Match analysis: Walsall 1 Chesterfield 0 - Saddlers inflict another defeat on off-form Spireites

Walsall vs Chesterfield -  Sam Clucas fires towards goal- Pic By James Williamson
Walsall vs Chesterfield - Sam Clucas fires towards goal- Pic By James Williamson
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Paul Cook saw his side slip to consecutive league defeats for the first time in a year.

Lowly Walsall, equal lowest scorers in the division, took one of their chances to end their own run of three straight defeats.

Tom Bradshaw’s neat flick over Tommy Lee just beyond the hour mark was enough to send Chesterfield home pointless for a fourth successive time on the road.

Cook, who gave a debut to defensive midfield Huddersfield loanee Oscar Gobern in a 4-1-4-1 formation was understandably frustrated.

He said: “We’re just going through that period now, it’s what happens in football, it’s confidence. When everything’s going well and going right for you, everything breaks for you. We’re going through it now, make no bones about it, and what we need to do at times like this is to stay strong.

“I’ll stay as positive as I can be; it’s a difficult league with very strong teams in it. We wanted to come here, be more solid and harder to beat and the disappointing thing is we haven’t kept a clean sheet when we set up to do that.

“I felt we had enough breakaways in the first half to go on and score but when Walsall scored it took the life out of us and our players are going through a period of feeling sorry for themselves; as a professional footballer, that’s wrong, you’re a lucky person to be in sport.

We had 1000 people here today and it’s a privilege to play on front of them, so at times like this you’ve got to stick your shoulders out and be counted. As a manager, that’s what I’ll make sure we do.”

As well as Gobern, Dan Gardner came in for his first start of the season after recovering from a problematic hernia injury; Ollie Banks and Jay O’Shea stepped down.

An even first half saw a number of decent half chances; Tommy Lee’s former understudy Richard O’Donnell beat away a fierce Sam Clucas shot as well as back pedaling to gather a long range chip from the same man, Spireites’ most dangerous player on the day. Clucas also zipped a header just wide of the target.

Jimmy Ryan burst through, running 50 or more yards but his shot was tame whilst he was denied by a fantastic Andy Taylor challenge as he set to shoot from a good position.

Lee had to dive to catch a Bradshaw downward header from a pinpoint Taylor cross, he should have been forced to work harder but the striker’s unmarked effort was weaker than you’d have expected.

Romaine Sawyers, identified beforehand as the Saddlers’ playmaker to be marshaled by Gobern, hit a 20 yarder within a whisker and also played a neat back-heel to Jordan Cook but Tendayi Darikwa’s block was of the highest order.

All square at the break with the opening five minutes of the second half, Spireites acknowledged Achilles heel to come.

The visitors decided to go all out attack from the whistle, Clucas forced another decent stop from the keeper as the dreaded period passed with Spireites on the front foot.

Gardner, Ryan and Sam Morsy all went close ahead of former Owl Dean Smith sending on Anthony Forde and the 20 year old raider changed the balance of the game.

His close control and burst of pace proved difficult for Spireites and he was involved in the build-up, Walsall’s best move of the game, for the goal, which saw Bradshaw receive after a series of left-sided and central passes to score on his return after three weeks out injured.

Clucas headed wide, was a fraction away from an Eoin Doyle cross and Morsy saw a shot deflected wide but the gilt edged chance that always looked like coming Chesterfield’s way saw sub Gary Roberts drag the ball wide, unmarked, from eight yards deep into stoppage time.

Just one win in eight for the Proact side, tenth place is still occupied and few would have scoffed at that in the summer, but Cook knows he needs to re-find the winning formula again.

The creative Daniel Johnson, not involved at Walsall, returns to Villa in a week after his three month loan and the manager is promising more changes as he seeks to make his side more resilient at the back and more potent up front, the holy grail of balances.

Swindon, one place above Spireites, visit the Proact tomorrow for what is a crucial game for the North Derbyshire side as they look to regain the style and the winning habit that they started the season with.

Walsall: O’Donnell 7, Purkiss 7, J.Chambers 6, Downing 7, Taylor 8, Baxendale 6 (Forde 57, 8), A.Chambers 6, Cain 6 (Mantom 78), Sawyers 6, Cook 6 (Benning 82), Bradshaw 7. Subs (not used): MacGillivray, O’Connor, Grimes, Manset.

Goal: Bradshaw 61

Chesterfield: Lee 6; Darikwa 7, Evatt 6, Margreitter 7, Jones 6; Gobern 6 (Banks 88); Gardner 7 (Roberts 70, 6), Ryan 6 (O’Shea 70, 6), Morsy 6, Clucas 8; Doyle 6. Subs (not used); Hunt, Raglan, Humphreys, Boco.

Ref: Kevin Wright (Cambridgeshire)

Bookings: Evatt, Darikwa (Chesterfield)

Attendance: 4230 (938 from Chesterfield)