The big talking points from Chesterfield's emphatic win against Bradford City
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The Spireites scored three times at the beginning of the second-half before the hour-mark, with Joe Quigley hitting a brace and Liam Mandeville hitting a third against the League Two Bantams.
This was the standout talking point from the game for me. Bradford start their season a week earlier than Town so they are further along in their pre-season schedule but it was the Spireites who were fitter, faster and stronger. Paul Cook’s men played with an intensity which I can’t remember seeing in a friendly for a very long time and they were deserved winners. The press was relentless, they hunted in packs and they won the ball back high up the pitch time and time again. Those qualities have been drilled into them from day one of pre-season and it was exciting to watch. The crowd appreciated what they were seeing and you could hear the enthusiasm in every cheer and clap.
As a player, seeing all the hard work on the training ground pay off in a match situation must give you belief in what you are being told to do and they will surely take a lot of confidence from the performance. The big question will be whether they can maintain those intensity levels throughout a full season and what Plan B is if it doesn’t work.
This was another noticeable takeaway from the game, and a very pleasing one. Looking out over the wonderful Technique pitch from the press box, you could see that partnerships were being formed all over the park.
Down the left there was Branden Horton and Armando Dobra. The latter’s preference to cut inside on his favoured right peg provided loads of space for the overlapping and energetic Horton to explit, which he did.
On the right, Jeff King and Mandeville cut Bradford open on several occasions. The pair’s running off the ball was most notable, and it finally paid off when King chipped a lovely ball over the top into Mandeville’s path for the third goal. That goal had been coming all game, with the duo linking-up consistently.
King got nine assists last season, and with Horton’s double here, it suggests the Blues are going to be a threat in both full-back areas this campaign, as well as having Ryheem Sheckleford and Bailey Clements breathing down their necks for a starting spot. Mandeville now has two goals and two assists in pre-season which is a promising start.
And in central midfield Ollie Banks and Darren Oldaker complemented each other really nicely. The ponytailed pair worked well together, with Oldaker tending to keep things simple and ticking over, while Banks took charge in the Bradford half with some superb switches of play.
Quigley’s double here takes him to three goals in his last two matches and he looks like a player who has regained his confidence. He ran the channels, linked the play and made sure he got in the box. He was a handful all afternoon. With less than two weeks to go until the start of the season and with Kabongo Tshimanga still yet to get any minutes under his belt, all signs are pointing towards Quigley leading the line at Dorking Wanderers on August 6 and, on this evidence, that would be no bad thing.
This was the first time I had seen Horton play and I was very impressed. He looked hungry to show those in attendance what he is all about. The summer signing grabbed two great assists and could have another two if it wasn’t for the offside flag. He also hit a post and flew down the left flank all game. His crossing ability is something Town lacked last season and on this evidence you would back him to rack up the assists. Out of everyone, he was the one who most surprised me.
Manager Cook named the same starting line-up from the win against Matlock Town, which is a bit out-of-keeping with the usual chopping and changing during this period of the season. Cook is a big believer in repetition so it does make you wonder if this will be the XI that starts on the opening day of the season against Dorking.
Chesterfield (4-2-3-1): Covolan; King (Sheckleford 60), Williams (Cook 72), Grimes (Maguire 72), Horton (Clements 60); Oldaker (Trialist 64), Banks (Whelan 64); Mandeville (Triallist 64), Dobra (Cooper 60), Asante (Trialist 72); Quigley (Gyasi 60).