Player ratings and analysis - how Chesterfield boss Martin Allen got exactly what he asked for against Salford
Martin Allen got exactly what he asked for on Saturday against Salford City.
He had no Joe Rowley (suspended), no Laurence Maguire (injured), no Zavon Hines (departed) and sent his side out to face what he called ‘probably the best team in the league.’
Yet when the full-time whistle was blown, after 96 absorbing minutes, it was the team wearing blue who held their arms aloft in celebration of three colossal points.
Allen had asked his players to give him the passion and commitment he’d seen in several recent games, but this time be clinical when chances arose.
Alex Kiwomya’s pair of close-range finishes were as clinical as you like and they handed Town their first home win or league win since 11th August.
Yes, there was a bit of luck involved.
For once, when the ball struck the opposition woodwork, it bounced straight to a blue shirt and was sent back into the net.
For once, it was the visitors’ goalbound shot that was deflected, somehow, up and over the bar from a couple of yards out.
Going ahead after 90 seconds, when Levi Amantchi won the ball, beat a man and set up Kiwomya for a tap-in, certainly helped settle more than a few nerves both on the pitch and in the stands.
The first goal has been spoken about at length in recent weeks and Chesterfield scoring it gave home fans something to cheer about, something to build an atmosphere on.
Salford were clearly rattled by Chesterfield’s terrier-like pressing, Jonathan Smith and Curtis Weston rushing up out of midfield to close men down, the strikers and wingers pushing up to stop the visitors playing out from the back.
When the men in white were forced to go long, they had little joy - their front pair are skilful and tricky, they’re not traditional targetmen.
Passes began to go badly astray for Salford and when Town picked them off, they threatened on the break.
Lee Shaw and Kiwomya were disciplined on the flanks, working hard defensively to stop the treat of Salford’s full-backs.
At the break, two questions had to be asked – how are these teams at opposite ends of the table and for how long can Chesterfield keep this up?
A managerial intervention, 15 minutes after the break, took the game away from Salford completely.
They were dominating possession and territory, but when Shaw won the ball deep in his own half, he was able to feed substitute Jordan Hallam and his pace carried him through the yawning gaps, Salford left exposed by their own desire to score.
Hallam unleashed a wonderful shot that was palmed, quite brilliantly, onto the post by Chris Neal, yet there was Kiwomya, who had raced ahead of Hallam and stayed alive to the possibility of receiving the ball, kneeing it gleefully into the unguarded net to spark pandimonium in the Kop.
What followed was largely resolute defending, terrific goalkeeping from Callum Burton and a few more appearances of Lady Luck.
Take nothing away from Chesterfield, however.
They deserved that luck, by sticking to their individual assignments doggedly.
Yes, they broke up play on a mumber of occasions with niggly fouls, but name a team who wouldn’t do the same when leading 2-0 against an opponent stacked with talent and threats.
Deep in injury time the sight of Smith and Kiwomya bombing forward at pace showed the desire and conditioning necessary to pick up wins in this division.
And the final whistle brought joyous, emotional scenes.
It’s been a long time coming, so Allen’s long embrace with assistant manager Adrian Whitbread was quite understandable.
Now he’s got to bottle Saturday and uncork it time and time again, if this is to become a turning point in the season.