Tuesday, 7 March 2017

@BescotBanter 10:16 pm Tuesday, 7 March 2017
MATCH REPORT | Walsall 1 Chesterfield 0

MATCH REPORT | Walsall 1 Chesterfield 0

On Tuesday evening Jon Whitney's Saddlers had the chance to build upon last weekend's victory over Oldham Athletic as they faced Chesterfield at Banks's Stadium.
On Tuesday evening Jon Whitney's Saddlers had the chance to build upon last weekend's victory over Oldham Athletic as they faced Chesterfield at Banks's Stadium. We were in attendance, and our match report is below.

Chesterfield got the match underway, just a week after the original fixture was postponed due to a waterlogged pitch. The visitors saw the best of the action during a scrappy opening few minutes and within five minutes of kick-off, they had won a free-kick inside the Saddlers half, which was taken by Dion Donohue. The Walsall defences cleared the ball but it came back to Donohue who fired well wide of the post with his second attempt.

Nine minutes in, some lovely work from Joe Edwards down the left almost created an opportunity for the Saddlers, but his low cross inside the box was scrambled away by the Chesterfield defences. Better from the home side who had taken a while to get going. Moments later, Walsall were awarded a free-kick when Sam Hird fouled Kieron Morris, but they were unable to create anything from it. It wasn't long before the Saddlers did get a shot in, courtesy of Isaiah Osbourne, who picked up the ball in front of goal from a Jason McCarthy cross, but midfielder's effort sailed high over the Chesterfield goal without troubling Thorsten Stuckmann between the posts.

In the sixteenth minute, Kristian Dennis put the ball into the net, but the linesman's flag was raised for an offside infringement. The Saddlers launched a quick counter attack down the left wing, which culminated in Simeon Jackson firing a low, twenty yard drive towards goal, but Stuckmann was able to gather the weak effort with ease. Walsall continued to enjoy a decent spell of possession and in the nineteenth minute, Stuckmann was again called into action to gather an Erhun Oztumer effort.

The Saddlers continued to see much of the ball, whilst struggling to create much going forward, whilst they limited their opponents to rare counter attacks. In the twentieth minute, Scott Laird was on hand to prevent one such attack culminating in an effort on goal from Osman Kakay, who looked to be heading into a dangerous position after picking the the ball up from Liam Grimshaw. In the twenty fourth minute, Kakay tried to turn provider, sending a left-footed cross in towards Sylvan Ebanks-Blake who was unable to get to the ball before it trickled out.

In the twenty fifth minute, the Saddlers created their first real chance of the game, Morris seeing a shot deflected into the path of Osbourne who looked to be in on goal, but Stuckmann did well to claim the ball ahead of the Walsall man to deny him. The Spireites goalkeeper required treatment following his heroics, but was soon back on his feet and able to continue.

As we reached the half hour mark, the visitors were awarded a free-kick for a foul on Kakay by Laird. Dan Jones stepped up to take the set-piece, but was only able to find the head of a Walsall player with his effort. The loose ball fell kindly for Hird, but the Walsall defences stood strong to clear his cross. Moments later, Kakay was again involved, setting up Dennis who was given space to turn on the edge of the box, before firing an effort straight at Neil Etheridge in the Walsall goal.

Ten minutes before the break, some clever build-up play from his Saddlers team-mates, Morris and Eoghan O'Connell, put Oztumer in shooting range, but the midfielders twenty yard effort on goal sailed over the bar without troubling Stuckmann. Moments later, Morris had a shot of his own after showing some superb skill to pass Angel Martinez, but his curling effort was denied by a one-handed save from the Spireites 'keeper.

In the forty second minute, Stuckmann was again called into action to deny Jackson, whose powerful, low effort looked to be heading for the back of the net. The resulting corner was initially cleared by the Chesterfield defences, but only as far as O'Connell who turned the ball back in, only to see Stuckmann gather with ease. Some excellent defending on display from both teams, but little really on show from either side going forward.

Moments before the break, McCarthy combined well with Jackson to set up one last chance in the first half, but there was nobody there to connect with the low ball across the face of goal and the ball trickled out for a goal-kick, which was the last real action of a half in which both teams struggled in front of goal, heading in at the interval with the scores tied at nil-nil.


Walsall got the match back underway, with the teams unchanged. The visiting side started the half the brighter of the two sides, without really looking likely to score, but they did win a free-kick in the forty eighth minute when O'Connell fouled  Dennis. Donohue's effort was easily cleared by the Saddlers defences and the home side launched a counter attack, which culminated in a tackle from Hird preventing them getting the ball into the Spireites' area. Some good play from both sides early in the second half, but with a lack of finishing power on display.

That changed in the fifty third minute, when the Saddlers won a corner from a deflection on a long-range Morris strike. Oztumer played a lovely ball in from the flag-kick, which was flicked on by James O'Connor for Laird, who coolly turned the ball home at the back post to put his side into the lead.

Five minutes after the goal, the visiting bench opted to make two changes to their starting line-up as they hunted a route back into the game, Angel Martinez and Dan Jones the men to make way for Dan Gardner and Reece Mitchell. The Walsall bench also took the opportunity to make a change to their starting eleven, replacing Simeon Jackson with Amadou Bakayoko as they looked to build on their advantage.

As we reached the hour mark, the Saddlers were on the hunt for a second goal, but Osbourne's low, driven effort from twenty yards out sailed inches wide of the upright. Moments later, at the other end, Hird set up Ebanks-Blake in the area, but the Saddlers defences stood firm to block the effort on goal. The visitors continued to press, and in the sixty third minute, Ebanks-Blake played in Kakay on the right, but the cross in towards the box was cleared, before the ball fell to Grimshaw whose left-footed effort trickled through to Etheridge who gathered with ease.

In the sixty fifth minute, the Saddlers regained the ball and brought it forward, where Stuckmann was again on hand for the visiting side to palm away a twenty yard effort from Morris. Walsall were unable to repeat their earlier corner and the Spireites regained possession.  Three minutes later, the home side came again, with Oztumer finding his way into the box before firing a right-footed effort just wide of the post. A wasted opportunity to double his sides advantage.

Seventy two minutes in, the Saddlers were awarded another free-kick when Kakay fouled Osbourne. The set-piece was put put behind by Spiteites captain, Ian Evatt for a Walsall corner. The ball was whipped into the box by Joe Edwards, falling to Bakayoko who saw his near-post effort deflected out for another corner, which was claimed by Stuckmann.

In the seventy seventh minute, the Walsall bench opted to make their second change of the evening, bringing on George Dobson in place of Kieron Morris as they looked to shore up their defences. Three minutes after the change, the first yellow card of the game was show, as Liam Grimshaw was booked for a foul on McCarthy.

With just nine minutes of the game remaining, the visitors used their final substitution, introducing David Faupala in place of Kristian Dennis. Moments after the change, the Saddlers were awarded a free-kick on the edge of the area following a handball offence from Gardner. Oztumer struck the ball well, sending a left-footed, curling effort over the wall, towards goal, but Stuckmann got behind the ball to push it away, keeping his side in the tie.

Six minutes from time, the Saddlers made their final change of the evening, bringing on Andreas Makris in place of Erhun Oztumer.

The visitors pushed for a late equaliser as time quickly ran down, and in the eighty ninth minute, their pressure was rewarded with a free-kick in the Walsall half. Evatt got his head to the ball, but the Walsall defences once again stood firm to clear the danger. Moments later, the Spireites got the ball through the Saddlers defensive line, when Hird's head connected with a Donohue cross, but the looping effort was held by Etheridge, keeping his sides slender lead intact.

The Saddlers pushed for a late second to put the game to bed, as we headed into five additional minutes  awarded at the end of ninety, with Makris flashing an effort just wide of the mark, before Dobson curled a shot just wide of the far post from inside the box, when it looked easier to score than to miss.

The Spireites won a late corner in stoppage time, which Donohue whipped into the box. Etheridge came out but was unable to claim and it looked like Evatt would find a late equaliser, but his headed effort sailed wide of the upright and the home side got the ball back up to the other end, out of danger, where they won a corner of their own. The flag-kick came to nothing, but it mattered not as they had done enough to secure all three points as they continue to chase a place in the Play-Offs.

HT | 0-0
GOAL | Laird (53')
ATTENDANCE | 3,963 (188 Chesterfield)
REFEREE | Robert Lewis (Shrewsbury)

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