Date: 8 May 2010
For the third week in a row it was party time; the only difference being that this time it was someone else’s party. This was to be the final match at Saltergate (barring a mathematical miracle that could still get Chesterfield into the play-offs), where the home side had been playing since 1871! Not that we were made to feel like gatecrashers: the welcome was genuine, from the sale of two-coloured scarves (Cherries and Spireites colours combined) as a souvenir of the occasion, to the massive applause offered to our fans by theirs after the final whistle.
The first person I spoke to in town that morning, saw my Cherries colours and asked whether Steve Fletcher still played for us. I confess I’d almost forgotten he ever played for them. The second person told me that he was going to the match to bid a fond farewell to Saltergate - even though his previous match was 20 years ago! Maybe it was for the benefit of people like him that the matchday announcer patiently explained to the sell-out crowd that football stadia are no-smoking venues these days!
Jalal was back in goal, his ankle injury having been evidently shaken off, and kept us in the game several times. Cummings returned at left back, Wiggins’ loan period having been completed; and he played pretty well but didn’t keep up with the player in front of him (sometimes Robinson, sometimes Feeney) as well as Bradbury did on the opposite flank. Pearce had an excellent game again in the centre, as he has done so often despite playing alongside different partners.
It was an evenly balanced first half, towards the end of which a Chesterfield player threatened to spoil the party by putting the ball into the back of his own net, off a Cummings corner. Three minutes before half-time, an excellent time to score, and it was now 1-0 to us.
Cummings continued to provide some excellent corner kicks early in the second half, one of which - directed low along the ground - found Pearce whose shot only narrowly missed the goal. There was another missed opportunity when Pitman hit the woodwork, but at the other end there was a Chesterfield goal disallowed for offside. So we reached ten minutes from time still enjoying a 1-0 lead. By this time McQuoid had come on for a tired looking Feeney, and super-sub Connell (a full fifteen minutes after stripping off) for Fletcher - who incredibly received a standing ovation from the home fans. (If anyone remained in doubt of the esteem in which he’s held, after the final whistle both sets of fans united in singing “There’s only one Steve Fletcher.”) The home supporters remained somewhat subdued, as they had been in the first half - maybe a little sad about leaving Saltergate, but also no doubt unhappy to be 1-0 down. Our own fans continued to make a lot of noise, singing “We’re going up”; the now familiar “Que sera, sera … we’re going to Saint Mary’s”; and - really rubbing salt into the home fans’ wounds - a new song, “We’re going to Hillsborough, you’re going to Stevenage!”
Then, on the 80th minute, Chesterfield equalised. Their supporters were clearly absolutely delighted, and few Bournemouth fans would have wanted to take away their moment of joy. Later, in a nice touch, Garry came on to a huge welcome (he had after all played a massive role in this promotion season) for Cummings. In added time, Connell was denied by the crossbar, but he didn’t manage to repeat his incredible feat of the previous two Saturdays. The referee indicated there would be six minutes of injury time but, four minutes in, Chesterfield scored again - Jalal being unable to hold on to the ball. Cue massive celebrations, and a pitch invasion by the home fans. One of the first supporters to come onto the pitch was a guy in a wheelchair! Our players prepared to kick off again, while stewards cleared the pitch. But the referee sensibly blew for full time soon after. This match had been a bit of an anticlimax for us, but a brilliant end to the season for Chesterfield fans, and their last minute goal was just what they needed to put the icing onto their celebration cake. It was just a shame that, despite all this, Chesterfield remained in eighth place and so missed out on the play-offs. We held on to second place because Rochdale lost at Barnet, so we had good reason to feel pretty content too.
The team lined up as follows at the start of the game (I've given the players marks out of ten):
Bradbury (7), Cooper (7), Pearce (8), Cummings (7);
Feeney (7), Bartley (7), Hollands (7), Robinson (6);
Pitman (7), Fletcher (7).