Matthew Richards turns on Walsall Christmas lights
Matthew Richards fired into the net yesterday to present Walsall a 1-0 victory and kick started the Saddler festive period.
The Saddlers went into the game against Charlton huge underdogs on a clear but cold Sunday afternoon, but a combination of a sparkling performance by the Saddlers and a ropey looking Charlton, the visitors were able to smile again with three points in the bag.
The 114 Saddler supporters had something to cheer about throughout. The results of the poll promised more following than that for the rescheduled fixture, as 78% of you said they would still make the journey. However the real attendence was down by half of the following in the freezing FA Cup defeat to Torquay (230 Saddlers)
Jon Macken and Reuben Reid were absent through injury as well as Jonny Brain starting in goal ahead of crocked Jimmy Walker. Brain however had a decent game and early worries never came to fruition. Will Grigg also earned his second start in as many games.
Play started spiritedly for the Saddlers, but they failed to turn chances into goals. Nicholls fired over early on, after Charlton's keeper Rob Elliot failed to clear a throw in by Richard Taundry.
Matthew Richards then fired into the wall with a free kick in an ideal position on 8 minutes. Alex Nicholls, Richard Taundry and Steve Jones then hooked up well but the ball was sent to the back netting by Taundry.
The Saddlers went in for half time searching for that goal after lots of hard work. In utter irony, the home team were booed off whilst the Saddler fans clapped. It was a very unusual sight to see.
In the second half and in front of the away supporters, a long autumn of despair was turned to elation as Walsall at its' best shone brightly. As the away team pressurised the Addicks more and more, it became inevitable that the game was going to go only one way. It was on 69 minutes that Walsall got their breakthrough with a well worked, stunning goal by Matthew Richards and Charlton were given their just desserts. Alex Nicholls sent to ball to Julian Gray from the right, who then passed to Richards to volley the ball into the net. The Saddler following erupted as the game went deservingly their way, the players could barely contain their delight.
Walsall remained on top for much of the second half as play rarely went beyond the half way line. Jones, Nicholls, Taundry and Richards all linked up nicely to keep their lead and Charlton out of reach. Grigg went off late on to be replaced by fellow youngster Jamie Paterson. A tense finish as Walsall did nothing but attack on goal and in the end a surprise it stayed at just 1-0. Jonny Brain got playful cheers towards the end as he comfortably caught a Charlton free kick. A world away from the nightmare he suffered against Rochdale in September. Nicholls went through clear on goal very late on to seal the deal, with only Charlton keeper Rob Elliot to block, but somehow the ball stayed out of the net.
And Walsall went home with all three points, many elated Saddler fans and off the bottom of the table after switching places with Yeovil. With easing pressure off manger Chris Hutchings, it may just be a pivotal turning point in Walsall fortunes as we head into the significant festive period and beyond. Matthew Richards made it five goals and is having a raving time after scoring 4 of those in the last 7 games as he goes from strength the strength.
Next week we welcome Southampton to the Banks's in the last game before Christmas. Come on the Saddlers!