Comparing and contrasting two non-league hotshots who became Spireites

Kristian Dennis has kicked open the door for Lee Shaw to walk straight into Chesterfield affections.

Wednesday, 18th July 2018, 2:16 pm
Updated Wednesday, 18th July 2018, 2:17 pm
Lee Shaw with new manager Martin Allen and assistant manager Adrian Whitbread (Pic: Tina Jenner)

The Grantham Town striker, signed on Monday by Martin Allen, has been met with a warm reception, despite going entirely under the radar for 99 per cent of Spireites up until now.

He can thank Dennis for that, because Town fans know the potential benefits of signing a prolific non-league goalscorer.

He won’t thank Dennis, or anyone else, for the comparisons, but they’re natural.

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Before he came to the Proact, Dennis was banging in the goals across the Greater Manchester region in the Evo-Stik and Conference North.

He was a willing runner, happy to chase and harry.

Dennis quit his day job with a tangible measure of glee before becoming a full-time professional with Town.

Shaw has been a ‘menace’ for Evo-Stik defences in the words of one non-league boss.

He’s known for never giving defences a second’s peace.

Shaw does what Allen badly needed someone to do – run in behind defences and stretch the play.

He’s fired in an impressive 61 goals in his last two seasons with the Gingerbreads.

In the same way that Dennis had that happy-go-lucky outlook for much of his time at Town, Shaw is over the moon to be here, not least because it meant he could hand his notice in at a packaging factory.

When he says he’s delighted to sign, you can believe it.

Chesterfield FC might have fallen somewhat from the lofty heights of League One’s top end, but a club like this, its shiny stadium and sizeable fanbase still represents the dream to non-league part-timers like Dennis and Shaw.

Even for those for whom part-time football makes more financial sense than full-time would surely rather be on the training ground playing football every day than in an office or a warehouse?

Packing boxes or being a fox in the box? It’s a no brainer, as the football cliche goes.

The dream, however, is like anything worth having – it doesn’t come easy.

Shaw could do worse than to get on the phone to Dennis and get some advice about making the step up to the full-time game.

There are pitfalls, the increase in physical demands on the body can take a toll.

It took Dennis time to adjust, there were niggles along the way as his body grew accustomed to more regular training and the leap in intensity.

Defenders in the National League will be bigger, faster and stronger than many of their Evo-Stik counterparts.

The time Shaw has to make on-pitch decisions will be that little bit shorter, although arguably the service he receives should be improved.

One area in which he and Dennis differ, as brand new Chesterfield signings is expectation.

For Dennis, a double figure goalscoring tally in his debut season was seen as perfectly acceptable before he took to the field.

In Ched Evans and Sylvan Ebanks-Blake, the Spireites supposedly had two more likely sources of goals.

During the campaign Conor Wilkinson and David Faupala, both with higher profiles than Dennis, joined on loan spells.

As it turned out, Dennis outscored them all that season and was one of very few Spireites to emerge with any kind of credit as relegation to League Two was confirmed.

Shaw doesn’t have the luxury of looking around the dressing room to see a number of more experienced frontmen who have been prolific at higher levels than he.

As I write this, only Gozie Ugwu keeps Shaw company in the ‘out and out striker’ department.

Town are going to need goals from Shaw, quite a few in fact.

Until that third striker is added to the squad, the attacking options for Allen are fairly limited.

There are no guarantees that Ugwu and Shaw will find form and plunder the necessary goals to get Town up.

There’s also nothing to say they won’t click as a duo and help themselves to 15 or 20 apiece.

You can see how it might work, the 6ft 1ins Ugwu winning flick ons for Shaw, buzzing around the last defender’s shoulder, to run onto.

Add another frontman and the possibility of goals from midfielders Charlie Carter, Joe Rowley, Curtis Weston and Zavon Hines, and Town may well have enough.

However, it’s another breath of fresh air for supporters of the Sheffield Road club.

Shaw is not a big name signing taking far too big a pay packet home with him, safe in the knowledge that his contract contains a second year even if he doesn’t deliver.

Shaw has it all to prove and will be keen as mustard to ensure Spireites forget all about the last non-league hotshot to arrive at the Proact.