfield ahead after 21 minutes.

But a red card for Jeff King early in the second-half helped Stockport County level through Will Collar and Ryan Croasdale.

The hosts pressed for a third but Town showed tremendous fight and spirit to cling on for a draw.

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Chesterfield's Jeff King was sent off in the second-half against Stockport County.

The result means Chesterfield stay second, one point behind the Hatters, but with a game in hand.

BREATHTAKING

This was a breathtaking and pulsating clash between the league’s top two sides in front of a crowd of more than 10,000, the highest midweek attendance ever in the National League. Arriving at the ground, you could sense the anticipation in the air and both sets of supporters made it a great occasion. It is quite hard to believe that this is no longer a Football League fixture. On this evidence, there is not going to be much separating the two teams come the end of the season. The game itself did not disappoint and it was a fantastic advert for the National League.

MIXED FEELINGS

Both sets of camps will probably have mixed feelings about the final result. Would Chesterfield have taken a point before kick-off? Yes. Would they have been happy with a draw at half-time when they were two-nil up? Absolutely not. Would they have snapped your hand off for a point at 2-2 with 25 minutes to go and down to 10-men with Stockport piling on the pressure? You bet! My feeling, and that of many around me in the press box, was that in the end, it was a very good point and the jubilant reaction at full-time from the 1,500 travelling Spireites indicated the same.

DREAMLAND

Chesterfield started the game well and were in dreamland after 21 minutes following goals from Tshimanga and Asante. Town had a nice composure about them in the early stages and they did not seem fazed by the big occasion. They got a foothold in the game right from the beginning and had a good calmness about them. I expected more pressing and closing down from Stockport early doors but it did not happen. The opener came after a chipped ball into the box from Manny Oyeleke from a central position, Tshimanga beat the offside trap and finished emphatically with a swivelled volley. For me, definitely a goal of the season contender. And just five minutes later the Town fans were going absolutely wild once again as Asante drilled in from the edge of the box.

WAS IT OVER THE LINE?

Just before the half-hour mark the hosts looked to have pulled a goal back when, on first viewing, Ash Palmer’s header appeared to have crossed the line but it was not given. Chesterfield may have got away with one but I would have to have another look. The decision angered the home fans and coaching staff. Stockport finished the half stronger although Blues goalkeeper Scott Loach was not forced into a meaningful save.

WAS IT A RED CARD?

The game swung on King’s red card early in the second-half. The challenge on Collar was near the touchline in front of the main stand and both dugouts. It was a strong tackle by King but he won the ball. I can only think that referee Scott Tallis, who had a difficult night, may have been unhappy with the follow-through which came after. Tallis took his time to make a decision and I have no doubt that the reaction of the Stockport bench made him show a straight red card. If Chesterfield don’t appeal or if they are unsuccessful, it means King will miss the next three games against Weymouth, Solihull Moors and Wrexham. After the red, the Hatters soon got level with two goals in 11 minutes. Collar swept home from inside the box after the ball fell to him nicely and then Croasdale’s well-struck shot from about 20 yards found the bottom corner.

GUTSY

From that point on it seemed inevitable that Stockport would soon get a third. They had all the momentum, territory and were being urged on by the home fans who smelt blood. It was one-way traffic and the visitors were penned in. But somehow they managed to cling on and come away with a hard-fought point. There were some heroic performances as they put their bodies on the line to ensure Stockport did not record an 11th win on the bounce. Everyone put in a shift but special mentions to the likes of Jamie Grimes (my man of the match), Alex Whittle, Jak McCourt and Liam Mandeville who must have clocked up some big mileage. The whole team really dug deep and made the club proud.

WEBB

That’s three games unbeaten, including two wins, for Chesterfield’s caretaker boss Danny Webb. The players showed they are right behind him with this performance and you felt they wanted to get him a result when they were out dead on their feet towards the end. These last three matches have given the board something to think about but whatever happens it would be nice to see Webb stay at the club. He is clearly a talented coach and he knows the squad so if a new man does come in they would be wise to tap into his knowledge.

INJURY WOE

Captain Luke Croll had to come off late on with a serious-looking injury, which played a part in there being 10 minutes of added time. Webb called him a ‘soldier’ because he wanted to continue but he could hardly walk. The stretcher was called for it was not needed in the end and he hobbled off. He left the stadium on crutches.

TEAM

(3-4-1-2) Loach; Kerr, Grimes, Croll (Miller, 87); King, Oyeleke (Kellermann, 70), McCourt, Whittle; Mandeville, Asante (Williams 53), Tshimanga. Unused subs: Khan, Quigley.