Saddlers Smash Six: Walsall 6-1 Bristol Rovers
Walsall stunned everyone yesterday by completing an amazing 6-1 rout of Bristol Rovers.
Grigg dropped out for new boy Jason Price. Goalkeeper Bevan got his place back in the starting line-up as Walker did not feature due to family issues.
Walsall began brightly, got on top and did not seem much like coming down in what the Walsall supporters have been waiting for all season -and more.
Defender Andy Butler opened the scoring on 16 minutes as a Matthew Richards free kick found the head perfectly of the towering defender, who put the ball away nicely. 1-0 with a long way to go.
Saddlers pursuance of the visitors, who were the struggling side throughout the game, paid off on 33 minutes when Walsall went 2-0 ahead. This time it saw new midfielder Mathew Gill receive the plaudits. Good work by Jon Macken with a skilful backheel gave Gill the perfect opportunity on goal, who made no mistake of hitting the back of the net. 2-0
Macken was at it again in a shining performance to set up Julian Gray for the goal to give Saddlers a conclusive score with the full second half still to go. Walsall won a corner with Macken positioned at the near corner and, with Rovers failing the clear, the ball came out to Julian Gray who took the chance sweetly from the edge of the area to volley the ball into the back of the net with gusto. 3-0.
Gray was on hand just minutes later when he set up Macken, but the ball went way of the bar.
The Saddlers had pretty much all three points in the bag and a great day all round, but they were no where near finished with the Rovers goal.
The Pirates scrambled one back just after the break. Will Hoskins set up Jeff Hughes and, after Darryl Westlake failed the clear the ball, he hit the back of the net and gave the visitors at least a glimmer of hope. 3-1
However, a horrible journey home for the Bristolians was confirmed when a superb Matthew Richards strike furthered the Saddler lead. The 26 year old saw away Dominic Blizzard with an assertive shove on as he began his trail from the half way line and made no mistake from quite a distance to slam the ball away. 4-1.
Richards was on hand a few minutes later set set up Gray, but the shot was saved by Luke Daniels.
The crowd were in full voice throughout the game as the Saddlers could have scored 4 or 5 more goals than they did given their chances on goal.
Bevan had an extremely nervy moment as he failed to see an oncoming Jeff Hughes as he prepared for a goal kick. His blushes were eventually spared as he saved his eventual shot.
The Saddlers then hit 5 as Alex Nicholls got a share of the goals. In a tireless day, Macken held the ball up well to send the ball to Nicholls who made no mistake of smashing the ball away. 5-1
Butler then got his brace, again from his head, as a Saddler corner came flying in and the ball found the net once more. 6-1
Phew! That was the end of the game and nobody could quite believe what happened.
Manager Dean Smith had warned of a turn in fortunes but no one could have predicted this outcome. The Saddlers look focussed and re energised and every bit the team to escape relegation. They are off the bottom at least for now and that is only a sign of good things to come. The attendance was above 4,000, at 4,023, for only the 5th time this season as confidence at the Banks's grows. The Saddlers fans got what they deserve after a tumultuous season and this lifted the spirits of all concerned at Walsall Football Club.
Now the Saddlers will be looking forward to Wednesday night's game at Notts County with fire in their belly and optimism in the air. At Last!