Defeat this afternoon for Chesterfield will confirm what’s all but certain relegation back to League two.
Saturday’s trip to Walsall was Spireites’ last realistic chance of hanging on and they gave a performance that was a microcosm of the season as a whole. Some attacking flair but no-one to convert their gilt edged chances whilst a soft under-belly at the back let in goals that should easily have been stopped.
The rock-bottom visitors had two superb chances before the scoring started but Jordan Bowery failed to beat keeper David Grof on both occasions. Mark Randall, starting for the first time since October, won the ball in his own half. He fed Craig Westcarr who slipped a perfect pass to his striking partner whose angled shot was straight at the keeper.
Westcarr again put Bowery free and again his one-on-one was dealt with by Grof.
It was no surprise when Spireites took the lead. Liam Ridehalgh, playing left midfield, delivered a deep cross for Franck Moussa to head home from 15 yards and set up what could have been a desperately needed win.
However within less than quarter of an hour, Walsall’s predatory striker Emmanuel Ledesma showed how to finish. Jon Macken played the ball into the centre where the Argentinian gathered it with ease as the defence stood off and he left-footed beyond Tommy Lee to level. An almost carbon copy move down the right saw Alex Nicholls and Florent Cuvelier carve open the rearguard. Cuvelier fed Ledesma and his left foot again did the necessary finishing.
Ahead of the break Saddlers defender and skipper Andy Butler demonstrated what John Sheridan has been crying out for. His solid leadership and concrete defending saw him and his team mates block a series of Chesterfield shots to prevent Grof from having to intervene.
Spireites showed spirit to level early in the second half. Bowery and Randall played neat football on the left of the box which led to the latter sliding home his first league goal for the club.
With hope again in the Spireites’ vocabulary, the tale of the season continued with Walsall regaining the lead just three minutes later.
West Brom loanee Sam Mantom shot low to clinch the points that could keep Walsall safe, their current run seeing them beaten just once in 12.
Nicholls should have ended any lingering hope of another Chesterfield comeback but he hit wide after being gifted a chance following a mix up between Lee and Nathan Smith and Bowery missed a third opportunity, heading into the side netting from close in at the far post from Ridehalgh’s excellent delivery.
The body language of the Chesterfield players at the final whistle confirmed they felt the slender chance of a great escape was all but severed whilst Wycombe, seven unbeaten and with injury time equalisers in their last three games, will come to the B2net confidently expecting to put the final nail in the coffin of the team with which they made the step up from League Two with last May.
Sheridan, said of the weekend game: “We go 1-0 up and then it’s just us, it’s about the players on the pitch. They know what’s at stake, I picked a different team and then we just shoot ourselves in the foot. We’ve thrown the game away.”