Chesterfield's play-off destiny remains in their own hands - but they need to massively improve

Chesterfield’s play-off destiny is in their own hands going into the final day of the season.

By Liam Norcliffe
Monday, 9th May 2022, 10:46 am

After 43 matches and nine months of football, the National League standings will come down to the last day of the campaign.

The Spireites, who have lost their last three, know a win or a draw at home to Woking this Sunday will guarantee them a place in the top seven.

They could still finish fifth but that would depend on how Grimsby Town, who are above them on goal difference and have two matches remaining, get on.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

A frustrated Paul Cook on the touchline at Torquay.

But a defeat for Paul Cook’s men, combined with victory for Dagenham and Redbridge, would mean they would slip out altogether on goal difference.

Boreham Wood still have an outside chance of overtaking them, but they need to win both of their remaining two games and they need a five-goal swing.

Chesterfield could lose to Woking and still get in the play-offs if Dagenham don’t beat Wrexham and if Boreham don’t take maximum points.

So what needs to happen for the Spireites to have any chance of beating Woking this weekend and progressing in the play-offs?

PLAN OF ACTION

It didn’t look like there was one against Torquay. Personally, I could not work out what they were trying to do to win the game.

The players looked lost, almost like nobody knew what their roles were. It was a confusing display.

It was a weak, lightweight, shrug of the shoulders type of performance that you get from a team already on the beach, not one who could have secured a play-off spot with a win.

Like Torquay, next opponents Woking have nothing to play for but they are no mugs. They inflicted Chesterfield’s first defeat on them back in September with a really physical, strong and athletic second-half showing. They are a team who have a big performance in them, as shown last month when they came from behind to beat Wrexham.

Woking will relish the opportunity to cause another upset so the Spireites will have to improve massively.

KEEP THE BACK DOOR SHUT

They haven’t had one in almost two months. They have gone nine games without a shut-out since beating Maidenhead United 1-0 on March 19.

Since then they have conceded 18 goals, an average of two a match, which makes it very difficult to collect three points when scoring goals is also a problem.

After shipping in four against Grimsby and Bromley in the same month, they were more solid against Stockport County but looked vulnerable once again at Torquay on Saturday.

How do they solve it? It’s difficult. As Cook says, whether they play a three-man defence or four at the back, they give away soft goals.

But, for me, the problem lies with those in front of the defence. The midfield aren’t giving them enough protection and they aren’t creating anything up the other end, while the strikers aren’t retaining the ball well enough up top. All of which puts more pressure on the backline to keep a clean sheet.

WORK HARDER

At Torquay, it only took the slightest bit of pressing from the hosts and the panic set in and Chesterfield lost possession. Too many times a midfielder looked up for a forward pass and there was nothing on so they were forced to go back. There needs to be more running off the ball to give players an option.

They also didn’t win the ball back enough quickly. Against Woking, they may as well just go for it. The fans will forgive a defeat if they leave everything out there.

SHOOT MORE

Pretty simple, right? Well, Chesterfield have not really been doing it.

Against Torquay they failed to register a single shot on target. And against Stockport they managed just two.

Against Wealdstone it was three, at Notts County it was two and Altrincham it was three.

Sometimes the Spireites are guilty of trying to be too precise, in my opinion. Too many times the crosses don’t come in early enough or they refuse the chance to work the goalkeeper.

No offence, but the goalkeepers at this level are no Ederson or Alison, just have a pop!