In this series, I review my in-ground experience throughout the campaign, this time for Chesterfield at home. It’s split into two columns, one for home games and the other for away days. I run through various topics from atmosphere to a game review and give some unique observations directly from stadiums up and down the country.
Chesterfield (H): Pre-Match Prediction
With three home games in less than a week, it was a busy period at Stamford Bridge. First had been Liverpool in the Premier League on Sunday evening in a thrilling game – particularly the first half. Then, just a few days later Spurs had visited, although you’d be forgiven for not even noticing them much of the time.
The Blues won 2-0 in the first leg of the Carabao Cup semi-final, putting them in good stead heading into the second leg next week. And now, it was a third different competition, this time seeing the lowest-ranked opponents of the three in the form of Chesterfield travel to West London.
In the FA Cup, ties like these are the lifeblood of the competition, especially for the non-league club themselves. As such, it was an exciting game for all involved, including the impressively large away support that were sat in the Shed End for this game on a drizzly Saturday evening.
With around an hour before kick off, I wrote the following for my pre-match prediction:
‘There’s something about the FA Cup third round weekend that feels truly synonymous with English football. The giants meeting the minnows, the sheer number of games and the rare opportunity for The BBC to broadcast live games are just a few of the defining factors for me.
Regardless, attention must be firmly fixed on our fixture today, as we welcome Chesterfield. They sit in first place in the highest tier of non-league football, known as the National League. It’s a division they’ve been in since their relegation from League 2 back in the 2017/18 season.
As such, while it’s important not to underestimate any opponent, this does feel as though it should be a very comfortable win for Tuchel’s side. At the risk of this backfiring spectacularly come the full time whistle, I’m going for a bold 5-0 victory, with the hope of an academy goalscorer at some point too.’
As I have mentioned previously in this series, it is my aim to have sat in all areas of the stadium by the end of this season. I’ve ticked off five out of a possible eight so far, the most recent of which came in this fixture, where I opted to go for the Matthew Harding Upper tier for a change.
I’ve had plenty of enjoyable games in the lower tier, but with the advantage of ticket prices being the same across the ground, I thought it would be best to mix things up. I’m very glad I did too because, sitting in Row A felt like near on the perfect seat to be in out of all stands.
It’s close enough to the pitch to feel involved in the action, and catch some of the chants from the Lower tier too (although the atmosphere isn’t as good up above). But, due to the height of the seat, you don’t find yourself craning your neck to see the opposite end of the pitch when the ball is in play there either.
If you’re not totally sure where I’m referring to from this seat description, it is the stand to the right of the broadcast camera when watching on TV. I was to the left of the goal, when looking at it face on, but this seat definitely comes close to one of the best I’ve had all season in terms of view.
Chelsea 5-1 Chesterfield: Game Review
In all honesty, this was never going to be the most competitive game, given the level of the opponent (with all due respect). Timo Werner opened the scoring early on with an opportunity he couldn’t miss (though it did seem like he tried his best to do so).
It took a little while for the best goal to come, but it was worth the wait. Callum Hudson-Odoi fired a shot into the bottom right corner, curling it in past the Chesterfield keeper from outside of the penalty area, with brilliant technique.
Just two minutes later the third came, and it was from Romelu Lukaku, scoring for the first time since ‘the interview’. There was another one before half time, from the rarely-scoring Andreas Christensen, and the Blues were four up at the break.
Under 10 minutes into the second half and the Blues had another goal. This time it was Pulisic who was fouled in the box, before Hakim Ziyech (after a mini disagreement over the taker) tucked away the spot kick for 5-0.
For most of the second half, there was very little action at all, with various substitutes being the main highlight. Around the 80th minute however, there was a moment of shocking defending in which the visitors managed to get a goal, sending their fans absolutely wild.
The game then dragged on for a little longer, seemingly meaningless as it was, though it was good for various academy players to be on the pitch for an extended period of time. Eventually though, the referee blew for full time, and Chelsea were through to the fourth round of the FA Cup.
Things you don’t see and hear on TV
In all honesty, this wasn’t a classic in terms of the atmosphere I experienced at the game. It can’t be helped of course – a third round cup game against such lowly opposition is never going to attract the most excited crowd – but it did feel a little disappointing.
That said, I must point out that I am only referring to the home support with that statement. The away fans – who had taken up the whole of the Shed End – produced an impressive noise right throughout the game, so full credit to the visitors for that.
One of the more interesting moments came after Romelu Lukaku’s goal in the first half. The Belgian probably expected to get a mixed reception at first, but, in typical football fan fickleness, he was lauded straight after he made it 3-0.
He responded to the home fans chanting his name with applause towards them from the centre circle, as well as a seemingly apologetic raise of the hand. I’ll leave my opinions on the situation out of this blog, but it does appear that most fans have now moved on.
On a personal note, I fulfilled a long-term goal during the game on Saturday evening. It may seem mundane, but getting the famous ‘Chelsea, Chelsea, Chelsea’ chant going via the medium of hitting the board in front of the first row is a pretty good feeling, it has to be said.
Finally, in what I assume must be a first, or at least an extreme rarity, was the period after the away side got their goal. In recognition of their excellent support and commendable effort, not only did the visiting fans cheer the goal, but the home fans too applauded it too. You’ve got to love the FA Cup.
In the end, this was always going to be a routine win for Chelsea, but it doesn’t hurt to get a big win every now and then. Whether the confidence transfers into the next few games remains to be seen, but it’s a welcome morale boost if nothing else.
Looking ahead, the week gets progressively tougher, with a trip to Spurs to come on Wednesday for a place in the Carabao Cup final. Then there’s the small matter of an away game at Manchester City in the early kick off on Saturday.
I can’t imagine there’ll be any applause for opponents goals then.
Written and Edited by Noah Robson (@noahrobson_)
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