Fan’s View – Chesterfield

Article by Paul Beasley Monday, September 23rd, 2013  


Over the last few weeks I’ve arrived at the opinion that Chesterfield are better than us – Saturday confirmed it.

I’ve long believed that refs are on the whole pretty much crap – Saturday confirmed it.

At the start of the season I was, like many, concerned about the lack of depth in our squad in terms of experience – our bench on Saturday confirmed this.


By common consent they were the best League two footballing side we have seen for some considerable time. One would expect them to be able to easily compete in the division above. They were fluid, comfortable on the ball and kept possession with ease. I particularly liked the way they used the flanks, and this was not just their attackers. The midfielders switched the ball from one wing to the other with regularity.

In contrast we had no equivalent width, didn’t retain possession with such comfort, didn’t seem to do things at speed and gave the man in possession far fewer options than our opponents were doing when they had the ball.

Again by common consent we didn’t deserve to get anything out of this game, but on chances we just about matched them, didn’t we? Their efforts of note were obviously the goal, forcing Clarkey into two great saves and a couple of misses. Deane Smalley could have had four. His first half header from a few yards out should have been a goal. No question. Not good enough. The shot he had when he came back from what looked like an offside position when he was kind of injured should have hit the target. Not good enough. The shot he curled just wide from outside the box was nearly good enough and in the second half his header that hit the post at the death was oh so very nearly good enough.

But we had no heroes even though Johnny Mullins dearly wanted to be that man. There was nothing conservative about his approach at the end of the game. He might have been given an even greater defensive burden to bear when Chris Wilder took Michael Raynes off but that didn’t stop him haring forward from the back deep into enemy territory with ball at foot.


Given that they have double our budget (didn’t do them much good last season) and have more quality players than we do, what should we really have expected? They had Gary McSheffrey on the bench. We had Josh Shama.

If budgets are to go by we should just about get a play off slot. But it doesn’t work like that does it?

We’re perhaps not quite as big in League Two as some would like to believe. Last season we only had the 7th biggest home attendance behind Bradford, Rotherham, Plymouth, Gillingham, Bristol Rovers and Port Vale.

Chesterfield came behind us in 8th averaging 600 fewer spectators every game. So where does their money come from? Well they are over £7m in debt. (We are too, I believe). The Chairman Dave Allen has put nearly £9m in but one assumes he is willing to put a bit more in to get them up. This is a gamble that at the moment looks like paying off but that doesn’t mean he will get his money back, if indeed that is his aim. He does want the Borough Council to write off a debt of nearly £1m though, claiming that the Council are making a net gain from the football club since they moved to their new ground of £123k per annum in council tax from homes on their old ground and rates at their new. He’s been trying it on a bit hasn’t he and one wonders how a club their size can continue with a budget twice that of ours? They of course are not paying lots of money to someone like Firoz Kassam year on year.

Paul calls Kettle crap

Referees eh, don’t you just love them? Up until the Andy Whing sending off he had not even shown a yellow card. Sam Morsey had left stud marks on Dave Kitson’s leg. Trevor Kettle saw the challenge but as we had the advantage he rightly waved play on. When play stopped he again did the right thing in calling Morsey to him. But instead of waving a card he just gave a meaningless lecture for a challenge that looked to be deliberate and malicious. Whing’s challenge was, in my opinion, a genuine wholehearted effort to win the ball. A foul, yes. No studs up. No injury inflicted. A yellow yes, but a red? Wtf. Excessive force apparently.

The foul was committed in our half. The free kick was taken in their half. But Kettle was missing a lot. After one Whing challenge our Andy ended up on the floor and as he tried to get the ball away an opponent gave his leg a kick to prevent him from doing so. This resulted in a dangerous Chesterfield break.

And what about the incident where Deane Smalley was deliberately blocked off when the usually impressive Tommy Lee didn’t come for a ball? Penalty? Well you’ve got to think so haven’t you?

But he didn’t cost us the game. Not being as good as the Spireites cost us.

Struggling on

Hartlepool is a bloody long way and we’ve got to somehow get through with our paper thin squad. I’m not that optimistic to be honest. If we are going to get back on track someone is going to have to raise their game from that seen in the last couple of outings. Deane Smalley? Danny Rose? Alfie Potter?

The one bit of optimism I have is seeing Sean Rigg back earlier than expected. It was when he was on the left and Alfie wider on the right that I thought we looked most threatening. Without these two on form (and on the touch line) I think we are rather ineffective attacking wise. We no longer have the threat from our full backs that we had last year. I miss them and I miss their pace too. Dave Hunt and Tom Newey may be looked on as more solid defensively– although I’ve not entirely bought that argument – but they are nowhere near as quick as the two we had last year and that can be an asset whether trying to keep the opposition out or taking the game to them.

Still, at least it is away. I can’t say I’ve really enjoyed any of the games at the Kassam this season. That’s one win in four, five points from a possible 12. On that front nothing seems to have changed other than some of the personnel.

And another thing

Very occasionally when United have not got a game I’ve ventured along to watch City if they have a fixture of above average interest. In 2007 I watched them play Weston-super-Mare in the FA Cup. They lost 4-3 having stormed back from 3-0 down. Instrumental in that storming back was a tiny guy called Ikechi Anya. I was mightily impressed with this fellow who had come on as sub. He looked way way better than those around him. He’s still only 25 years old. He now plays for Watford. He made his debut for Scotland on 6 September and scored his first international goal four days later.

What has this got to do with us? Well, he was in our youth team in 2002-03 but we released him. Whilst we are not going to get our talent spotting and development right in every instance, when was the last time our youth set up actually brought someone through from scratch that has made a proper name for themselves, added value to the OUFC first team and brought much needed income into the club when they have been sold on for bigger and better things? Dean Whitehead? That was a long time ago. Some fans are always banging on about giving the youth a chance. Alex Fisher and Aaron Woodley – where are they now?

The harsh facts are that we have not been very good at this sort of thing for ages now and have fallen behind many other clubs in this regard. Perhaps we have just been going through the motions. The Development squad is, in theory, a great idea but we have to do this properly.

This entry was posted on Monday, September 23rd, 2013 at 11:32 am and appears under 2013, Articles, Comment. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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