Walsall 3 Chesterfield 2
Chesterfield failed to take what was realistically their last chance to mount a last-gasp challenge for safety, writes Phil Tooley.
John Sheridan’s side led through Franck Moussa’s 20th minute goal but by the 33rd minute they were behind.
Argentinian Emmanuel Ledesma, borrowed from QPR, showed just what a striker needs to do. He converted a left-footed brace after receiving little in the form of defensive resistance.
Prior to Moussa’s goal, Jordan Bowery was presented with two gilt-edged chances but keeper David Grof won both duels.
Mark Randall, in his first start since October, equalised nine minutes into the second half meaning both central midfielders had scored in the same game for the first time in the manager’s reign.
The hope of turning the game around lasted just four minutes as Sam Mansom, a West Brom colleague of James Hurst, slipped home a pass from Chesterfield-born ex-Spireite Kevan Hurst to all but condemn the League Two champions to another tilt at that title.
Sheridan made three changes. Neal Trotman’s injury, which is expected to keep him out for most of the rest of the season, meant Simon Ford returned. Mark Allott was rested, hence Randall’s return while Alex Mendy was on the bench allowing Nathan Smith to return.
Bowery’s early openings, the first a three-on-two attack, came from passes by Craig Westcarr put him through. However, the 20-year-old was unable to get the better of the keeper on both occasions.
The Spireites went in front when Ridehalgh’s deep cross found the head of Moussa who converted from 15 yards for his second goal for the club.
The lead lasted seven minutes. Jon Macken fed Ledesma who found far too much space on the edge of the box and he calmly slotted home.
Walsall’s Hurst then had two cracking shots from distance, one was just over and the other saved by Tommy Lee.
Alex Nicholls and Florent Cuvelier picked the pocket of the Chesterfield defence and Ledesma was again the beneficiary.
He controlled well, strode forwards and left-footed home, again with defenders watching rather than intervening.
At the other end skipper Andy Butler showed how to lead and defend as he and his back line colleagues blocked a host of shots to keep Grof out of further action.
Randall’s leveller came from a more than decent move, with Bowery the assistant with a top notch one-two with the ex-Arsenal man who scored his first league goals for the club in some style but hope was short lived.
Mantom’s finish was inch perfect and the side now beaten just once in 12 rarely looked like surrendering their advantage. Indeed Nicholls should have secured the points when he shot wide after Lee and Smith had miscommunicated on the edge of the box.
Jimmy Juan returned to the fray and was immediately booked for a full-blooded challenge on Ledesma but that fighting tackle was too little, too late and the Chesterfield players trooped off the park knowing their fate was all but sealed.
Chesterfield: Lee, Talbot, Thompson, Ford (Juan 85), Smith (Ajose 66), Hurst, Randall, Moussa, Ridehalgh, Bowery, Westcarr (Boden 85). Subs (not used): Whitaker, Mendy.
Walsall: Grof, Beevers, Butler, Smith, Sadler, Nicholls, Mantom, Cuvelier, Hurst (Chambers 88), Ledesma, Macken (Paterson 67). Subs (not used): Walker, Lancashire, Bowerman.
Referee: Mick Russell (Herts).
Attendance: 4,051 (339 from Chesterfield).