"There is a growing belief that this is their year" - Chesterfield v FC Halifax Town: Opposition Focus
What's been the secret to Chesterfield' s success so far this season?
Chesterfield's success has been built on solid foundations at the back and being clinical up the other end. They are the second top goalscorers in the league and have the second best defensive record. There has been a tweak in style this season which is less expansive but very effective. They hardly give teams a sniff of a chance and, although they don't create bundles of chances themselves, they are ruthless in sticking the ball in the back of the net.
Are you surprised by how well they've done so far?
Yes, but that is mainly down to the results they have picked up for several weeks now despite having an injury crisis. For numerous weeks the Spireites have been without 10-12 players and many of them would normally start. These include captain Gavin Gunning, vice-captain Laurence Maguire, last season's player of the year George Carline and last season's joint top scorer Akwasi Asante. At the start of the season I thought they would improve on last year's sixth-placed finish but to have only lost one in 18 in the league and one in 21 in all competitions, with the depleted squad they have got, is very impressive.
What's the difference between this season and last season?
As previously mentioned, the change in style and of course Kabongo Tshimanga. They go a bit longer this season, especially away from home, and stretch defences with Tshimanga always on the shoulder of opposition defences. He only needs one chance and is absolutely clinical inside the box. The tweak in style is also down to missing so many players and manager James Rowe has admitted they have had to sacrifice their principles a little bit in this period. In a nutshell, this season is all about winning and doing everything they can to get out of this league - no matter how ugly or scrappy the victories come.
Who did they sign in the summer?
As well as Tshimanga, Rowe strengthened all areas of the team and added some real strength in depth. This is why they have continued to do well despite the injuries because they are all pretty much first-team players and you don't feel the team is weakened that much when changes are made. Scott Loach brings experience between the sticks and more pace and ability to carry the ball forward has been added with Jeff King, Calvin Miller and Saidou Khan. Jamie Grimes, signed from Hereford, has been rock solid at the back as well, and Jim Kellermann, a player who almost quit football in the summer, has been a gem of a find who brings lots of energy in midfield.
What obstacles could potentially stop you from being promoted?
Injuries and the January transfer window. Rowe has said that the injuries should have cleared up by January so that will be a big plus. With 18 goals in 18 league games and 19 overall, it would be naive to think that clubs are not looking at Tshimanga. The difference between winning promotion and missing out will probably come down to whether they can keep him or not.
Who are they key men Halifax should watch out for?
Obviously Tshimanga. Although his overall play has improved a lot since joining, he can sometimes be a bit quiet in games but then he will score out of nothing and win you the game. Manny Oyeleke is a class act in central midfield and the Spireites miss his presence badly when he is not involved as well.
What's the feeling among the Chesterfield fans about what can be achieved this season?
Excitement. The fans are just enjoying the ride. They are travelling in big numbers and home attendances are just as good as when they were in the Football League. There is a great atmosphere around the club and everyone is pulling in the same direction. I don't think there is a 'demand' to get promoted, the pressure from the stands certainly isn't there yet, everyone is just delighted to see the club moving forward again. There is a growing belief that this is their year.