Sam Morsy’s last minute equaliser earned Chesterfield a replay as they drew 1-1 with Walsall in Mark Smith’s first game as the Spireites’ caretaker manager.
Jason Demetriou’s deflected effort had given the Saddlers a 19th minute lead and despite numerous good chances for the hosts in the second half, including a Sylvan Ebanks-Blake overhead kick off the underside of the crossbar, it looked as if Walsall would be heading through.
But in the final minute of normal time, Morsy scrambled home an Ollie Banks free kick to salvage a draw. The two sides will now meet at the Bescot Stadium a week on Tuesday to decide who joins the big names in Round 3.
Temporary manager Smith had decided to shake things up following the four consecutive defeats that had cost the departing Dean Saunders his job last Saturday.
Chesterfield set up in a 3-5-2 formation rarely seen before at the Proact Stadium, with the returning Drew Talbot and home debutant Dion Donohue in the all-important wing back role while Lee Novak and Ebanks-Blake led the attack.
This second round tie saw the rare occurrence of two caretaker bosses going head to head as John Ward took charge of Walsall following Dean Smith’s decision to take over at Championship club Brentford.
Ward’s Walsall side were in good form, sitting 3rd in the League 1 table having won their last two games. However, they were still searching for a first ever victory at the Spireites’ current stadium at the third attempt and had lost to Chesterfield at home less than two months ago.
The contest got off to a fairly even start with no clear-cut chances as the two teams felt each other out early on. In fact, the game’s opening goal appeared to catch everyone by surprise in the 19th minute when Demetriou’s cross from the byline somehow found the net via a Richard Wood deflection.
Chesterfield looked to bounce back from this freak goal quickyl and largely dominated the remainder of the first half. Goalkeeper Neil Etheridge was almost caught out when he raced off his line before a poor clearance gifted Novak an opportunity, but the forward sent his effort just wide of the empty net with his back to goal.
But the visitors did manage to hold on to their lead until the break and came out on top at the start of the second period, coming close to doubling the advantage on a couple of occasions.
Donohue was the hero on the post when Paul Downing’s glancing header looked destined to find the net before being blocked on the line. Jordon Cook then found himself with a time and space in the box just two minutes later but couldn’t keep his free header down.
Having survived this onslaught at the start of the second half, the game began to swing the Spireites’ way once again as the piled on the pressure in search of an equaliser.
Ebanks-Blake, who the manger would later describe as “unplayable this afternoon”, saw a couple of efforts go wide of the target before, with less than 20 minutes left, a trio of close-calls left the home fans in disbelief – Gardner and Ebanks-Blake both having goal-bound shots blocked on the line before a superb overhead kick from the experienced forward bounced off the underside off the bar.
It looked to be Walsall’s day as the game wore on towards the 90 minute mark. But in the final minute of normal time, Sam Hird did brilliantly to keep a Banks free kick alive and the ball was bundled home by Morsy (definitely not Novak, as credited!) to send the Proact Stadium ecstatic.
The drama wasn’t over however, as both teams came inches away from a winner in the four minutes of additional time. Sam Mantom almost broke Chesterfield hearts when his effort directly from a free kick smashed off the crossbar, before Charlie Raglan forced an instinctive save from Etheridge at the other end to send the game to a replay.
Reflecting on his first game at the helm, Smith said: “I’m pleased we got something from the game because we deserved it. Application was excellent as it has been all week and it sounded like there were much more than 4,000 people in the stadium today.”
Asked whether he would be interested in the full time position, the caretaker boss added: “I’ve not really got a taste for it, I knew what to expect and I’m glad we got what we deserved.
“I enjoyed it because it’s football and it’s my life. But whether I’d look forward to it every Saturday is another matter. Right now I’m just doing my job for the club.”
Chesterfield and Walsall will now meet again at the Bescot Stadium on Tuesday 15th December to decide who advances to the prestigious third round, where there is the potential to meet with the biggest names in English football.
Line-up: Lee, Talbot, Hird, Evatt, Wood (Raglan ’75), Donohue (Gardner ’64), O’Neil, Morsy, O’Shea (Banks ’65), Ebanks-Blake, Novak
Unused subs: Cairns, Simons, Dieseruvwe, Ariyibi
Scorers: Morsy ’90
Line-up: Etheridge, Demetriou, O’Connor, Downing, Chambers, Sawyers, Henry, Lalkovic (Bakayoko ’85), Morris (Forde ’60), Cook, Evans (Mantom ’77)
Unused subs: Taylor, Baxendale, MacGillivray, Preston
Scorers: Demetriou ’19
Attendance: 4126 (743 away)
Date: 5th December 2015
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