Tuesday, 13 August 2013

Sunk by the Spireites

Chesterfield away. Or in Cheltenham Town language, the closest you can get to a certain defeat.
Six previous visits, one draw and five defeats and last season we had our pants pulled down in rather embarrassing style... this time it just happened to our skipper here!!!
This time, overall I felt we deserved to lose the game, but only by a single goal - the second deflected goal of the game was a bit flattering and gave us no reward for an improved second-half display.
The build-up to the game was dominated by rumours that Steven Gillespie was coming back on loan, and would be on the bench at the Proact.
I was sent a message to that effect on Friday evening, and then received another from someone else saying the same  - and all the indications were that the deal was done.
But then as I arrived in Chesterfield came a message saying that it wasn't happening. Yatesy was - as to be expected - playing a straight bat Ian Bell would have been proud of post-match and no club officials would confirm or deny that any move had even been close.
So we fielded the same side which started against Crawley on Tuesday night, with one bench change, Ryan Inniss back in after Palace didn't want him involved in the Capital One Cup, replacing Joe Hanks.
But from the off we were finding it tough.
Chesterfield started on the front foot and never retreated from it, with a lot of possession, and good passing and movement.
At times, we were chasing shadows, and fell behind when Gary Roberts' shot was deflected over Scott Brown's dive.
In midfield, Sam Morsy and Jimmy Ryan were dominating Russ Penn and Matt Richards, while on the Chesterfield left, Roberts and Nathan Smith had the freedom of Derbyshire with Sido Jombati and Sam Deering struggling to keep them in check.
But despite that, and with a lot of crosses into our box, we were just about keeping them at arms' length.
Marc Richards had one header wide, and after his slightly fortunate goal, Roberts made a hash of two openings.
Steve Elliott and Troy Brown dealt well enough with the crosses, and despite the paucity of possession and those left-hand-side issues, I felt our shape was adequate and we were working hard to stay in the game.
There wasn't much to feed on for Byron Harrison and Terry Gornell, while Jermaine McGlashan was doing his best to provide an outlet and had a shot over the bar early on.
Harrison had our best chance of an equaliser in the first half when he robbed a defender and lifted the ball over Tommy Lee, but the shot lacked enough power to evade the sliding clearance of Ryan Edwards.
However hard we had worked though, we were second best in the first half - but still very much in the game if we could get into the game.
And we did - Penn and Richards were central to that, both getting more 'in the face' of Morsy and Ryan.
We were also helped by what I felt was a strange substitution by Chesterfield, with Tendayi Darikwa coming on for Nathan Smith.
This moved Richie Humphreys to left-back, but saved us from the marauding Smith, and we kept the threat down to more sporadic attacks and were able to get more possession, and with that a foothold in the game.
Troy Brown had a goal disallowed for offside, and Harrison nearly weaved his way through before Lee blocked his shot, while at the other end Scott Brown had to make a couple of decent saves to keep it at 1-0.
It was much more even after I felt we gave Chesterfield too much respect in the opening half. As well as Penn and Richards, Craig Braham-Barrett got to grips with things defensively and was a threat going forward as Smith had been in the opening 45.
He was unfortunate to get in the way of Eoin Doyle's 90th minute shot to divert it past Scott Brown to give Chesterfield the points and end any hopes we had of pinching something.
But the main blow was the loss of Terry Gornell, who had been excellent in the opening two games.
The good news was that he walked off, the bad news that we might not see him for a few weeks judging by a tweet he sent in response to my enquiry about the injury, where he said he hoped it wasn't too bad but should find out in the next few days, so watch this space.
I can't see him playing a part against Plymouth on Saturday, so that only accentuates the need for forward reinforcements, as we are now left with Harrison and Ashley Vincent.
Vincent came on for Gornell and again didn't look like a central striker to me - and also seemed short of some match fitness, so hopefully Tuesday's friendly with Torquay will provide the chance to get some form and fitness into him.
We do have another attacking option in the club's newest professional - 17-year-old Zack Kotwica, but fresh from signing his two-year deal I cannot see Yatesy throwing him in from the start just yet.
Kotwica came on late in Saturday's game and had a couple of decent runs at an experienced player in Drew Talbot, who got a booking for hauling him down and again Zack didn't look fazed by anything.
I know there is a clamour out there to see Zack from the start, but I remember the same (for want of a better word) hype around Marley Watkins, who was thrown in at a similar age amid similar high hopes.
It didn't work out for Marley, and this is at the back of my mind when it comes to Zack. He clearly has talent and is an exciting prospect, but Yatesy has to get the balance right, and do what is best for his development.
He clearly has faith in him, as we have seen him brought on in all three games, ahead of more experienced players and given him first a squad number and then a two-year contract a year ahead of schedule.
Us fans are excited about him, but we want him to be around for years, not five minutes, so I feel we need to be patient with Yatesy and Zack, and let him bed into the side slowly but surely.
Down the years, and at all levels, we have seen players burst on to the scene at a young age and cause a storm, but then disappear just as quickly.
We don't want that to happen to Zack. He seems like a level-headed lad, and people like Yatesy, Neil Howarth, Russ Milton and Jamie Victory will keep him grounded.
Back to the result, and I had low expectations for this game. Given our record up there and the squad Paul Cook has assembled, a draw would have been a great result.
It was also north of Birmingham, and everyone knows we don't win games when we go past the second city.
This makes it 15 trips up North without a positive result since we won 3-1 at Macclesfield in January 2012. A ridiculous stat, and one I hope we can put an end to at Accrington in a fortnight's time.
We could have pinched it, but the loss of Gornell and a bit of indecisiveness and lack of composure in front of goal when we got a half-chance proved costly.
We need a loan striker, ideally before Saturday, and the Gillespie talk indicates that Mark is trying to bring in someone with a bit of experience and a proven goal threat, which is needed as a stop-gap measure.
I knew this run of games at the start was tough, and there is no panic here, but for everyone's peace of mind we need to get that first league win on the board sooner rather than later.