Chesterfield have best record in National League for clean sheets
When James Rowe was appointed Chesterfield manager many of us expected the Spireites to be involved in some high-scoring, basketball-type end-to-end encounters.
This was because in his nine games in charge of Gloucester City at the start of the season the Tigers had won eight and drawn one, firing in 26 goals and keeping just one clean sheet. The results included a 6-1 thumping of Blyth Spartans and a 4-4 thriller against Bradford Park Avenue.
In his first interview with the DT Rowe said: “As long as we are scoring more than the opposition I couldn't care less if we concede five and score six every week because we win the game. It is about winning the game and winning at all costs. That is how I see the game.”
True to his word, Chesterfield have been winning. Twelve of his 19 league games have ended in victories but, just as impressive, they have kept 12 clean sheets.
Along with the two shut-outs under John Pemberton, the Spireites are joint top of the clean sheets table with Hartlepool United on 14, three more than league leaders Sutton United.
Remarkably, the Blues have gone from shipping 17 goals in their first nine league matches, to conceding just 10 in 19 under Rowe.
So how have they done it? In simple terms, by playing a higher defensive line and pressing the opposition. They keep teams penned in by winning first and second balls. They are challenging for the ball 20 to 30-yards further forward up the pitch. If the opposition break through the press, they have still got a long way to travel before getting a shot off.
And it has been a real team effort, too. From Akwasi Asante’s monster strength up top, to Tom Whelan’s superhero pressing, to Haydn Hollis’ man mountain headers, to the safe hands of Grant Smith, who has recorded seven shut-outs in 10 since joining the club. Everyone has played their part. Heck, Fraser Kerr is yet to experience conceding a goal yet!
Seven of Rowe’s 12 league wins have been by one goal to nil. Now this won’t do anything to help the heart-rates of the Spireites faithful, but if they win by the same scoreline in the play-off final, nobody will give a jot.