Walsall 1-2 Chesterfield
17/10/2015 - 15:00
Anyone who was in danger of getting carried away following our rise to the top of the league was brought back down to earth with a bump, after the Saddlers produced an uninspiring performance that showed up all of our inadequacies against a spirited Chesterfield side who fully deserved their victory. A clean sheet from Craig MacGillivray and a winning goal from Liam Kinsella last weekend was not enough for either to keep their places, with Neil Etheridge and Jason Demetriou coming back in; but it was the loss of the injured James O`Connor, replaced by Matt Preston, that was to prove the most costly.
Having started brightly in the opening moments, the Saddlers fell behind as early as the fifth minute. as a nervy Preston lost ex Wolves man Sylvain Ebanks-Blake who rose to head in Chris Herd`s cross. The Saddlers appeared to be lacking in confidence and seemed as if they needed a goal to get them going. Unfortunately Lee in the Spireites goal was having one of those days, producing a stunning stop to deny Tom Bradshaw and then following it up by pushing a Sam Mantom effort onto the post after Romaine Sawyers had played him in.
Half time arrived, and while it already felt like it was going to be one of those days, we could at least take comfort from the fact we had options on the bench in the form of Anthony Forde, Keiron Morris and Milan Lalkovic. Smith however opted to bring on Jordan Cook. It would be a lie to say the change nearly worked, but we came within the width of a post of equalising just moments into the second half when an Adam Chambers drive deflected out of the reach of Lee but still cannoned back off the frame of the goal.
Things went from bad to worse minutes later however as, after a brief delay for an injury to goalkeeper Etheridge, the Saddlers failed to switch on and duly fell two goals behind when Ian Evatt headed home from the resulting corner. It was effectively game over as at no point did we look like a side capable of scoring multiple goals and, even with the ref doing his best to clamp down on the visitors time wasting, it didn`t really matter. Morris and Lalkovic came on for the injured duo Sam Mantom and Andy Taylor, but having brought Cook on to go two upfront at half time, our ability to change shape was completely hamstrung unless we pulled Bradshaw off; something that quite rightly was never going to happen.
The board went up for 6 minutes injury time, and remarkably the Saddlers found themselves back in the game when Matt Preston fired in from close range after a Cook header had hit the bar. It was bittersweet for the rookie centre half who, having been unlucky enough to spend his afternoon up against Ebanks-Blake, had also spent the whole game being told how rubbish by some 16 year old kid with a bum-fluff moustache a couple of seats down from where I was. Preston`s time will come, hopefully that kid will sit somewhere else in future.
While our early season form still keeps us in the automatic promotion places, and with two away games in the coming week which you have to be optimistic about due to our incredible away record. However, the fact we`ve already failed to beat Oldham (21st), Bury (4th), Crewe (24th) and now Chesterfield (14th) at home so far this season, it`s obvious where the improvement needs to be. Of our three home wins, only Doncaster weren`t top of the league at the time we beat them is in itself concerning. The silver lining to that is our next home game is against Gillingham, who are currently top.
Let`s just hope it was one of those days, but recent history suggests our home form against the leagues lower teams will continue to be our achilles heel. Regardless of what formation we play, that`s a situation that needs sorting out or it will risk derailing our season.