Chesterfield 4-0 Rovers: What We Learned
If one word could be used to describe yesterday’s game, it’d probably be “futile”. An out-of-control five minute spell of the game ruined it as a contest due to Rovers being reduced to ten men, and the home side ran out comfortable winners. Perhaps appropriately, the entire second half of our live coverage was sent out on the wrong Twitter account just to add to the pointlessness of the day. Nevertheless, kicking off our extensive build-up coverage to the opening game of the League One season next Saturday, here is what we did (or rather did not) learn from the 4-0 defeat at Chesterfield.
Alfie Sees Red
After a fairly uneventful opening 35 minutes, the game inexplicably exploded into life when Alfie May lost his temper after the officials missed a foul on him by Ian Evatt. It seemed blatant, but perhaps due to his superior size Evatt was able to get away with it. What followed was a sequence of events completely avoidable, as May first went haring across the middle of the pitch to lunge two-footed into the back of Jordan Sinnott as retaliation, then got chunks taken out of him in another act of revenge by Sinnott and his team mates. Both players wound up in the book for their transgressions, but the drama didn’t end there.
The wind-up tactic worked to perfection for the Spireites, as May, unable to be calmed down, went in with a stamp and was given a straight red card for it. Deserved yes considering both challenges could merit a dismissal, but all of this would not have happened if either the officials or the management had applied some common sense to things. It was clear May had lost his head from the moment he went in hard on Sinnott, and at the point, or indeed in one of the subsequent incidents before the stamp, referee Mark Heywood or Rovers boss Darren Ferguson should have intervened and withdrawn May from the game.
That didn’t happen, May was sent off and the game was ruined. With only ten men for half the game, Rovers couldn’t do much of anything and treated it as a glorified practice, one in which the youth teamers got senior minutes and the goalkeeper an extensive work-out, but there was little of anything to be gleaned from it as a pre-season game for either manager and ultimately it was a waste of time, effort and money for the Rovers fans unfortunate enough to attend this farce, myself included.
With the majority of the first team getting 90 minutes against Sheffield Wednesday, it was a makeshift line-up for Rovers anyway here. That gave several squad players a chance to show that they deserved a look-in but, even on the 40 minutes we could fairly judge them, there was little to see. It has been made clear that Gary McSheffrey is not being given a new deal, but that seems od considering he played the entirety of this fixture, and it stands to reason that he may be offered a short-term deal now Alex Kiwomya is sidelined. However, he was woefully off the pace here and offered little besides set piece delivery. With this not being the NFL, we can’t just wheel him on for corners, so the hope is that he is not handed a deal of any sort.
Harry Middleton meanwhile looked every bit like a man who knew his time was up at DRFC. After an admittedly solid opening 20 minutes or so, it all went to pot for the young midfielder from that point, and he struggled to find any sort of meaningful passing range throughout, also managing to be caught in possession in dangerous areas on more than one occasion. Craig Alcock also got 90 minutes, perhaps out of necessity, but has probably been the most consistently disappointing performer through pre-season and it is a little strange that the man who acted as a one-man defence for us in 2015/16 has fallen off the pace so dramatically.
All of that being said, some leeway should be afforded to everyone who played in this game as the red card made it very difficult for Rovers to do anything substantial. Indeed, a meek header by Reece Fielding from a late corner was our only attempt on goal after May’s dismissal, and one thing to be pleased with is the endeavour of our youth team players who made up most of the side in the second period. Tylers’ Garratt and Walker looked promising at full back, Jacob Fletcher had one or two bright moments in midfield and neither Louis Jones, Lewis Scattergood or Keegan Townrow disgraced themselves in any manner either during their cameos.
Good Day, Bad Day
It was a bad day for everybody really, myself included after the Twitter blunder, but the ITEN Man of the Match award went to Marko Marosi for putting in a fine display between the sticks. Marosi made a number of superb saves to keep the score down, substituted at 2-0 having not put a foot wrong all afternoon. He and the defenders were the only Rovers players with anything to do in the second half due to the constant onslaught from Chesterfield, and to that end it was a good day also for Joe Wright, Reece Fielding and Andy Butler in the centre of defence. Andy Williams cut a forlorn figure up front, but he could do little about it as May’s red card left him an isolated man with nothing to work with.
Alfie May “let the team down” according to Fergie and it’s hard to argue with that, his hot-head display wrecking the match as a contest and as a worthwhile exercise for anyone involved. He will learn from this however, and I’ve no doubt that this will lead to him behaving in a more mature manner if such a thing were to happen again. The unfortunate thing is this will probably now lead to a three-match ban despite the exhibition rules, keeping the plucky striker out of our opening league game with Gillingham, the EFL Cup trip to Bradford and, perhaps most disappointingly for May himself, our visit to Ewood Park to take on former Premier League Champions Blackburn Rovers.
All in all a very disappointing end to pre-season, but it’s time to look forward with only six days to go until the season gets properly underway. Check back in to ITEN all throughout this week as we provide an extensive build-up to the new campaign, with articles looking at our prospects for the year, what we need to know about the 23 sides competing with us in League One, and also the debut of a new feature looking back at some of the recent history of the club through this ‘Golden Period’ of the last 20 years.
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