By Jeff Brazier
We see caretaker managers in the dugout more and more these days, but have you ever seen two teams face one another with interims in place, both presiding over their first games in temporary charge? This will be the case when Jason Bristow leads Eastleigh into action as they host Chesterfield with Danny Webb in the dugout for them at Silverlake following James Rowe’s suspension.
Ben Strevens and the club parted company after defeat to Dover, their first in just under 12 calendar months. It was their 3rd defeat in a row and took them down top 14th in the table. Ben undoubtedly leaves the club in a better place than where he found them operating on tight budgets, developing current players like Ryan Hill, Sam Smart, Tom Whelan, Harry Pritchard and Vincent Harper into saleable assets and very nearly getting them to a promotion final, narrowly missing out on pens to Salford in his first season in charge.
I feel for him in that not only are the club averaging 2 points per game at home but if the Ben House departure to Lincoln doesn’t happen, I don’t think he and the club go their separate ways. One thing is for sure though, he won’t be out of management for long. It’s a quite different set of circumstances down at Chesterfield with James Rowe facing an investigation for alleged misconduct, with the club not adding anything since that initial statement early this week leaving many fans wondering what on earth has happened?
Chesterfield have trained at Loughborough University this week, presumably to get a change of scenery and to keep the players focused while the club and Rowe conclude whatever the matter is that is under investigation. When asked if this was a police investigation, Derbyshire constabulary were tight-lipped stating that they could neither confirm nor deny whether a police investigation is taking place in relation to the matter.
One thing is for sure, there’s certainly nothing wrong on the pitch, with Chesterfield sitting a point behind leaders Stockport with a game in hand. The question will be how will both sets of players be impacted on Saturday afternoon? You’d assume Eastleigh will feel they are playing to impress whoever is likely to come in and replace Ben Strevens, but Chesterfield?
They’ve just lost to Maidenhead and drawn with Aldershot, they’ve got on-going injury concerns and now, presuming everyone knows the specific nature of the investigation internally, they must feel like they’re carrying a secret and potentially a burden going in to this one. Could this be derailing for Chesterfields season? Given there are 4 top 7 clubs in an imminent position to overtake them if they falter, they could slip to 6th and then know that any further distractions could see them very quickly drop out of the play off positions altogether.
Here’s my predictions for the afternoon fixtures:
Barnet v Stockport
9 wins in 10 suggest Stockport are taking the initiative and making a charge to the title.
Barnet not a win in their last 4 after a promising start under Brennan but best work done at home.
Boreham Wood v Kings Lynn Town
Garrard unbeaten in 15 and managing games convincingly using all of the experience at their disposal. KL 4 defeats in a row.
Bromley v Notts County
Massive game! Bromley look like Woodman will be around until the end of the season and they’ve just gone 3 wins back-to-back. County 6 unbeaten looking to reintroduce themselves to top 7. Can’t wait to see Zak Brunt in a County shirt.
Dagenham v Halifax
Another pivotal game at the top. Dagenham just 1 defeat in 7 now but there’s an issue with how they’re starting games of late so Halifax will want to be on the front foot from the off. Watched Halifax frustrated by BW last time out, think Dagenham will win.
Dover v Southend
Dover will be encouraged by getting their first win under their belts. Southend now just 1 defeat in 8 with more signings to bolster their squad.
Eastleigh v Chesterfield
Depends if Chesterfield are distracted by off pitch issues with manager James Rowe. Game could be a welcome distraction but being on the box might come at a bad time for both sides with Eastleigh making changes too. Instincts tell me chesterfield will be professional and get their win but Eastleigh formidable at home.
Grimsby v Wealdstone
One win in 8 for the Mariners who despite being early leaders and clearly being a good side are still struggling to string together back-to-back victories. Wealdstone held County midweek but on the road is a different kettle. Love the signing of Raikhy for Grimsby. Didn’t get a chance at Stockport but think he’ll shine.
Solihull v Altrincham
Solihull followed up the Andrew Dallas 5 goal showboating v Dover with an impressive 2-0 win over in form Torquay. Marc Ellis will add strength at the back. Altrincham haven’t won in 10 but signings Jordan Holme and Elliott Osbourne will help them stabilise their drop down the table.
Weymouth v Aldershot
Weymouth better under Oldfield but no win in 9 for the club. In contrast Aldershot just one defeat in 10 even though they’ve drawn their last 3 they’re evidently tough to beat.
Woking v Yeovil
Woking always capable but struggling to hit a run of form, losing Tahvon Campbell to Rochdale wont help. Yeovil were meandering their way up the table until 4 straight defeats so a tough one to call.
Wrexham v Maidenhead
Can Maidenhead add another scalp to the recent collection of Chesterfield, Halifax and Bromley by beating Wrexham? I was there when they did it at the Racecourse last year. Adding AFC Wimbledon’s Palmer and Crewe’s Callum McFazdean to the squad was a real statement of intent with the former opening his account with the winner v Grimsby.