Chesterfield 2 Wolves U23s 1

Visits to Chesterfield have been frequent in the last few years, all in the early tenure of previous Wolves managers.

Mad Mick came to the old Saltergate ground and lost a penalty shoot out in a league cup game, and at the new Proact Stadium in KJ’s first preseason there was a friendly against Paul Cook’s side.

Last night was a step into the unknown as the EFL Checkatrade Trophy provided an untried format for both sides.

However a sparse crowd of some 980 home supporters and 120 hardy Wolves fans were treated to a really good game of football.

The pivotal moment of the game came in the 29th minute when Ethan Ebanks-Landell was dismissed for a two footed tackle.

Both ball and player were missed by the challenge, but the intent was enough to convince the ref. He could have, and should have stayed on his feet and the rush of blood was to make the game very difficult for the young Wolves side thereafter.

By then a good Wolves goal was disallowed for offside, and from a corner kick to the back post, the big home defenders out-jumped Flatt and the ball fell kindly to Sylvan EbanksĀ­-Blake to tap in from two yards.

Funnily enough, before the game I was enjoying hospitality in the Vice President’s Lounge and the Chesterfield Deputy Chairman asked if we were interested in having SEB back for free.

One of the home sides higher earners, the former Wolves man is not their most popular player. He missed a free header and several other chances during the game, so I can possibly understand why.

I’d been looking forward to seeing this young Wolves side play, having read good reports from Stuwolf and others, and I certainly wasn’t disappointed.

The captain was exceptional, frequently drawing applause from the home side as he went past players at will.

For me the whole side played very well, with the left back and left winger also very good. In fact the young lads rarely looked like they were a man short, their work rate, appetite for the game and sheer footballing ability were a joy to behold, I`m sure there are some future stars in that group.

Wolves scored a deserved equaliser, were unfortunate with Chesterfield’s second which took a wicked deflection off a defender and arched over our keeper, and then we sent the keeper the wrong way with a penalty but the ball cannoned back off the post, and a deserved point was lost.

Two matches left in the group, so plenty to play for, the club needs to practice taking penalties, as the last three we’ve missed.

Otherwise a very enjoyable and creditable performance against the odds.

Chesterfield 1 Wolves 2

His palms were sweaty, knees weak, arms were heavy, there was vomit on the Proact Stadium carpet already.

Arthur leading out Wolves at Chesterfield

But my son was 20 minutes away from leading out the Wolves against Chesterfield as mascot, so he was understandably nervous!

Pre-season friendlies don’t usually provide too much of an insight into the season that lies in wait but thanks to the organisation of good friend Mark Davies, the kindness of Chesterfield FC and the youngsters at Kenny Jackett’s disposal, last night was different.

Smallmans on the pitch at Chesterfield

If I learned one thing from our 2-1 win in north Derbyshire, then it’s that however many misdemeanours the club has committed over the past 3 years, I still can’t help but love it.

Not when I look at my 5 year-old boy who was positively beaming at leading the team out with Sam Ricketts, irrespective of the magnitude of this particular fixture and the attendance of around 2,500.

Youth certainly wasn’t wasted on the young as far as Arthur was concerned, as he clapped the away fans as if he was one of the players in purple.

Nor for Kenny Jackett, who is now giving our young players the chances to impress that had never been available previously.

arthur and ben

Following in dad’s footsteps

Of the kids on show, Lee Evans and Zeli Ismail were particularly impressive in second half outings, while Leigh Griffiths looks every inch the striker we have been crying out for, for so long.

Playing on the shoulder of their last man, he was a constant nuisance and didn’t look too dissimilar to a fit and firing Kenny Miller of 2003 vintage.

But while there were many positives to the second half display, the first half still presented a number of questions, with Chesterfield looking the better side, exploiting our left back frailties to equalise through Drew Talbot.

With Sam Ricketts right back, George Elokobi was the man to struggle and with Sako offering no outlet in front of him whatsoever, he didn’t have an easy opening half.

David Edwards looked neat and tidy and opened the scoring, despite it looking to me as if Jake Cassidy had prodded home with the final touch.

In conclusion, this was a keenly contested run-out which offered some genuine signs of hope and progress. In the eyes of a five year-old boy, it was the game of the century, featuring the best side in the whole world who he is now in love with forever.

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