Walsall 0-0 Chesterfield (5-3 on penalties)
Isn`t it strange how some matches unexpectedly excite the hell out of you and emphatically showcase the magic that is the FA Cup? Unfortunately tonight was not one of those occasions as the Saddlers stumbled into the 3rd round and an awkward date with their ex in a game so instantly forgettable that by the time I`ve got home I`m struggling to remember worthy of including in the report.
Everything about tonight was mind numbingly tedious. Even my journey home from work before the game took significantly longer than it really should have done and resulted in me sitting there for long periods bored and with nothing happening in front of me. Perhaps it was a sign? I strongly suspect that British astronaut Tim Peake, who tonight begins a six month tour of duty on the International Space Station, is currently experiencing more atmosphere than those in attendance at the Banks`s witnessed tonight.
We lined up in a bizarre 4-3-2-Cook formation (or at least I think that`s what it was meant to be) which was so dysfunctional and misshapen you could have been forgiven for thinking Dean Smith was back in the dugout. It was a lineup and a subs bench that emphasised the lack of depth to our squad as we lined up without a single striker in the 18. And with no target up front for the ball to stick too and nobody to hassle the opposition defence we were as toothless as the average newborn.
Four paragraphs in and eagle eyed readers will have noticed I haven`t yet mentioned anything that actually happened in the game, and the reason for that is that genuinely nothing did, at all, all night; or at least not for the first 105 minutes. It was so bad that had Chesterfield scored a late winner I really wouldn`t have cared, as least it would have prevented extra time. The highlight of the game up to that point had been Milan Lalkovic coming on as a sub and the 4th official (Did anyone notice him? He was tiny! He looked like a Hobbit) putting up the wrong number which almost saw us accidentally bring Anthony Forde off instead of Sam Mantom. Lalkovic that took a free kick that the keeper saved comfortably, then he went on a run that threatened to produce something but didn`t, and then he was reduced to the same level as everyone else.
What brought the game unexpectedly to life was the introduction of James Baxendale at half time of extra time. To be fair he did nothing you wouldn`t expect a player who`d spent the first half of the season in the wilderness, in that he came on, ran with the ball, looked positive and tried to make things happen. It didn`t entirely work, and had we played until Port Vale turned up on Sunday it would have still been 0-0 when they arrived, but at least in the final 15 minutes we actually tried to win it and he was the catalyst for a lot of that good work. Adam Chambers had a deflected effort go wide, Kieron Morris hit the bar and then Baxendale put wide from close range when he should have scored.
The penalties however were emphatic, and confidently smashed home by first Romaine Sawyers, then Jason Demetriou, then George Evans, then Lalkovic, then finally Paul Downing of all people tucked home the winning penalty after Sam Morsy had missed the visitors second spot kick with an effort reminiscent of one I saw Ryan Jarvis take in a shootout at Rochdale in the JPT a few years ago. It sets up a date with Dean Smith`s new charges and adds spice to a tie which, had The Ginger One not deserted us a fortnight ago, would have been just as uninspiring as this one.