On a grey Saturday afternoon I arrived at the Proact Stadium in Chesterfield to see them play Billericay Town in the first Round of the FA Cup. Gone are the days when in 1997 Chesterfield reached the semifinals only to lose to Middlesbrough 3-0 in a replay after it ended 3-3 in the first game. A not given disputed goal, when it was adjudged that the ball had not crossed the line, would have given Chesterfield a famous victory, oh for today’s technology.
Chesterfield then in the 3rd tier of football have fallen to 17th place in the 5th tier (The National League). Their fall has been considerable and the club remains up for sale. Back in 1997 they would have played at their ramshackle Saltergate ground that despite the discomfort had plenty of atmosphere, now lacking in this modern concrete stadium graced by just under 3000 spectators. Saltergate used to be very close to the town centre but the new stadium is now out of town close to food outlets of Tesco, Aldi, Asda, Iceland, Sainsbury’s and Lidl, food city infact.
Billericay Town FC by contrast are top of the National League South and the local Derbyshire Times reported that Chesterfield were the underdogs despite being in a division higher. Billericay were purchased in December 2016 by Essex millionaire Glenn Tamplin who has invested well over £2,000,000 in the club, initially recruited some high profile ex professionals and made himself Manager as they gained promotion from the Isthmian League to the National League South at the end of last season. They have again invested heavily in their push to win promotion into the National League under Dean Brennan.
Armistice day was remembered by playing the last post and two minutes silence was observed.
The pitch was a very flat, green surface that looked the best I have seen all season. The Programme though at only £2 was only 16 pages with not a great deal of statistics or information which seemed to reflect Chesterfield’s plight.
Chesterfield Town FC 1 Billericay Town FC 1
Chesterfield bossed the first half and should have gone in at halftime with the tie out of sight. Some clever running and inter passing by Marc Antoine-Fortune and Zavon Hines should have seen more reward. However in the 17th minute Laurence Maguire rose at the far post to head home a free kick by Joe Rowley to put them infront.
The second half brought a string of decisions by the referee against Chesterfield and the crowd became more annoyed as one of these disputed tussles led to Billericay working the ball from a free kick to Emanuel who from 25 yards out hit a superb curling shot with his instep to beat Callum Burton.
Chesterfield rallied but it was mere huff and puff as the created chances never looked like being converted. It looks good for Billericay in the replay at their home ground but who knows in the FA Cup.
For the second game running the home team scored a nil in the chip league as none were available. I had to settle for a coffee and a chunky Kit Kat for £3.50.