Why Chesterfield fans can be excited for next season despite Solihull Moors play-off defeat

Chesterfield will be playing in the National League for a fifth consecutive year after their promotion hopes were ended against Solihull Moors in the play-off semi-final.

The Spireites led early on through Joe Quigley but were behind by half-time after goals from Andrew Dallas and Alex Gudger before Callum Howe added a third after the break.

HOPE FOR NEXT SEASON

I’m starting this debrief on a positive note because I saw some encouraging signs in the two play-off games that the players are starting to get to grips with what manager Paul Cook wants from them. Fair enough, it came too late in the season but I saw enough glimpses across the 180 minutes at The Shay and Armco Arena to be hopeful for next year. With a full pre-season, a fully fit squad and after signing some of his own players, I think there is a lot to be excited about.

Chesterfield lost for a second successive season in the play-offs.

After going three games without a goal going into the play-offs, they caused two good sides lots of problems and there was a fluidity in their play. The defensive fragility was there for all to see on Sunday, especially from set-pieces, so they will have to work on getting that balance right in the summer as they finished the campaign with just one clean sheet in 12.

But they also had plenty of efforts at goal as well and the players looked like they understood their jobs more, even if they just fell short in carrying them out.

HOME ADVANTAGE

Chesterfield will be among the favourites for the league title next season but, if they can’t secure top spot, these last two seasons should leave them in doubt of the importance of finishing in the top three and getting a home tie in the semi-finals. If it had been the other way around with Town at home to Solihull, as much as it would have still been very tough, the chances of going through in front of a sell-out 10,000 crowd would have increased. That said, the Blues had just the ninth best home record in the division this season, so that is something they will need to address if they are to be more successful next term.

QUIGS

Spireites fans went into the play-offs in hope rather than expectation so to go one-nil up in this semi-final makes it sting a little bit more. Quigley, starting in place of the absent Danny Rowe, took his goal really well, blasting in first-time from around the penalty spot after Liam Mandeville picked him out. With the way he buried it, you would not have thought that was just his second goal in 17 appearances since signing from Yeovil Town in January. The word from behind the scenes is that the 25-year-old is well thought of and that he just needs some confidence. With fellow forwards Tom Denton, Nathan Tyson and Stefan Payne out of contract and Kabongo Tshimanga no doubt being a wanted man this summer, Quigley could have a big part to play next season.

FINAL

It wasn’t to be for Chesterfield and so it will come down to Solihull and Grimsby Town for a place in League Two in this Sunday’s final. It will be very close but I’m going for the Mariners to edge it. It feels like their year after dramatic extra-time wins against Notts County and Wrexham. I would be very surprised if Paul Hurst’s men failed to turn up after two monstrous performances to get to this stage. Grimsby will also have the advantage when it comes to fan numbers which I think will play a big part.

TEAM

(4-2-3-1) Loach; King, Williams, Grimes, Maguire (Whittle, 60); Kellermann (Rowley, 60), Whelan; Mandeville (Denton, 82), Khan, Miller; Quigley. Unused subs: McCourt, Tyson.