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And We're Off
Nine great months begin. By: Eric Hitchmo 09/08/2010
2 1
League 07/08/2010
2010-2011 Attendance: 6431 (411)
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"I didn't expect much from Chesterfield. I did expect them, as a realistic top seven contender to turn us over quite comfortably. However, even though they probably shaded it overall, we gave a decent account of ourselves and could quite easily have had a draw.

The day was quite the oddity. I wasn't as excited as previous years' opening days. It was only going to be a car journey but that was no excuse not to get in the party mood. Alongside a few cans, a small/medium sized bottle of gin was quickly made light work of by arrival at a nearby pub. It was one of your normal Brewers' Fayre types but a decent spot of lunch was just the ticket and we decided to head in quite early as the ground has a bar and TVs in its realm. That's lovely thanks.

Much has been made of Chesterfield's new ground being just the same sort of IKEA identi-kit that we have seen springing up all over the place in previous seasons. While it does retain plenty of those characteristics, it's not quite as bad as people have made out. It remains close to the centre of the town, the exterior is done up quite handsomely and two of the stands' rooves have a slick curvature to them. What more do you need? I just didn't get the feeling that this was a new ground built as cheaply as possible. £13m suggests so.

Inside the ground you do have your modern feel of quick and easy efficiency. Breeze blocks and concrete adorn the underneath of the stand but when there's a bar, that stays open during the game, I for one am prepared to forgive them. A healthy contingent of Barnet supporters converged around this area as the new season came within touching distance. It was another one of those away games where you don't recognise many of the people there. Bradford last season was a prime example but you do get that every so often. Very strange.

So I stepped out into this new stadium, took my seat, or rather stood in front of it and doubled up as everyone seemed to want to be in this area. They even had to let a few sit in the adjacent block as no-one was willing to go and sit at the front. All in all, it looked about a 300-strong turnout, which for us is not too shabby. A decent atmosphere kicked up at the back of the stand as yet another season began. Here we go. Nine months of likely disappointment beginning once more. Oh dear, why do I fall for it every time?

The opening exchanges were quite entertaining. It could almost be described as end to end. Chesterfield looked good going forward, but so did we. I was quite surprised, as I wasn't convinced how potent our attack would be. We forced a few corners and Mark Byrne gave Chesterfield 'keeper Tommy Lee (of Ashley Carew from his own half fame) a stern test from distance. Lee looked far more assured than any other time preceding this, he gobbled up every cross from both wings in a fine exhibition of catching practice. As such, our danger from the wings was stifled. It was a shame that Ricky Holmes had not started, since he looked our brightest prospect in pre-season.

Legend Jake Cole was not overly busy in our goal. He had to rush out to clear one into the stand but did not have a severe save to make. However he was beaten around the half hour mark after a defensive error. The ball was squared back to Dwayne Mattis who quite literally could not miss. This was my cue. The game is on the telly downstairs. There's a bar there. Let's do that shall we?

So we did. There were a few down there already. Barnet fans do like a drink. Kabba tested Lee again with a fiercely struck drive but the half ended with us one down. Here we go again. Though to be fair, there were encouraging signs.

Many of us stayed underneath the stand as the second half kicked off. There were drinks to be finished after all. Soon we rejoined a decent atmosphere up top. I always like to look at the home supporters reactions when a good song comes belting out of the away end. Some of them just look over as if we're a bit weird and these Spireites were no different. In the opposite end, Chesterfield's fans were clearly having a sing-song themselves but when you're positioned next to a 15 year old kid and his drum, you're not going to hear much else. so it's hard to say whether they were loud or not.

Lots of huffing and puffinh but not too much goalmouth action early on, unfortunately the next goal was going to be crucial and Chesterfield got it through old Jack Lester. He's really good. Receiving the ball he turned one way, then turned the other, leaving captain Anwar Uddin on his backside and comfortably finished into the far corner. Being a Barnet fan tells you that 2-0 away from home is generally game over. However this almost exclusively new-look side had something to say about that.

There was no giving up. No rolling over and dying and letting the home side drub us for the remainder. Instead we rolled our sleeves up and kept on plugging away. Stimson made changes, bold changes designed to overhaul the way we approached the game. This was something we've rarely seen in past years. Better still, when you see a ball break 25 yards out and a Barnet player lines up to hit, you never expect it to rocket into the far top corner. Glenn Poole was the man to smash in a beauty to get us squarely back in it. There was belief. There was a bit of conviction. There was a big chap who took the highly comical opportunity to run onto the pitch.

Chesterfield became nervous but still remained solid. A major talking point came eight minutes from time when their striker went in very hard on Steve Kabba. At the time it looked horrendous and Kabba looked severely injured. Immediate worries of our strikeforce surfaced when it appeared Kabba was not getting up. Davies was red carded and earned himself a forgettable statistic. Kabba was stretchered off in a leg brace. Not good. Subsequent replays have shown it to be not quite as shocking a tackle as first viewing and the injury is not as serious as first feared. We could do with him back, really.

We did have the ball in the net late on. A flick on from a free kick found the outstretched boot of Danny Kelly whose touched looped slowly into the net. I took about two mental bounces and was ready to pile down the stairs before my ears kicked in and told me there was a whistle to denote offside. Oh that's annoying. It may have been a tad harsh on Chesterfield, but if it had stood, I don't think we could have been considered ""lucky"" to have taken a point.

Alas we did not, and Chesterfield's big opening day crowd went home happy in their first ever competitive match on new soil. A shame it had to happen, I had a lot of fondness for Saltergate. A proper old school stadium and one of few still remaining. Or not as the case may be. However in this day and age, needs must, and Chesterfield's progress as a football club looks much more bright with this shiny new ground.

For us, it's good to have given them a decent run for their money. They're a decent team and we certainly did not look out of our depth as could have been the case. There is cause for optimism and maybe, finally, we can shake off this negative feeling and fear and loathing of the next fixture. Maybe going to Barnet will be something to look forward to again. That would be nice."

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