Paul Cook's game plan works a treat as Chesterfield book place in National League play-off semi-finals

Chesterfield booked their place in the play-off semi-finals with a deserved 2-1 win against Halifax at The Shay.

By Liam Norcliffe
Wednesday, 25th May 2022, 9:07 am
Updated Wednesday, 25th May 2022, 9:11 am

Danny Rowe headed in Jeff King’s corner in the first-half before King added a superb second from a tight angle after the break on Tuesday night.

Substitute Matty Stenson halved the deficit two minutes later but the hosts could not find an equaliser and force extra-time.

TWO TO GO

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Chesterfield beat Halifax 2-1 at The Shay in the play-off eliminator.

The Blues are now two victories away from winning promotion back to the Football League.

They will travel to Solihull Moors in the semi-finals this Sunday (12.30pm kick-off).

The winner will play either Wrexham or Grimsby Town in the final at West Ham United’s London Stadium on June 5.

OUT OF NOWHERE

This was the type of performance we had all hoped for but, if we are honest, did not expect.

They had been written off by everyone going into the play-offs after just two wins from their last 10 matches going into this one, but they produced their best performance since Paul Cook returned to the club and they fully deserved to go through.

To a man they were outstanding and if they can repeat that again on Sunday then they will give themselves a good chance of progressing into the final.

Before the game Cook had urged his players to ensure they ‘turn up’ and they certainly did that. They did not let the travelling 2,000 Town fans down.

It was Rowe’s first goal since October after a long time on the sidelines. And King will have enjoyed his thunderbolt against his former club. It was a nice script.

SPOT ON

Cook has received a lot of criticism but he got his game plan spot on and credit to the players for carrying it out to perfection.

The balance of the side looked the best it has been in months with a defensive solidity and an attacking fluidity. Everybody knew their jobs and they stuck to them throughout. They had not scored in the last three before kick-off, but they looked a threat in West Yorkshire and ended the drought.

Cook has been searching for his best line-up and formation since returning in February and it looks like he has found it at just the right time.

It was almost like someone had flicked a switch, everything to seem to click into place. It was an enjoyable watch, and we haven’t said that for a while.

There were so many brilliant individual performances, too. Laurence Maguire filling in at left-back. Tyrone Williams was a rock. Calvin Miller had a stormer. Tom Whelan scrapped all night. Saidou Khan’s energy. A goal and an assist for both King and Rowe. You could make a fair argument for any of them being man of the match.

FINE LINE

My heart was in my mouth following Liam Mandeville’s challenge on Jack Senior in the first-half. With the tackle being right in front of the Halifax bench, with their hands on their heads and the pushing and shoving that followed, I thought referee Scott Tallis was going to succumb to the pressure and show a red card, just like he had done to King at Stockport County. It would have put a huge dent in the game plan. Comments from those watching on TV suggest a yellow was about right. Phew.

SOLIHULL

The Spireites will again be underdogs on Sunday, but they were against the Shaymen, and look what happened.

The size of the task is huge. The Moors finished third, lost the fewest amount of games (seven) in the division this season and ended the campaign with five straight wins. Oh, and they have only lost one of their last 22 in the league.

But let’s remember that Halifax have the best home record in the league this season, having lost just three times going into Tuesday night, and Chesterfield dug out a gutsy win against the odds.

They will need to show even more bravery at Damson Parkon Sunday, but this is the play-offs, and anything can happen.

TEAM

(4-2-3-1) Loach; King, Williams, Grimes, Maguire; Kellermann, Whelan; Mandeville, Khan (McCourt, 89), Miller (Whittle, 76); Rowe (Tyson, 70). Unused subs: Rowley, Denton.