An 85th minute goal from defender Sam Hird gave Spireites a desperately needed win to cut the gap to the play-off zone to two points.
They host last weekend’s Johnstone’s Paint Trophy Wembley losers, Walsall, managed by ex-Owls defender Dean Smith. Chesterfield lost 1-0 at Peterborough a week ago whilst the Saddlers, with almost 30,000 travelling fans in North London for the club’s first ever visit to Wembley, lost 2-0 against League One leaders Bristol City.
Cook has welcomed Byron Harrison back to the squad after a family bereavement whilst Wolves keeper Jon Flatt is also on the bench as cover for Tommy Lee, the signing being made after Aaron Chapman’s ankle began to cause him serious problems. As for the starting eleven, unsurprisingly that’s unchanged from the London Road game as Sam Clucas continues his role as lone striker and Drew Talbot remains at left back. Key man Gary Roberts, who picked up a knock in the last game, has trained normally this week and is able to take his place.
Walsall are without two of their main men, Romaine Sawyers is away on International duty, whilst top scorer Tom Bradshaw’s hamstring keeps him out, but ex Chesterfield man Richard O’Donnell continues his impressive season in goal. Spireites’ U18’s lost a key game at lunchtime, conceding two first half goals at home to title rivals Bradford City.
Mark Smith’s youngsters played most of the good football and created significantly more chances than the Bantams’ whose keeper made a string of fine saves to keep in at 2-0 until the end.
Chesterfield have three games left, home and away against Doncaster Rovers plus another key battle with Bradford, who are level on points with Spireites with a game in hand and a marginally better goal difference.
O’Shea hit high after receiving short from a Roberts free-kick. Darikwa blocked a Taylor cross to concede a corner on Walsall’s left, Evatt headed away and Roberts was fouled in the counter attack. The free-kick on the left of the box was hit high and wide by Banks, who shortly afterwards had the ball in the net at the second time of asking, a header from Roberts’ cross, but referee Mr Friend saw an offence and disallowed it.
Talbot’s powerful 50 yard run and cross almost found Clucas and Ryan’s deep ball in picked out Roberts but his ball in was gathered by O’Donnell as Spireites spent significant chunks of time in Saddlers territory.
Forde took advantage of a Morsy miscue but his shot lacked both power and direction. Talbot and Roberts combined to earn the first home corner, Banks delivered a good ball in that somehow evaded defenders and strikers alike.
O’Shea charged down O’Connor to win a corner, Hird’s header was blocked at source and Banks soon headed just over from Roberts’ cross. Morsy’s cross-field ball found Darikwa but his cross just eluded Clucas as Spireites continued to look the most likely scorers. Cook shot well on the turn from 25 yards but his screamer was just wide as Walsall showed their attacking potential.
Purkiss had to stretch to head away ahead of Talbot from Roberts’ free-kick.
Roberts spooned a ball into the area but Clucas couldn’t take advantage and then Roberts chipped another in, O’Donnell backpedalled to scoop the ball away, it hit Purkiss and bounced out for a corner that saw Ryan’s shot blocked.
Walsall earned a corner from an increasingly rare attack but no danger was created for the home rearguard. O’Shea was denied the chance of a shot by Taylor. Forde hit high from 30 plus yards and Hiwula saw great tackles from Hird and Ryan halt his progress. Talbot made progress and clipped the ball back for Morsy whose shot was blocked by the keeper.
Darikwa’s inviting cross hung in the air for Clucas but the flying front man just couldn’t make contact. Clucas won a corner on the left and another followed immediately but Walsall cleared easily.
Banks took a hefty knock as he burst into the box, no hint of anything illegal by Walsall, but the midfielder had to receive treatment but came back on to continue. Baxendale headed wide from a Taylor cross.
Ryan picked up the game’s first yellow for a foul on Cook after Talbot put his colleague in a difficult position. Ryan’s run was powerful and his shot was clipped out for a corner that Evatt headed over. Darikwa fed Banks whose cross flew out for a corner that, second phase, saw Hird’s shot deflected for another flag kick that was hit low and cleared.
O’Shea’s curling shot hit a defender for corner No.9 that saw Chesterfield mount three phases of attack with no reward. Taylor blocked Banks in the box, but the well positioned referee said no foul.
Subs were made by both sides on 61. Cain and Benning replaced Forde and Baxendale whilst Ariyibi came on for Banks and with his first action saw Chambers hoof his cross over for a corner that saw Talbot launch the ball onto the stand roof.
Purkiss tackled Talbot after he’d received from Ariyibi and from the break he set up Benning hit well over. Adam Chambers won Walsall’s first second half corner, taken short to Purkiss and his shot found James Chambers who headed against the bar and Darikwa did well to clear the rebound.
Roberts and O’Shea were replaced by Dieseruvwe and Harrison as Paul Cook started to throw caution to the wind in search of a desperately needed win.
Ryan’s cross saw Harrison and Dieseruvwe cause consternation in the Saddlers defence but O’Connor headed back for O’Donnell to halt the danger.
Ryan’s free-kick after a foul on Harrison was blocked for another corner that was cleared but led to another Chesterfield free-kick, Clucas took it but it was a little too deep and led to a visiting goal kick.
Flanagan replaced Adam Chambers. Purkiss headed Darikwa’s cross out for a corner, Ryan delivered and SAM HIRD headed in at the far post with 85 minutes played.
Chesterfield’s next corner, in the second of four additional minutes, wasn’t crossed but the attempt to waste some time wasn’t successful and Walsall soon cleared.
Chesterfield: Lee, Darikwa, Evatt, Hird, Talbot, Morsy, Ryan, O’Shea, Banks, Roberts, Clucas. Subs: Flatt, Humphreys, Raglan, Carter, Ariyibi, Dieseruvwe, Harrison.
Walsall: O’Donnell, Purkiss, Taylor, O’Connor, A. Chambers, Mantom, Baxendale, J. Chambers, Cook, Forde, Hiwula. Subs: MacGillivray, Downing, Cain, Benning, Flanagan, Grimes, Murphy. Ref: Kevin Friend (Leicestershire)