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Remembering Saltergate: Match report from final match

9 May 2020

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Now that we have shown the final match at Saltergate on our YouTube channel, we can read Phil Tooley's match report from ten years ago...

Chesterfield 2 Bournemouth 1

Saltergate’s swansong ended in the most fitting way possible. The Spireites' three most eligible players combined to compel the old place to erupt with a goal six minutes into stoppage time.

Mark Allott, 293 times a Spireite, delivered a long throw, Ian Breckin, with 296 club games under his belt flicked on for Derek Niven, Chesterfield’s longest serving player and 279 times a shirt-wearer, to hammer home a low drive into the bottom corner to win the game.

Referee Graham Scott, on his first ever game at the 139-year-old ground, poetically ought to have called time with that strike but, despite a mini pitch invasion, allowed the re-start and about 15 seconds more play, but future folklore will almost certainly have it that Niven, always immensely popular, even more so after battling back from testicular cancer last season, scored with Saltergate’s final kick in its 3,159th and final first team game.

In the 80th minute, talismanic striker Jack Lester had equalised after Niven headed into the box and Jordan Bowery’s short pass had ricocheted into his colleague’s path, allowing him to grab what looked set to be the curtain closer. That goal that will have been of huge relief for Drew Talbot, who’d inadvertently headed Warren Cummings’ first half corner into his own net, not a moment he’d want to have registered as any sort of ‘last.’

The final whistle led to the real and anticipated pitch invasion and an outpouring of emotion amongst the die-hards who’d been brought up on a diet of peeling paint, corrugated corrosion and gruesome gents. But, like me, they loved it.

The vast majority can’t wait to move to the bright and burnished b2net Stadium a mile up the road, but they were determined to say their final goodbyes to a ground that no other league club anywhere in the world has called home for longer, the majority of today’s clubs not having been founded when the gates were first opened in 1871.

Despite the disappointment of failing to reach the play-offs, the least everyone expected when the final season kicked off in August, the players and management were greeted with glee as they scrambled into the Directors' Box to face the thousands of pitch-based supporters.

Asked about his goal, Niven’s first response was that: “Jack Lester was gutted, he wanted to score the last goal here” - a statement that Lester himself confirmed!

The game itself was a decent one and highlighted, for much of the game, why Cherries had made the step up. In a game that, for them, meant second or third place only, their determination and will to win was in full view.

They worked hard, played good football and had a streak of nastiness that showcased their will to win, a trait that John Sheridan has bemoaned regularly about his own side.

It was no real surprise when they took the lead, though the source of the 42nd minute goal wasn’t as expected.

With news through that Dagenham & Redbridge were ahead at Darlington, needing just a point to deny Spireites a season extension, thoughts of a miraculous end to the campaign had all but evaporated as fans thought solely of winning this one game.

After the break Lester saw Shwan Jalal save at his feet, Rob Page was bundled over for a cast iron penalty, but the referee saw no wrong and Barry Conlon had the ball in the net but from an offside position.

Tommy Lee made a great save to deny Danny Hollands and the same player also hit the post before Lester levelled. The striker then saw a header fly against the post before Niven’s last gasp moment of glory.

The win highlighted just why missing out on a step us was so hard to take. Sheridan’s side have twice beaten Bournemouth, twice beaten Rochdale and they also beat Notts County at home, meaning 15 points from a maximum 18 came against the promoted sides. Add to that a win and a draw against 4th placed Morecambe and you can understand the frustration.

Sheridan said: “I’m very disappointed overall. I was pleased with the players response in this game but at the end of the day we’re eighth and I expected a lot more and I was hoping for a lot more.”

But Saturday was all about memories, lots of them. The poignant day started at a packed out Pomegranate Theatre for a morning of nostalgia with ex players and managers, from 87-year-old 40s star Des Collins, who scored against Liverpool and Manchester United in the War League Cup run to the semi-finals to current player Aaron Downes.

Then well over a thousand fans paraded through the town centre to Saltergate to what ended up a glorious send off for a much loved old lady.

To the much loved Recreation Ground, 1871-2010. Rest In Peace.

Chesterfield: Lee, Whing, Page, Breckin, Austin, Talbot (Rundle 75), Allott, Niven, Demontagnac, Lester, Conlon (Bowery 67). Subs (not used): Crossley, Picken, Small, Boden.

Goals: Lester 80, Niven 90+6

Booked: Breckin foul 69, Allott foul 85, Page foul 88

Bournemouth: Jalal, Bradbury, Cooper, Pearce, Cummings (Garry 85), Feeney (McQuoid 70), Hollands, Robinson, Bartley, Fletcher (Connell 75), Pitman. Subs (not used): Thomas, Igoe, Partington, Goulding.

Goal: Talbot (og) 42

Booked: Bartley 57 foul, Bradbury 63 foul, Hollands 79 foul

Ref: Graham Scott (Oxford)

Attendance: 7,702 

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