The best and worst of Chesterfield's unforgettable 2021/2022 National League season

The dust has settled on Chesterfield’s 2021/2022 National League season.

By Liam Norcliffe
Monday, 6th June 2022, 2:19 pm

It was a campaign that had a lot of promise with the Spireites topping the table in January but it ended in play-off heartache after a disappointing last few months.

After some reflection time, here is our review of an unforgettable season for many different reasons...

PLAYER OF THE SEASON – Kabongo Tshimanga

Chesterfield's FA Cup run was one of the highlights of the season. Picture: Tina Jenner

The striker scored 24 goals in 27 league games and 25 in all competitions. His record included two hat-tricks and scoring nine times in seven consecutive matches. He struck fear into opposition defences and hardly ever missed a chance. The 24-year-old is a natural poacher of goals but his all-round game improved as the season went on. His presence up top gave Chesterfield the belief that they could win any game as long as they kept it tight at the back because they knew he would get a chance. He had the best goals per minute ratio in the National League and he will no doubt be a wanted man this summer.

The departing Alex Whittle deserves a special mention for his whole-hearted and consistent performances from October onwards.

SIGNING OF THE SEASON – Kabongo Tshimanga

It would have to be that man again. He cost around £250,000 but Town will probably get upwards of £750,000 if they sold him now. What more could he have done?

Jeff King deserves a shout out for his six goals and nine assists from right-back. Not bad for free.

And Jamie Grimes had a solid first season in a Blues shirt.

UNDERACHIEVER – Calvin Miller

I was expecting lots more from him after his much-hyped arrival from Notts County last summer. One goal is a poor return for someone with his quality. He showed what he is capable of in the two play-off games but we did not see it on a consistent basis. I thought Stefan Payne might have scored a few more too.

GOAL OF THE SEASON – Alex Whittle

I like goals which are a little bit different and that is why I loved Whittle’s goal away at Solihull Moors. Don’t get me wrong, the excitement of seeing a 30-yarder ripple the back of the net never gets old but there’s something about a well-worked team goal which feels more impressive to me. This goal included a couple of one-twos and a back-heel assist before a clever reverse finish across the goalkeeper. Whittle’s finish after another excellent, patient passing move at Notts County was right up there for me as well.

SAVE OF THE SEASON – Solihull Moors away

Maybe I’ve gone with this one because it is fresh in my mind but Scott Loach’s save from Kyle Hudlin’s header in the play-off semi-final was outstanding. It was a brilliant reaction save from a couple of yards out. Considering the Spireites went straight up the other end and took the lead, although it eventually counted for nothing, made it even more important at the time. As soon as I saw the cross come in with Hudlin waiting in the middle I thought ‘goal.’ Another save from Loach that springs to mind is his one-handed leap across his goal-line to keep out a well-directed header from Josh Rees at Boreham Wood away. It was going right in the corner but he showed tremendous quick-feet to get across and tip it wide for a corner.

BEST WIN – Halifax away

The play-off win came out of nowhere and was totally against the form book. The Shaymen had the best home record in the league and the Spireites had won two of their last 10 going into the elimination round. Chesterfield played with a swagger and a desire that had not been seen for months and it booked them a place in the semi-finals. Although they came undone at Solihull, it was a performance which gives you lots of belief in what could be achieved under Paul Cook with more time on the training ground. It was a special night at The Shay.

It wasn’t a win, but the 2-2 draw away at Stockport County was a top performance as well, especially being without a permanent manager and going down to 10-men.

MEMORABLE MOMENT – Chelsea away

To witness 6,000 Spireites pack out the Shed End at Stamford Bridge in the FA Cup third round was very special. You could not help but smile when Akwasi Asante’s consolation goal against the European champions was celebrated like a last-minute winner. It was an unforgettable day for many reasons and reiterated why football without fans is nothing.

BIGGEST DISAPPOINTMENT – Injuries

Some may say the play-off semi-final defeat but I went into those games in hope rather than expectation. So for me the biggest disappointment was the long-term injuries to so many key players because it leaves with you a feeling of ‘what if’. How many goals would Tshimanga have scored if he had not suffered that horrific injury at Weymouth? How many points would a partnership of Tshimanga and Danny Rowe/Akwasi Asante have won? How many assists and goals and would Jack Clarke have racked up? How many more wins would have been achieved with Manny Oyeleke and Gavin Gunning for the whole season? What if last season’s star man George Carline had been fit? It can’t happen again next year.

WORST PERFORMANCE – Torquay United away; Grimsby Town home

The less said about those two displays the better. Urgh. The goalless draw at home to Aldershot Town was not far behind.

BEST FANS TO VISIT TECHNIQUE – Stockport County

Around 2,600 Hatters fans filled the away end – the biggest away following at the Technique this season. They were vocal throughout and news of a late equaliser for Boreham Wood against title rivals Wrexham was celebrated like a goal of their own. Fans from Grimsby Town and Southend United also travelled in big numbers and made themselves heard.