'Unbelievable experience,' says James Rowe on Chesterfield's spirited FA Cup defeat to Chelsea

Proud Chesterfield boss James Rowe said it was an ‘unbelievable experience’ to play against European champions Chelsea.

By Liam Norcliffe
Sunday, 9th January 2022, 12:06 pm

The Spireites bowed out of the FA Cup at the third round stage with a proud performance at Stamford Bridge despite losing 5-1.

Chelsea surprisingly named a star-studded line-up, including Romelu Lukaku and Timo Werner.

And both Werner and Lukaku got on the scoresheet, either side of a clinical strike from Callum Hudson-Odoi, in the opening 20 minutes.

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James Rowe on the touchline at Stamford Bridge.

Andreas Christensen headed a fourth before half-time and then Hakim Ziyech added a fifth from the penalty after the break.

But the most memorable moment came when substitute Akwasi Asante tapped home with 10 minutes remaining to send the 6,000 travelling Town fans wild.

"It was an unbelievable day and to score in front of our 6,000 fans was a great reward for our efforts,” Rowe said.

"We came here to the European champions and we have not been embarrassed at any stage.

"It is our second defeat of the season so I am not happy about that. I don’t ever want to lose but I am really proud overall.

"That was an unbelievable experience for all of us. We have got to keep hold of that spirit because that is going to keep us strong over the next four-and-a-months."

On the goal, he added: "It was the icing on the cake.

"What a noise when that goal went in.

"I had a great view, It will stay with me for the rest of my life.

"I loved it when it dropped to him because you knew it was a goal. It was like slow motion.

"I love the fact that we scored and put smiles on faces.”

Chelsea named an incredibly strong line-up full of international stars worth almost £290m.

"I am really pleased they played the team that they did, it is a compliment to us,” Rowe said.

"We were surprised because 10 of their 11 are mainstays in their team. It was brilliant for all of our players.”

Chelsea’s speed of play was frightening at times and they blew the visitors away in the first 20 minutes.

“It was a hard learning in the first-half and we had to refocus at half-time,” Rowe explained.

“Two or three mistakes at our level you might get away with it but one mistake against this opposition and it is in the back of the net.

"I wasn’t happy with the Hudson-Odoi one because we gave him too much time. We did not get tight enough to him in the first-half."

On what he said to the players at half-time, Rowe told the DT: "I wanted to get their heads right because obviously they were disappointed.

"It was about being calm, refocusing, who are we, what do we want to show the world and what do we want to show the fans. That is all I needed to say and they did the rest themselves.

"I thought the penalty was really harsh but I am not going to nit-pick. We will take a draw in the second-half!

"We can take a lot from the second-half.

"We came out with spirit, fight, we played for the badge and showed togetherness.”