Saddlers succumb to Swindon
Walsall suffered a disappointing day at the Banks's Stadium,as a jittery start cost them dearly.
The Saddlers named an unchanged side from the defeat at Rochdale, with Macken and Byfield partners up front. Nicholls returned to the side on the bench.
Walsall made a very scrappy and hesitant start, as Swindon looked dangerous on the attack. It took them just 10 minutes to take the lead, as Sheehan found space from the left and put the ball sweetly past goalkeeper Brain. 0-1. The under fire goalkeeper had an overall much more positive performance than recent matches.
Throughout the opening 20 minutes, Walsall saw little of the ball as Swindon made mincemeat out of them. The Saddlers could not quite get into their stride and Swindon were all guns blazing.
Walsall were lucky on minute 21 as Swindon saw a few good chances in front of goal, but the eventual shot was blocked to safety.
As the first half went by, the Saddler spark made an appearance. They enjoyed more passing with McGivern and Richards linking up well, both players were instrumental in a lot of Saddler chances. Macken came close around minute 30 after a decent pass from McGivern, but the shot went over the bar. Davis went close a few minutes later after the ball was delivered from Darren Byfield but the shot was saved by Swindon keeper Lucas. Davis went close again after some passing involving Richards, Lescott and Byfield but his shot went wide.
The Saddlers went into the changing rooms 1 goal to the worse, with those cagey opening minutes looming over them.
The second half saw a rejuvenated Saddler side. They enjoyed greater possession and strung together a number of decent passes. Brain came out to expertly save a Thomas Dossevi shot around minute 54, with the rebound fired over by Pericard.
Davis did well a few minutes later as he fed Macken the ball, but the shot was saved. Saddlers battled but Swindon had a tight back four.
In a master substitution, Paul Marshall left the field in place for Reuben Reid and an attacking 4-3-3 formation. This change opened up a flurry of activity.
Walsall were pretty much on top as the clock ticked away. The midfield were looking lively and the pace of the game picked up. Around minute 68, Reid went close but the shot saved, after a blatant hand ball went begging from the Swindon defence.
However, Walsall got their reward for more positive play on minute 69. Lucas did well to deny Byfield and then cleared a chance from McGivern, but Reid was on hand to expertly shoot the ball into the back of the net. 1-1 The boosted Saddler crowd went wild as Walsall were firmly back in the game.
Davis went down injured shortly after the goal but eventually played on. The Walsall faithful had barely got over the excitement of the Saddler goal when Swindon retook the lead. Pericard again found himself in space and slotted the ball home. 1-2. The Saddlers rued that they conceded again despite promising play.
As the Saddlers restarted play, Davis went down again clutching his ankle and, as the Saddlers received frantic instructions from Hutchings and O'Connor, Davis was sadly stretchered off. Early reports suggest that his injury is not as bad as first thought and should make a rapid return to training. Westlake came on as his replacement.
As the clocked ticked down, Walsall battled on to pull a goal back. Nicholls came on for a slightly injured Byfield on 79 minutes.
The final whistle went to boos that echoed from the floors to go stand. Matthew Richards won the sponsors man of the match, after another inspiring performance in the central midfield role.
It was another disappointing day which leaves the Saddler fans more and more frustrated. At times, Walsall are a decent side, who are capable of creating chances and dominating possesions. On others, they look dazed and unable to break teams down. We can only hope the Saddlers can build on genuine good play we have seen this season and eradicate stupid mistakes which cost us vital points.
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