Result: Chesterfield 1-1 Billericay Town (FA Cup First Round)
Venue: Proact Stadium (Saturday 10th November 2018, 3pm)
As the FA Cup reached its “proper” rounds, I’d be returning to watch Chesterfield and see if they could keep their run going in the famous competition. Having seen them overcome AFC Fylde at the Coasters’ Mill Farm home a couple of weeks back, the Spireites now faced opposition from the same level at home, though these would hail from the southern section of the National League’s regional split and bring with them a fair amount of previous infamy. Yes, the opinion-splitting Billericay Town were travelling up to Derbyshire to face up against a Chesterfield side competing in the Cup as a non-league side for the first time. An interesting tie in theory.
Having set out at 9am, I was arriving into Chesterfield station at a little before 11 and after a bit of recon and getting of bearings around the town, I navigated my way to the market area where I would come across one of the pair of Wetherspoon outlets in the town; the Portland Hotel. Being sure of these being open, I decided it would be the safest bet to begin with, so in I popped for a Punk IPA whilst sorting out something of a plan for the rest of the day. Somewhat helpfully, my next stop proved to be just across the square in the form of the fittingly named Market. Having not truly had a real look at what they had on, I spied Stella and decided on that before heading into the corner a whole £4.10 lighter and bemoaning my rushed decision as I perused over the taps I’d missed. Ah.
Next along was a bit of a visit-on-the-fly as it were as I came across the interesting looking entrance to the Golden Fleece and looking as though something old and hidden lay in wait somewhere at the end of the alleyway beneath the arches bearing the pub’s name, I reckoned I’d give it a go. It was nice enough, though sadly very much a modern gastropub sort of place, though that’s not to say I didn’t enjoy my stop for what it was, it just wasn’t what I’d built an image of. That’ll teach me, I guess, though at least the Amstel (£3.70) was good. Following this, I did get to seek out what is apparently Chesterfield’s oldest pub, The Royal Oak, sat down a little side road just opposite, hidden behind the modern market building. A small, cosy place, it also enabled me to watch a bit of the early kick-off in the Cup between Maidenhead Utd and Portsmouth, with Pompey, whom I began this season for real with a visit to, running out comfortable 4-0 winners in the end whilst I supped away at a pint of Thatcher’s (£3.30).
From there, I decided on a quick back-track towards the simply named Chesterfield Alehouse and, lo-and-behold, it does exactly what it says on the…sign. A small place, it has a good selection on as well as the usual bottle/can offerings, though the bar is up a few small steps, so probably best to send someone else if worse for wear! Anyway, I opted for a pint of the Mallinson’s Amarillo Pale Ale – resisting the urge to burst into cheesy song and dance under fear of breaching the peace – which came in at just £3. Can’t complain at that, though I reckoned I must have looked a little weird having overheard the F1 practice, gotten up and back up the steps to see what was going on, only for there to be no TV in sight and was now stood there looking a bit out of place and, quite likely, a bit weird. Regardless, I finished up and initially made my way off towards the next pub en route, the Barley Mow – which had just been the victim of a paint bombing or something and therefore the staff were busy on clean up duty outside. Despite this, I was still served a Dark Fruits swiftly before deciding I’d be smart for once and grab the bus to the ground instead of trying to navigate anywhere off track. This failed, as the bus didn’t turn up (at least on time) and so I walked the 20 minutes up to the ground instead, which also gave me a look at a few options to break up the walk on the way back. Swings and roundabouts.
Chesterfield is a market town and borough in Derbyshire on the confluence of the rivers Rother and Hipper and the foot of the Pennine Peak District, and is the second largest ‘town’ in the county. It can trace its roots back to a briefly occupied Roman fort from 1AD, though after this was abandoned, an Anglo-Saxon settlement rose up, though the Roman influence remains in its name, with the words in Old English of ceaster (Roman fort) and feld (grazing field) coming together to form what has become Chesterfield. It sits on a coalfield, though little evidence of the mining exists now, despite it running into the 1980’s as an economically important site, with its parish church of St. Mary and All Saints being its most famous landmark, on account of its 14th-century crooked spire, the origins of which are disputed. Originally within the Hundred of Scarsdale, the town received its town charter in 1204 from King John and was designated a ‘free borough’, giving it the same freedoms as nearby Nottingham & Derby and in 1266 it was the site of the imaginatively titled Battle of Chesterfield, in which a force of rebel barons was defeated by the Royalist army.
The borough continued to grow out of the town and took in the local areas of New Whittington and Newbold by 1920, whilst the current boundaries were formed up in 1972, when the municipal borough merged with the urban district of Staveley and the parish of Brislington in the rural district. Earlier, the town had benefitted from the arrival of the railway in the form of the George Stephenson begun Chesterfield line, which connected to Derby and Leeds in 1837. During the work Stephenson found a large amount of coal when constructing a tunnel near Clay Cross, which he took advantage of, forming a mineral trading company. He would remain living in the town to his death in 1848 and he is buried there and has a statue of himself outside of the current station. It once had a further two stations, one in Market Place closed in 1951 due to maintenance cost relating to subsidence and stood where the Post Office now does, whilst another at Chesterfield Central closed in 1963 due to the general wind down in services on the Grand Central Railway. Part of the town’s relief road, the A61, traces the route of the railway, with the station itself demolished in 1973 to make room for the aforementioned road. A viaduct where the lines met was demolished in the 1970’s. The town was also home to a tramway between 1882 and 1927, with this seemingly superseded by the railway’s arrival. The town’s canal also once linked the town to the national network, though gradually fell into misuse, though a part was restored in the mid-20th century for leisure use, though is now separate from the network.
Arriving at the ground, I sorted out a ticket via the office windows which were besieged with fellow latecomers before heading around to the turnstiles and venturing inside. After a visit to the food bar in not wishing to head in whilst the minute’s silence was ongoing, I was soon in possession of a pie (I think steak, but I can’t really remember) and heading to my seat just as the sides spread out to their respective halves. The Proact is a smart, if pretty unspectacular new build ground, built in 2010 on the site of a former glassworks. All stands are of pretty similar size, with the ground holding 10,500 at capacity, though the Main Stand is the larger of the four, with it playing host to the tunnel, changing (and other) facilities, executive boxes and other rooms. It has a curved roof, not too different to that in front of which they played at Fylde, whilst the stand opposite, the East Stand in which I was located for today, shares this feature. It is home to community facilities and a gym, in lieu of the executive side of things. Behind one goal is the South stand, which is apparently where most of the noise is created (though this wasn’t too obvious today) and is thought of as the old Saltergate Kop replacement (apparently), with the North stand down the other end is almost identical, though wasn’t in use today as the small band of Billericay followers from deepest, darkest Essex were located directly opposite me. There’s also a memorial garden to the exterior of the ground, paying tribute to both fans and players who’ve passed, with a further memorial to those lost in action serving their country. That’s the Proact (or Chesterfield FC Stadium if you listen to UEFA) in a nutshell, and this is the story of the Spireites of Chesterfield FC….
The current incarnation of Chesterfield Football Club was founded in 1919, though than can trace its history back to 1866 and the first of the town’s clubs of that name. Indeed, football in the town may date from a few years earlier in fact whether formal or otherwise, though the 1866 date is more concrete and therefore accepted. The 1866 club was founded as an offshoot of Chesterfield Cricket Club and the two moved in situ to the Recreation Ground on Saltergate until a souring of relations between the two in 1871 – with both clubs now separate entities – saw the football side closed in 1881 after it was turfed out. Many of the players moved to other clubs in the area, including Chesterfield Livingstone and this club took Saltergate as their home. A number also joined another town club, Chesterfield Spital, who would go on to compete in some of the formative years of the FA Cup.
1884 saw the name of Chesterfield Football Club return to the pages of history and to Saltergate. Later becoming Chesterfield Town, the club turned professional in 1891 and won several local trophies and entered the FA Cup for the first time in 1892, wearing a sort (but more colour correct) of current day Windsor-esque Union Flag kit. They would join the Midland League in 1896 and three years later successfully applied for a place in the Football League’s Second Division, finishing their first season in 7th. However, things soon turned sour, with the club finishing bottom three seasons in a row from 1907, before not achieving re-election in 1909 and returning back to the Midland League. Chesterfield Town would enter voluntary liquidation in 1915 and after being re-formed during WWI by a local restaurant owner and fielding teams consisting of “guest” League players, the club was found guilty of illegal payments to players two years later and subsequently folded.
The current club came into being in 1919, formed by the local council and named Chesterfield Municipal initially. Returning to the Midland League ranks, the club won the title in its first season, though they were soon forced to sever ties with the council after pressure from the FA and Football League – who were against council-run clubs – and a name change followed, with the club returning back to the Chesterfield F.C. name in 1920. A year later, the club became a founder member of the Third Division North of the League and won the title in 1931, though would be relegated from Division 2 a further two years later. However, a second title would arrive at Saltergate in 1936, with Chesterfield remaining in the Second Division through to the outbreak of WWII. Post-war, the club achieved their best ever league finish of 4th in 1947 and on the back of this relative success, several players departed the club and they were relegated back into the third-tier in 1951. Later placed in the Third Division national upon restructuring of the lower divisions into national ones rather than regional in 1958, Gordon Banks made his Spireites debut that season prior to being sold on to Leicester City for £7,000. Things on-field didn’t improve for the club though and they were relegated to the Fourth Division in 1961.
They would spend the next eight campaigns in the League’s bottom division, before earning promotion back to Division Three in 1970 as champions. They added the Anglo-Scottish Cup of 1981 to their trophy cabinet prior to a further relegation in 1984 which ended a 14-year stay. However, their absence would only be brief as they returned at the first attempt, again as Division 4 champions in 1985, though would then have to bailed out of financial issues by the council soon afterwards, a period which also resulted in the club having to sell off their training ground and things on the field began to worsen again too, with the dreaded drop again being suffered in 1989. Missing out in the play-off final of Division 4 to Cambridge United the next season, the club were back in Division 3 by 1992 on account of the re-designation of the league pyramid due to the formation of the Premier League, with Chesterfield going on to achieve promotion to Division 2 in 1995 via the play-offs after victories over “rivals” Mansfield Town and latterly Bury in the final. 1997 saw the Spireites reach the semi-finals of the FA Cup, where they would bow out to Middlesbrough after a replay. However, things again turned for the worse both on and off-field, with relegation back to Division 3 being suffered in 2000, before financial irregularities apparently stemming from the chairman at the time saw the club docked nine-points after he tried to avoid paying a transfer fee, which had been agreed by the FA, to Chester City. Amid the mounting evidence of fraud, the club was sold to a ‘supporters society’, with administration following and the (by now) former chairman imprisoned. Despite all of this, Chesterfield still managed to grab the third automatic promotion spot and returned to Division 2 once again.
The club would remain in the third-tier through to 2007, when relegation returned to haunt them once more, though they did reach the League Trophy semi-finals that year. 2010 saw the Spireites leave their long-term Saltergate home for pastures new at the Proact Stadium and the move to their shiny, new ground seemed to prove dividends immediately, as Chesterfield lifted the ‘League 2’ title in 2011, their first season at the new ground, and won the 2012 EFL Trophy the following season., defeating Swindon Town 2-0. However, their league fortunes weren’t as fortuitous, with relegation being suffered the next year, but they again recovered swiftly to bounce straight back up as 2014 League 2 champs. They would record a 6th placed finish the following year, though were comfortably dispatched by Preston North End in the play-off semis and, once again, off-field ructions saw investment desperately required and despite administration being avoided, Gary Caldwell, who’d been installed around the time in place of Danny Wilson, was dismissed with the worst record of a Chesterfield boss, with Jack Lester – a club legend with the #14 shirt retired in his honour, even – brought in as replacement. Unfortunately from the Spireites point of view, he couldn’t save the club from the drop out of the League for the first time since the current incarnation came into being. They’ve started this season rather sluggishly and find themselves languishing down the wrong end of the table under Martin Allen.
The game got underway with Billericay having the first chance of the game when Moses Emmanuel forced Chesterfield ‘keeper Callum Burton into a second-minute stop. However, Chesterfield would soon take the advantage, with Will Evans, Marc-Antoine Fortuné and Zavon Hines all seeing efforts on target kept out, before the hosts beat Alan Julian on 17 minutes when Laurence Maguire headed home from the centre of goal following a Joe Rowley free-kick. One-nil and just a couple of weeks to go until the calendar year without a nil-nil is complete!
Billericay looked to respond, but found getting efforts through the Chesterfield back-line to truly test Burton hard to come by as the first-half wore on, with Jake Robinson being at the forefront of these attacks. He eventually did force the home stopper into keeping out his headed try in comfortable fashion just after the half-hour, and the South leaders continued to strive to find the net through to half time, Curtis Weston and Sam Deering seeing shots go off-target, before Hines almost doubled the Spireites lead just before the break, but his shot from around six-yards missed the target wastefully. Half-Time, 1-0 and a pretty entertaining contest thus far.
Half-Time came and went with little happening but come the start of the second half, life was quickly breathed into the match when, just seven minutes into the second period, Moses Emmanuel received the ball and unleashed a fine drive from 20+ yards that flew like a dart into the top-corner, leaving Burton with little chance. A fine strike and he definitely enjoyed it. Strangely enough, the game seemed to settle down somewhat afterwards with both teams seeming quite content to almost feel each other out for the next twenty minutes or so until the final quarter of the game rolled around. For now, it seemed like we were in a holding pattern.
Eventually, Chesterfield forced the issue with substitutes, Lee Shaw and Levi Amantchi replacing the rather disappointing duo of Kyel Reid and Fortuné, who I believe I last saw play for Wigan in a Europa League game against Rubin Kazan. Football, eh? Meanwhile, Billericay countered by introducing Jamie O’Hara (who’d been having a bit of a laugh with some fans near the touchline) for goal hero Emmanuel – with the last time I’d seen O’Hara being when he netted for Fulham at Sheffield Wednesday a few years back. Football, eh?!
These changes seemed to reflect both sides’ ambitions and Chesterfield were going for it in the final part of the game, with Billericay happy to settle on a replay, or nick it on the counter. The latter seemed effective, with Amantchi and Danny Waldren going close for the visitors. Tom Denton was thrown on late into the fray as the hosts looked to nick it, but Zavon Hines’ low effort was as close as they came, while Town almost did take their undisputed place in the Second Round when Maguire cleared a late, dangerous cross which was pretty much the last action. That was that and, much to the annoyance of a couple of guys behind me, Chesterfield were now faced with a trip to Essex in midweek. As for me, it was off to the Spireite over the road (though my camera didn’t want to play ball as I later found out)!
Having had a quick, lovely Mango Cider (£3) in here with the surprising bonus of them serving actual glasses too, I popped into the nearby chain pub named the Donkey Derby for a quick Hooch (£3.70) prior to continuing my route back down the road via the Crown & Anchor (Dark Fruits at £2.80) and the St. Helen’s Inn (Hooch again at £3.40) before continuing on the ten minutes or so back to the station where I had a little longer to wait than expected due to some sort of delay somewhere, but this was soon sorted and I was back in Manchester rather swiftly with little issue and soon on a bus over to meet Dan for a couple of cans at his prior to finally returning home, having got slightly lost in terms of bus stops , but recovered the situation!
That ends the trip to Chesterfield then. It was good to finally get Chesterfield and the Proact done having gone through and past the place many-a-time en route to somewhere else! Day was good and the game was ok though did die somewhat as it went on. The town was fine as was the ground, if a bit too shiny and new with regards to the latter and transport went smoothly enough, despite the small hiccups with the bus on the way and the train on the way back. But can’t complain really. That’s that for another week and, as I said earlier, just two weeks ago until may goalless-less year. Next week is motoring ever nearer….
Programme: 3 (a well cut back issue I paid out £5 for on Ebay, but a fair cut went to the Legion, so fair enough)
Value For Money: 6