Chesterfield 1 Walsall 4 - Report and pictures
Jon Whitney began his reign as Walsall's interim boss in dream fashion as the Saddlers thrashed 10-man Chesterfield 4-1, writes Joe Masi at the Proact Stadium.
Two goals from Sam Mantom, a Jordy Hiwula strike and a bizarre own goal from Tom Anderson saw the Saddlers begin life without Sean O'Driscoll with a bang.
In an entertaining encounter, the two teams were level at half-time after both James O'Connor and Anderson scored peculiar own goals.
But Mantom put his side ahead just before the hour mark with Dion Donohue then getting himself sent off for appearing to try and stop Walsall's players from celebrating.
With a man advantage, Walsall ran riot to end a run that had seen them go six games in League One without a win.
In naming his starting line-up, interim boss Whitney showed his intent to move away from the O'Driscoll era by the switching to an attacking 3-5-2 formation.
It meant there was a first start since the beginning of February for talented starlet Rico Henry. Jordy Hiwula also made his full debut since re-joining the Saddlers on loan.
For Chesterfield, in-form Birmingham loanee Lee Novak started as a lone striker in a 4-5-1 system with ex-Wolves forward Sylvan Ebanks-Blake on the subs bench.
Despite sitting at opposite ends of the League One, the Spireites began the game as the form side having gone five matches unbeaten.
But they had to withstand heavy Walsall pressure in the opening 10 minutes with Whitney's side creating three good opportunities to break the deadlock.
First, Tom Bradshaw managed to escape the attentions of Anderson to head a floated Mantom cross wide.
Henry then burst into the box before arrowing a low drive across goal which took the slightest of deflections before sailing past the post.
Undeterred the Saddlers continued to press and threatened once again when Romaine Sawyers pass found Mantom on the edge of the box after a smart dummy from Jason Demetriou.
The Walsall midfielder took aim for the bottom left corner, but goalkeeper Tommy Lee watched the ball drift wide.
Whitney's side had been camped in the Spireites half for the majority of the opening 20 minutes.
Adam Chambers, Paul Downing and James O'Connor excellently swept up second balls to maintain pressure.
Slowly but surely though, Danny Wilson's men grew into the game and they should have taken the lead when Novak showed wonderful skill to bring down Donohue's ball into the box.
The on-loan Birmingham City man found himself just yards from goal, but goalkeeper Neil Etheridge got down brilliantly to save at the striker's feet from point-blank range.
Minutes later, though, and the Spireites were ahead thanks to a bizarre own-goal that appeared to be the fault of both Etheridge and O'Connor in equal measure.
A hopeful free-kick into the box looked to be routine for the goalkeeper, but the ball hit O'Connor on the shoulder before bobbling into the net.
Suddenly, the Saddlers looked shaky at the back with Chesterfield enjoying a sustained spell of pressure.
But it was Whitney's side who threatened next with Hiwula testing Lee with a fierce drive from 20-yards that the goalkeeper did well to hold.
Having shaken off the disappointment of going behind, the Saddlers began pushing forward again and managed to pull level through yet another bizarre own goal.
Mantom collected the ball wide on the right and aimed a cross towards the waiting Bradshaw.
It seemed a delivery which defender Anderson would deal with comfortably and yet the centre-back completely miscued his clearance and ended up slicing the ball into the bottom corner.
With a little over five minutes of the half remaining, both teams looked to edge their noses in front with O'Shea scuffing wide for the hosts and Demetriou firing straight at Lee.
But the teams made their way off at the break all-square following an even and entertaining opening 45 minutes.
After the excitement of the first-half, the game proved to be a bit more cagey following the re-start.
But is sprung to life in the 57th minute when the Saddlers got themselves ahead with a fine Mantom goal that also resulted in Donouhe being sent off.
After Bradshaw had done wonderfully well to hold the ball up and spread it wide to Demetriou – the Saddlers worked it to Mantom who was well placed inside the 'D.'
And the 24-year-old kept his composure to calmly slot the ball in the bottom left-corner for his seventh goal of the season.
The goal was met with wild celebrations from the Saddlers players which Donohue looked to interrupt before seeming to get himself involved in a scuffle with Demetriou.
It prompted an angry reaction from both the Walsall players and fans with referee Ross Joyce taking his time to discuss the events with his assistants, before giving the Spireites man his marching orders.
With the extra man, the Saddlers looked dominant and they piled forward in search of a third goal that would put the game to bed.
It duly arrived in the 71st minute when Hiwula capitalised on another mistake from Anderson.
The striker nipped after the centre-back miss-controlled the ball and then raced clean through on goal before firing past Lee.
Minutes later and Hiwula turned provider as the Saddlers found a fourth.
Sawyers ball into the box was expertly flicked into the path of Mantom but the former Manchester City man. Mantom kept his composure yet again to calmly fire past Lee from six yards.
With Walsall fans jubilant, the Saddlers went in search of a fifth for the last 15 minutes as they enjoyed almost complete control.
They almost found it in stoppage time when Lee managed to stop substitute Bryn Morris poking home from close range after Demetriou had seen a shot blocked.
The final whistle blew minutes later with Saddlers fans making their way out the ground singing at the top of their voice after having seen their team emphatically return to winning ways.
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