Saturday, 2 July 2011

Chesterfield - Saltergate

8th May 2010

Chesterfield 2-1 AFC Bournemouth

As season 2010/11 wound to a close, I found myself paying rather more attention to the fortunes of Derbyshire club Chesterfield FC than I would normally (normally, of course, being not at all).  With more than a little selfishness I awaited each result with interest, wishing to see them to drop further and further down their league. 

My reasons for this singular behaviour were, as I said, rooted in selfishness as Son and I had obtained tickets for the last league match scheduled to be played at the club’s ground Saltergate.  And I wanted this to really be the last game – with no play-off nonsense to spoil the neatness of the day.  And such did results pan out.  

An end of season slump meaning Chesterfield went into this last match at home to Bournemouth in tenth position – a play-off place was possible, but would require an unlikely combination of final day results to achieve.  Still the possibility did lend the match an addition frisson.

Chesterfield FC had resided at Saltergate since 1871, and it was probably fair to say that for a sizeable portion of it’s recent history, the ground had seen little development or even remedial work.  There was the obligatory large main stand, but one end of the ground was uncovered, and the shallow enclosure running the other length had an odd paved area in front of it, plus a wonderfully unsafe looking press-box blu-tacked onto the roof.  

Outside, the place was all peeling paint, garish advertisements and overgrown ivy – and I loved it.  The very brickwork oozed character, although the rather primitive Gents oozed something altogether less wholesome.

The sell-out crowd of just under 8,000 settled down to be entertained and I am guessing most of the neutrals, or at least the casual local attendees, had been placed in the our area of the ground, as it was remarkably sedate in there.  The first-half was disappointing, doubly so for the home fans when, in the 42nd minute Chesterfield defender Drew TALBOT headed one into his own net.

But the home lot picked up the pace after the break and, after Jack Lester and Derek Niven had both gone close, LESTER finally levelled things up with 15 minutes remaining.  The same player then rattled a post, and Kevin Austin saw an effort cleared off the visitors’ goal-line as Chesterfield piled on the pressure looking to go out in style.

The sixth and final minute of injury-time had just commenced when, in true fairytale manner, Chesterfield fashioned a winner – Derek NIVEN’s drive just beating Bournemouth ‘keeper Shwan Jalal.  This unlikely strike brought some of the crowd sprawling onto the field of play, including one young lad in a wheelchair, who received a cuff from his helper for his troubles.  See link below:

The pitch was cleared for the final few seconds before the real invasion took place – the fact results had contrived to keep Chesterfield out of the play-offs failing to dampen anyone’s spirits.  So, we had in fact managed to witness the last match at Saltergate, but seeing all the happy faces around me on the pitch did make me feel slightly mean-spirited at earlier having wished the club’s promotion drive ill.

When we were leaving the ground, the scorer of the last ever goal at the ground Derek Niven, was being interviewed over the tannoy system, and it did give me a little glow of pride to hear him answering in a rich Caledonian brogue.


Panorama of Saltergate, Chesterfield.

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