Five big talking points as Chesterfield beat Eastleigh to continue promotion charge
The Spireites’ promotion charge continued with a fourth win on the bounce against play-off chasing Eastleigh on Good Friday.
Liam Mandeville’s well-taken goal - his first of the season - gave Town all three points in Hampshire.
But the Blues, who remain in the top seven, suffered a big injury blow when Haydn Hollis was forced off with an achilles problem.
Heartbreak for Hollis
The injury to Hollis was the one disappointment from Chesterfield’s afternoon at the Silverlake Stadium. He limped off after half an hour with what James Rowe described as a ‘serious’ and ‘bad’ achilles injury. If the diagnosis is as Rowe says, then we will not see him again this season, which is a huge blow. Thankfully, Laurence Maguire and Gavin Gunning are not ‘far away’, Rowe said, so at least there is a bit of positive news. Gunning was immense at the heart of the defence before his hamstring injury and the impressive Fraser Kerr provides another option. Credit to Josef Yarney for his last two performances as well. Will Evans, who has not been involved in the matchday squad for the last five matches, could also come back into the fold.
Four wins in a Rowe
The stats are well and truly in full flow now as Rowe’s men go from strength-to-strength. This was Chesterfield’s fourth win and clean sheet on the bounce and their straight third one-nil success. They have only conceded 11 league goals since Rowe was appointed and only leaders Sutton United have picked up more points from the last 10 fixtures. Incredibly, Rowe has racked up 13 wins and the same number of clean sheets from his 20 league games in charge. The Spireites have accumulated 42 points during his tenure, and they would be sitting third in the table had the season started when he first joined. The last time the Spireites won four league games on the bounce was back in 2015, the season they reached the League One play-offs. One bizarre statistic is that in Chesterfield’s last 11 games, they have either won to nil, or lost to nil. Both teams have not scored in a match involving the Blues since the 2-2 draw at Dagenham and Redbridge on January 30.
‘Win at all costs’
It was a scrappy, stop-start encounter at times but it is another three points in the bag and Rowe’s assessment that it is ‘win at all costs’ at this stage of the season is bang on. Eastleigh had the better of the first-half although they did not create much from open play. Their best opportunities came from corners and they had three efforts cleared off the line in the match. With Hollis off injured, Chesterfield had no left-sided centre-half on the field so they could not play out from the back down that side and got trapped in. Rowe changed to a back four at half-time and brought on Nathan Tyson to partner Akwasi Asante up front and it worked a treat. Tyson’s pace allowed them to stretch Eastleigh’s defence and get down the sides of them. The Blues were in the ascendancy after the break and Tom Whelan and George Carline both tested goalkeeper Joe McDonnell before Mandeville’s acrobatic finish gave them the lead on 61 minutes. Eastleigh’s biggest threat continued to be from set-pieces, while Tyson forced McDonnell into another save after a lovely weighted pass by Mandeville. Overall, given the injury to Hollis and the reshuffle that followed, this was a superb result.
After playing two up front for the previous three matches, Rowe reverted to a 3-4-2-1 for this clash. Joe Rowley was given his first start since January after recovering from a hamstring injury and he and Whelan played as two attacking midfielders behind Asante. It worked so well in the reverse fixture a month ago so I can see why Rowe went with it. In the encounter at the Technique, Town totally dictated play and completed 500 passes in what was a dominant display. But it did not work this time as Eastleigh pressed the right-footed Kerr, who started on the left of a three-man defence, and kept forcing him to go back. The injury to Hollis scuppered the plans even more and Rowley had to switch to ring wing-back for the last 15 minutes of the first-half. I get the impression playing two ‘number 10s’ is the way Rowe wants to go long-term, or at least against the better sides in the division. They have had some success with it and played some of their best football using that system. It will be interesting to see how it pans out between now and the end of the season.
It is not a big concern while you are winning but Akwasi Asante has gone six games without a goal. It is not a massive worry because he is still playing really well. His ball retention, skill and strength have been top notch. He gets involved in Town’s play in deep areas and out wide. Personally, I would like to see him stay centrally so he can get into the box more but, like I say, I am nitpicking. I can only assume he is saving his next burst of goals for the play-offs...wink.
Chesterfield (3-4-2-1): G Smith; Yarney, Hollis (Mandeville 32), Kerr; Carline, Weston, M.Smith, Whelan (Clarke, 75), Whittle; Rowley (Tyson, 46), Asante.
Unused subs: Dinanga Yussuf.
Goals: Mandeville (61)
Next match: King’s Lynn Town (A) on Saturday, April 10 (3pm KO).