The Boys Need Us!
Back in the 2010/2011 season, a pal and I would travel all over watching Lee Clark’s side on their unbeaten run; Bournemouth (twice), Brighton or Charlton, we loved it, we felt part of the movement rather than the shallow disconnect of the last 6 months. “The Boys need us” was the text on the Monday, we’d be there on the Saturday feeling like we helped to make a difference.
After Saturday’s debacle you can imagine what my response was when I got that text on Tuesday morning. But then I got another one after, “Lillis needs us”, and with that, we were going. Despite Man City being his no1 club, Mark is one of us, he gets us, and he has that knack of being able to say the right things that supporters love. He is and has always been a Town legend.
Whilst we were on the way down the M1, another Town legend (ably wound up by serial wind up Katherine Hannah) was venting his spleen at a section of fans who recently in his opinion had been out of line. The interview was worrying as Dean Hoyle openly talked about leaving the club in the face of growing and for the most part, OTT criticism. Dean outlined the reasons for Mark Robins resignation, and it left me feeling a bit sorry for a good bloke in Robins, and empathetic towards Hoyle.
Hoyle talked of the need of a man manager, a leader, a motivator and in the first half it looked like exactly what Town needed. A hideously flat performance had some away fans booing, and when one fan stood up and shouted across to Joe Murphy, “Murphy, tell them to get stuck in, we’ve paid money to watch this”, you had to agree with the aggrieved punter. Murphy to his credit turned round and acknowledged.
Town lined up in a traditional 442, Murphy was loosely protected by a back 4 of Smith, Peltier, Wallace and Dixon. Ward and Scandog were the wingers with Norwood and Coady in the middle. Wells was partnered up top by a rather trim looking Jon Stead.
Those who know me know that I dislike this formation, picked in this specific way. I find it restrictive, basic, straight lined, lacking creativity and lending itself to direct football, and lend itself to direct football it did. Peltier in particular seemed keen to pass the hot potato, and the lack of movement in midfield was disappointing. Town were useless… Murray got caught under the ball and it was 1-0 with a solid header from PFA chairman Richie Humphreys. “Richie Humphreys?? Is that the guy who couldn’t run and played for Hartlepool 4 years ago?” Yep, afraid so. Town continued to engineer their own calamity and Norwood’s misplaced pass ended with Ollie Banks scoring the type of goal he won’t for another 10 years – lovely goal. Town had 1 and only 1 shining light in the first half and that was Jon Stead. He was making it awkward for the Chesterfield backline and his first touch was a delight. With a deft first touch and clever link play, Jon Steadrahimovic was on form!
Town sulked off to boo’s at half time, flat, dejected and lacking in confidence. Hoyle’s mention of needing a leader and man manager were starting to make sense. As nice and honest a bloke that Mark Robins was, this was a group of players that requires something special to keep them focused and motivated, yet it happened…
As soon as Town came out for the 2nd half, the 853 Town fans in attendance were absolutely magnificent. They roared on their team with energy, encouragement and passion. This was mirrored in the dug out by Mark Lillis, himself cajoling and organising. Organising into a much more fluid diamond formation, thank Mike Bassett, the 80’s style 442 was gone. Chances started to come for Town; Wells swung and blazed wildly at a couple of chances before neat interplay saw Norwood whip in a smart ball and Wells got ahead of his man to head the ball home off of his shoulder – GAME ON! Town pushed and pressured, this was night and day compared to the first half. Yet, Norwood let himself down a little bit again as my old favourite Gary Roberts breezed past him, had a shot saved and what Paul Dixon was doing I have no idea… 3-1.
Town should have wilted. A team of waifs would have done… But Majewski and Hammill were now on the field and they were causing big problems for Chesterfield, and so was Steadrahimovic… With time running out Stead turned in the box and was felled, Wells dispatched. Game on again! Only a few minutes later, Peltier hoiked the ball up field and Stead rose majestically, chested down, twisted, turned and hit a rasper straight through Tommy Lee. Well, not quite, but it felt like it such was the relief! In fairness to Tommy Lee, if Pamela Anderson was my Mrs, I don’t think I’d have the strength to get down and pick up a simple back pass either.
Town were now imperious in extra time. Young Conor Coady took control of the midfield and completely bossed the last 60, he along with Majewski, Lolley and Hammill were ripping holes through Chesterfield for fun. An excellent move set Lolley away down the left and he squared to Stead who’s initial shot was saved for Wells to tap in the rebound. The turnaround was complete and when Chesterfield’s right back who’s name sounds like it’s on the menu at Subway dallied, Lolley took the ball off of Teriyaki Darikwa and prodded into the corner. Town deserved this, but most of all the fans deserved this.
The victory meant a lot to the management team, players and supporters. It didn’t matter who they’d just played, the competition we were in, or at what stadium it was at. Those players were flat at half time, but with the right encouragement, had turned it around and set a tone and platform to take on for the rest of the season, there is now hope.
The best moment was reserved for the end. Mark Lillis came forward to salute the Town fans and his smile and air punching reconnected a fan base with the product on the pitch. The laugh of the night was a split second later as Steve Eyre tried to ride Lillis’ coat tails with a comical air punch with half the conviction just behind him, a moment that reminded me and my travelling pal of the scene in Happy Gilmore when the tramp caddy throws the brick into the lake mimicking Gilmore.
Murphy - 6
Solid. Some good eye catching distribution from the Irishman who will expect to keep his place.
Smith - 6.5
Steady and solid performance. Distribution and defending was decent without ever needing to go above and beyond.
Peltier - 6.5
Some good blocks in the 2nd half by the captain. Quite solid for the most part but didn’t look a natural at centre back.
Wallace – 4
Poor. Got caught a little on the first goal, and made glaring and basic defensive errors.
Dixon - 6
Some good forward runs from Dixon, but defensively he continues to struggle one on one and his defending inside the box from knock downs and set pieces was a touch on the ropey side.
Ward – 4
Nothing really came off for Wardy, which wasn’t through the lack of trying. His touch deserted him and his final product was off.
Norwood - 5.5
A good mix of passing at points, but weak out of possession and should have done better on two goals.
Coady – 8
An excellent full debut for Coady. Intially slow to get going, Coady was the real driving force in the engine room and had special praise reserved from Mark Lillis.
Scannell – 3
Contributed zero in his time on the pitch and barely looked interested. Perhaps suffering from confidence issues.
Steadrahimovic – 8 (Man of the Match)
A really good performance from Steady. A commanding and imposing figure who’s touch and link play were behind HTFC being able to win the game.
Wells - 7
Odd game for Nahki. He scored a hat trick but didn’t play particularly well.. But we’d take that every week.
Majewski – 6.5
Clever and creative, Majewski should have done better on a couple of occasions in front of goal, but he made a positive contribution when he came on.
Hammill – 7
Very good trickery and close control had the Chesterfield defence in a complete tailspin.
Lolley – 8
Looking like Dennis the Menace in the Town away kit, the student rang rings around a tiring Chesterfield defence. With moments of genuine quality, Lolley looks destined for a starting berth before too long.