Sunday, 4 December 2016

Chesterfield 0 v 5 Wycombe Wanderers

Saturday 3rd December 2016
FA Cup Second Round
Proact Stadium, Chesterfield
Admission: £10.00
Programme: £2.00
Attendance: 3685
Match Rating: 2

This match was an ideal opportunity to tick off another of the 92 for me once I discovered that Chesterfield were offering tickets for just £10 anywhere in the stadium, at least half the price of tickets for league games, and the seat I chose in a central position in the West Stand would normally cost £24, the most expensive area to sit in the stadium. A bargain day out was complete when I managed to obtain National Express tickets from London to Sheffield for just a £1 booking fee, making use of converting Tesco Clubcard vouchers.

The Proact Stadium is about a half hour walk from Chesterfield train station, although I took the opportunity on the way to the stadium to look around the attractive town centre featuring the famous crooked spire of St Mary & All Saints Church. The Proact was only opened six years ago located alongside a busy road and amongst various large retail outlets and restaurants, and although a new-build stadium rarely gets the juices flowing compared with more traditional stadia, it has a smart appearance both on the outside and within. There are some nice features outside, including crooked spire statues by the roadside entrance to the stadium complex and the Memorial Garden which is attractively laid out with some memorabilia from the club's former home, Saltergate, interesting information boards to read about the club’s history, as well as tributes to past Chesterfield players who have passed away and a War Memorial. A very interesting area that is well worth a visit. Once inside, the all-seater stadium is pleasing on the eye, has a symmetrical design, and is sensibly sized. Along both lengths there are very similar looking stands, with a slight curve along the top, with the main (west) stand having corporate boxes lined along the top of the seating. With a capacity of just over 10,000, there is an intimate feel about the place, with all fans close to the pitch, and even today when there was a disappointing attendance, the ground did not have that disappointing sight of large empty sections that can blight larger grounds. The programme was really poor value today. A streamlined version of their usual publication, six of the 12 pages contained purely advertising, and just the manager’s notes, penpics of the visitors and the club’s fixtures and results being of interest.

This promised to be a fairly interesting cup tie, with the chance of a minor upset for the visitors. Chesterfield were struggling in 22nd place in League One, whilst Wycombe were in sixth place in the division below, League Two. Chesterfield had won their previous two league matches, but had lost their previous eight league games, but had beaten Colchester United 1-2 away to set up today’s fixture. Wycombe came into this game in good form, winning their last four league games, and won at Portsmouth 1-2 in the previous round of the FA Cup. History did not favour Wycombe today though, as they had lost all four of their previous visits to the Proact Stadium.

On an overcast but fairly mild afternoon, it was quite shocking how poor Chesterfield were today, and not only was on the receiving end of a minor shock in terms of losing, but were on the end of a well-derserved thumping to boot. They never really looked a threat throughout the match, looked devoid of creativity and passion, and as the visitors grew in confidence, convincingly won the game with an energetic display which reflected their manager's effervescent and galvanising presence on the touchline. Chesterfield did actually have the first effort on goal, when Ian Every weakly headed straight at the keeper from a good position, but that was as good as it got for the hosts. The visitors took the lead on 25 minutes. After a corner broke down, Scott Kashket whipped the ball in from close to the corner flag and Paul Hayes glanced the ball with his head in off the underside of the bar. Five minutes later and Wycombe doubled their lead following another corner. The ball fell to Anthony Stewart just outside the area and he floated the ball into the danger area and Kashket shot low into the net. Wycombe comfortably held on to their two goal lead at the break, and the home players would surely need a rollicking from their manager to wake them from their slumber if they were going to get back into this match.

Indeed, they did show a little more intent at the start of the half without looking like scoring, but their task became much harder on 64 minutes when they had Jon Nolan sent off for a wild late tackle, and six minutes later it was game over as a contest when Wycombe scored their third. The ball was threaded low through several Chesterfield players for Kashket to latch onto, and he shot low past the keeper. They scored their four on five minutes when the Chesterfield keeper palmed the ball into the danger area following a corner kick, and Stewart guided the ball on the half volley into the roof of the net. Two minutes later and Wycombe made it five, again Chesterfield gifting the goal to the visitors. The ball was lumped forward for a defender and Kashket to contest, both fell to the floor but Kashket was quickest to get to his feet, get to the ball and take it to one side of the keeper before slotting home.  Wycombe could have made the scoreline even more emphatic if they had wanted to as Chesterfield’s players were by now a thoroughly dispirited bunch, but the scoreline remained at five at the final whistle.

So a shock result, certainly in terms of the emphatic nature of the victory for the slight underdogs (in terms of league status) and a really poor day for Chesterfield with a shocking performance on the pitch, and the fans were very quiet in the stands (although the away fans were in great voice throughout) and it was a shame that the club's gesture of offering excellent ticket prices for this game was not rewarded with a higher attendance. But perhaps that shows the sad lack of interest in the FA Cup these days, even amongst fans, at professional clubs these days. It was a great day for Wycombe though, who displayed all of the endearing qualities of a smaller club on and off the pitch, and hopefully they will be rewarded with a romantic and lucrative draw in the next round.

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