Column: Impossible not to be thrilled for Dennis after fairytale League One debut

Saturday's match at the Proact gave Kristian Dennis a story to tell the grandkids, so it's little wonder he couldn't keep the smile from his face.

Tuesday, 20th September 2016, 3:29 pm
Updated Tuesday, 4th October 2016, 2:05 pm
Chesterfield v Wolverhampton Wanderers in the Checkatrade Trophy at the Proact on Tuesday August 30th 2016. Chesterfield player Kristian Dennis celebrates after scoring Chesterfield's 2nd goal. Photo: Chris Etchells

The striker was in brilliant form both on and off the pitch last weekend, bringing energy to the Chesterfield performance and scarcely contained glee to the post-match interviews.

Even a soaking from the sprinklers couldn’t dampen his joy, having found the net on his Football League debut.

No matter what happens next for the 26-year-old, he will forever be able to say that he scored in his first ever Football League start.

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His ratio of goals to starts now reads 1:1 and may possibly never look healthier.

Of course football is a fickle mistress and who knows how the sport will treat Dennis from here on in.

But it was impossible not to be thrilled for him on Saturday.

Most of us appreciate people who do things the hard way, who climb to success and Dennis has taken no shortcuts en route to the Proact.

At the risk of this column reading like an X Factor sob story, Dennis didn’t make it the first time around, released by Macclesfield Town at the age of 20.

He was prolific everywhere he went in non-league, netting more than 100 times in just under 200 appearances.

It was that killer instinct, along other things, that caught the eye of Danny Wilson who personally watched the striker in action for Macclesfield.

Ironically, putting the ball in the net for the club who ended his first attempt at a Football League career earned him a second chance.

In pre-season there were signs that Dennis was going to endear himself to Spireites supporters, chasing everything that moved, flying into tackles and shooting on sight.

As it turns out, the terrier-like attribute that can make a player a fan favourite was also detrimental to his game – Wilson revealing last week that he’d had to have a word with Dennis about working smarter, not harder.

Wilson also made it sound like Dennis’ opportunity to break into the team would come a month or so down the line, so it was somewhat of a surprise to see his name in the starting XI on Saturday.

I thought he was unlucky not to finish his first League One start with a couple of goals.

There was a cross that you’d expect any striker to stick away, but he did what Ched Evans did a few weeks ago and miskicked completely.

Other shots were blocked by Northampton defenders and by the 70th minute it looked as if his full Chesterfield debut would just be remembered for an incredible shift, effort wise.

Then came a moment he’ll remember forever, instinctively sticking a toe out and getting a touch on Dion Donohue’s shot.

Speaking after the game, Dennis admitted he wasn’t sure if he was onside and was initially afraid to celebrate in case he cost his side a goal.

That, and his faux despair at all the mocking texts from friends jokingly crediting Donohue with the goal, only added charm to Saturday’s fairytale.

It’s refreshing when a footballer breaks free from the clichés and appears to actually enjoy their post-game media duty.

And the enthusiasm Dennis showed both in hounding defenders, eventually celebrating his goal and greeting the press in the tunnel is in stark contrast to the strange case of Sylvan Ebanks-Blake.

The veteran, whose hunger and desire have been publicly questioned by Wilson, simply hasn’t won over the fans.

It’s inexplicable that someone with his pedigree, talent and experience would seemingly go through the motions – with years still on his side.

This loan spell at Shrewsbury might light a fire under him, but as it stands, his stint as a Spireite is one of the last remaining hangovers of the Saunders era and may not be remembered for much more.