Nearly men

Saturday 4th February – Chesterfield 1-1 Gills

After the euphoria of victory in Wales, Saltergate witnessed another much improved performance. In fact, it was a pretty top day out all round, thanks largely to the array of splendid pubs adorning this largely harmless part of Derbyshire. OK, so we ended up in the one thoroughly crap one just before we went into the ground, my fault for being easily led but the one on the Market Square (I’ve forgotten the name) sported a range and condition of real ales that put most London pubs to shame. Sadly I got there rather late and there was a distinct temptation to settle in for the afternoon.

This was a return to the olden days, my first visit to the town since the late 90s. A proper antiquated stadium barely changed in years (apart from a bit of a botch-job created by plonking seats on the old terrace down one side, a terrace that never leant itself to an all-seater conversion) with an away end laden with trip hazards. Just how we like it, though even with 500 and a drum in attendance it’s always been a difficult venue to whip up an atmosphere.

We took a bit of a battering in the first half, and it was some time before we found any kind of rhythm, particularly after the early loss of Ian Cox with a head injury (a farcical incident involving the dictator of a fourth official, who was far more concerned with exerting his authority over petty law infringements than helping substitute a stricken player). But in the second half we started to dictate the pace of the game, retain possession and frustrate opponents who were on a long unbeaten run. It was still something of a shock to see us take the lead through Tommy Black’s daisy-cutter which beat the keeper’s despairing dive through accuracy rather than pace. We even had several opportunities to increase the lead (largely wasted idiotically by Spiller) and with Brown at his formidable best (and winding up the home fans good and proper…) things looked set for an unprecedented second away win in a week. Then at the death fate farted in our already windswept faces as Leon Johnson got a ball in the bollocks, never recovered his position and the space was exploited by a late, late Hall strike. Again, just like the olden days with Chesterfield.

“We are unbeatable” echoed round the ground yet we nearly snatched it in injury time, Roche brilliantly saving a Harris volley. A rather unsavoury ending was compounded by an incident at the home end after the final whistle – Jason Brown often manages to irk opposition supporters but usually good humour is retained and the worst he gets is a vibrant blast of “You Fat Bastard!”, but seemingly on this occasion the taunts turned racist. I’ve never seen Jason in such a rage as at the end, brushing off consolatory handshakes from Wayne Allison and refusing to acknowledge the Gills supporters as he ranted at the referee. The facts never came to light but clearly something distasteful had taken place, from my experience it was all rather uncharacteristic of a day out in Chesterfield.

Champagne Moment: The home fans’ “We are unbeatable” claims…not something you’d associate with Saltergate. And apparently not true, judging by their subsequent plunge down the table.

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