Tom Denton 3 boo boys 0 '“ but Chesterfield striker and boss have it all to do again on Saturday
Is there a finer way to respond to your critics than by scoring a hat-trick in an FA Cup win?
On Tuesday night at Billericay Tom Denton came up with the perfect riposte to the supporters who jeered his arrival onto the Proact pitch in the previous game.
It was a jarring moment, when his second half introduction as a substitute was greeted in such a way by a section of the Kop, because for all of Chesterfield’s woes in recent seasons, this might well have been a first.
There have been boos aplenty and chants of ‘you’re not fit to wear the shirt’ but I can’t recall an instance of a player being hammered before he’s even had a chance to contribute.
For some players it might act as the perfect motivation, but others could wilt under it, which makes it a difficult response to understand.
Supporters, surely, want Denton to do well.
And had his header from a Sam Muggleton long throw crept into the net instead of being clawed out by the keeper, you can bet your house that those jeering minutes earlier would have been cheering.
But the 6ft 5ins frontman didn’t have long to wait to silence his critics.
On Tuesday he swept home the first goal of the game, nodded in the second and tucked away the third to earn himself the match ball and become the first Spireite to score a hat-trick from open play since Leon Clarke’s 2011 treble.
Tom Denton 3, boo boys 0.
Few will find the humble pie distasteful, however.
Sometimes it’s quite nice to be wrong.
That’s six goals in 13 games, which isn’t too shoddy a return for a player who just weeks ago was plying his trade in the part-time game.
Not to mention the six he scored for Alfreton before Town signed him.
No one who jeered on Saturday will have done so because they hold any personal grudge against Denton himself – it was more a protest at what he’s been seen as recently.
For some, Denton represents a choice, on behalf of the management team, to go long, to lump it to the big man, to hurl the ball – via Sam Muggleton’s hands – into the area from anywhere inside the opponent’s half.
That’s what they were jeering.
But Denton put in a far more effective performance than the man he replaced.
Marc-Antoine Fortune, for all his technical ability and pedigree as a former Champions League striker, contributed very little.
Instead it was the former Wakefield and Worksop striker who gave Havant and Waterlooville problems.
On Tuesday night, he was more than Billericay could handle.
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None of the goals came directly from direct play.
Lee Shaw created the first with that dogged attitude of his that makes you want to see him succeed, scampering down the right, refusing to give up on it when the ball looked lost for a second and picking out Denton six yards from goal.
Goal number two was from a set-piece second phase.
Number three came thanks to Levi Amantchi’s awkward style on the counter attack.
How nice to see him making a positive, tangible contribution days before his 18th birthday.
For each of Denton’s goals, he was in exactly the right place at the right time – showing anticipation and movement to benefit from Lee Shaw’s excellent work for the first and predatory instinct for the second and third.
You can’t ask for more from a striker.
As has been said before, if he gets service, he will score goals.
Ideally, you want Denton facing the opponent’s goal when the ball comes into the box from out wide.
There’s nothing ugly about that.
Goals will turn critics into fans and a cult hero status will follow.
Denton hasn’t got it made, just yet, though.
That goals for column in the National League table is appalling and needs to be rectified if this season is to be salvaged at all.
And there’s still plenty of work ahead for Martin Allen, who can boast a 10-game unbeaten run.
Whatever your thoughts on his summer recruitment (which he admits wasn’t good enough), or the results so far (which he admits haven’t been good enough) you have to hold your hands up and say he got it right in midweek.
The man he brought back into the starting line-up produced the goods.
Come 3pm on Saturday, they’ll have to do it all over again if they want to hear cheers and not jeers.
It’s a long time since Chesterfield tasted defeat but it’s even longer since they picked up three points.
An FA Cup win is an irrefutable boost.
A league victory would silence even the harshest of critics.