The battle of the caretaker managers turned into the battle of the bizarre goals as Chesterfield levelled late on to earn an FA Cup replay.
In a game that had to deal with Storm Desmond’s gale-force winds, Manchester City loanee fed advanced right-back Jason Demetriou who stretched to keep the ball in play and his considerable efforts saw the ball pulled back from the by-line and hit Richard Wood’s shoulder to fly in, a real fluke to give the Saddlers a 19th minute lead.
With time running out, sub Ollie Banks’ free-kick into the box was caught by the wind, Sam Hird matched Demetriou’s earlier efforts to keep the ball in and it looped into the danger area. Sam Morsy seemed to get the last touch, maybe even off his arm, another bizarre score.
Between the goals, Sylvan Ebanks-Blake, who had a terrific second half, hit the bar with an overhead kick as well as seeing close-range efforts blocked time and again. Dion Donohue blocked a Milan Lalkovic header on the line while Lee Novak came within a whisker with a 45-yard effort after keeper Neil Etheridge left his area and hashed a clearance.
After the equaliser, Demetriou rattled the bar from a 35-yard wind-assisted free-kick as the game ended in a frenzy.
Mark Smith, in charge for his first Chesterfield game, was pleased with the afternoon’s work.
He said: “I thought the lads we a different class. The attitude and application has been first class all week and it was there in the game in abundance.
“We’d got some lads out there who really care about what’s happening, what went on before, and they desperately want to put things right.
“Credit goes out to both teams for making a bit of a spectacle of it. The wind was horrendous, probably the worst I’ve ever been involved in.
“I was pleased we got something out of the game. We deserved something out of the game.”
Regarding his team shake-up, he added: “We went in to the game on the back of four defeats so I couldn’t think of playing the same formation, but we’d lost a valuable player in Dan Jones who’d suit the three-at-the-back formation.
“Whether we play that all of the time is another matter but it was a change. The opposition will have watched us and will have thought 4-4-2 or 4-2-3-1 so throwing something different in may catch them out.
“I thought if I could get all my experienced players on the pitch for my first game, then I would, and from there, who knows?”
Smith was delighted with his side’s late goal.
“It was testimony to the lads,” he said. “We put a late ball into the box, Sam Hird does brilliant to keep the ball alive, puts in in there and it’s a toss of a coin who got the final touch, which meant we came away with something we deserved. I think I may even claim it!”
Chesterfield: Lee 6, Evatt 7, Hird 7, Wood 5 (Raglan 70), Talbot 8, Morsy 6, O’Neil 7, Donohue 6 (Gardner 64, 7), O’Shea 5 (Banks 64, 6), Ebanks-Blake 7, Novak 7. Subs not used: Cairns, Dieseruvwe, Ariyibi, Simons.
Walsall: Etheridge 6, Demetriou 7, O’Connor 7, Downing 6, Henry 7, Chambers 8, Sawyers 5, Morris 7 (Forde 60, 6), Evans 6 (Mantom 77), Lalkovic 7 (Bakayoko 85), Cook 5. Subs not used: MacGillivray, Taylor, Baxendale, Preston.
Ref: Richard Clark (Northumberland).
Attendance: 4126 (743).