Saddlers subdue Swindon
The Saddlers returned to Walsall with a well deserved point today.
Steve Jones put them one ahead in the last minutes of the first half after great closing down by Alex Nichols. The Robins responded with a goal bundled over the line 10 minutes after the break.
Walsall lined up with Rene Gilmartin in goal, Westlake rightback, Vincent at left back -returning to the County Ground for the first time after signing from them at the beginning of this season, and proudly wearing the Captains armband.
Centrebacks were Macdonald and Smith. Midfield saw Matt Richards partnering Taundry in centre midfield after Mattis was unavailable due to an Achilles injury. Gray on the left Jones on the right. Up front Deeney and Nichols. Byfield was unavailable with a knee injury.
Subs included the Swindon legend Sam Parkin - receiving numerous cheers from a worshipping Robins crowd.
The first half started well for the Saddlers; forcing 5 corners in the first ten minutes. A fantastic Mcdonald header from one of Gray's corners was superbly kept out by the Swindon stopper.
20 mins into the game Swindon were looking the stronger, working very intelligently up front, frequently doubling up on Westlake. It was a great end-to-end game with both sides creating chances and amazingly after 30 minutes we still had 11 men on the field - which we managed to maintain for the full ninety ! A rarity these days.
On 44 minutes some fantastic closing down by Nicholls forced the Swindon keeper to a bad pass to his defender. The ball got stuck under the defender's feet and Nicholls closed down again to grab the ball back and neatly pass to Jones running into the area and slotted the ball home into bottom left of the goal. 1-0 to the Super Saddlers.
The second half started brightly for Swindon with Walsall on the back foot - maybe the glorious sunshine and their heroic exploits at Huddersfield were taking their toll. On 9 minutes they did well to keep Swindon out with a ball headed against the post and out for a corner. However, the corner saw the ball knocked back into the goalmouth and was bundled (handled??) into the net by Swindons Charlie Austin
The Walsall crowd went mad with cries of 'cheat cheat' - though they had to accept it stood.
The ref was being a little one-sided towards Swindon at this point with free kicks awarded against Walsall for just staring too hard at the opposition. On 56 minutes one of these innocuous fouls led to a Swindon free kick which only just whistled past Walsall's goal.
On 58 Walsall were finally awarded a free kick - cue ironic cheers from the faithful 196 followers.
On 69 some great work on the Walsall right and a dummy from Jones let in Nicholls on goal who unfortunately did not take the chance.
On 70 minutes Swindon's Charlie Austin was booked for diving in the area - one of the worst tricks in my book and deserved a red! He was subbed 2 minutes later - good riddance
On 75 minutes a tremendous volley by Swindon's McGovern after the ball was cleared from a corner drew out a fantastic flying save from Gilmartin - a great one for the cameras!
On 78 Nicholls was booked after closing down the Swindon right back - unfairly according to the ref. 2 minutes later Gray nicked the ball in midfield and slotted the ball to Nichols in the area who unfortunately shot wide
80 mins sub Till for Jones Till looked lively using his pace against the slowing left back - a great cross to the far post allowed Gray to head the ball back where the shot was deflected wide.
On 83 a brilliant overhead kick by Deeney unfortunately did not hit the target.
Swindon were pressing for the last few minutes but the Saddlers held on for a well deserved point.
Hutchings applauded the Saddlers crowd for about 4 minutes after the match - indicating that they had done their part in the point
It was disappointing that Sam Parkin did not manage at least a few minutes in front of his worshippers - but I guess the last few minutes were too nervy to change anything.
The Saddlers look towards their next game against Hartlepool at the Banks's on Saturday, and fans will be looking for more of the same performance.