Writer: Robyn Richards
Date:Wednesday March 2 2011
In a spectacular game for the Saddlers last night, they launched themselves out of the drop zone and set the Banks's buzzing with a tremendous 1-0 victory.
Southampton were a bullish, quality side and gave the sparkling Saddlers a tough test, but the stricken homeside stood firm, held their heads up high and Jon Macken fired home to give them all three points, as well as a place above the relegation zone for the first time since September.
Emmanuel Ledesma made his home debut, sitting behind Jon Macken with Richards, Gray, Taundry and a start for Marshall in midfield. An unchanged back four of Butler, Williams, Lescott and Lancashire completed the team.
The opening 45 minutes saw Southampton show every inch of their quality and Walker pulled off some spectacular saves to keep the score level. Walsall were playing positively but making silly mistakes.
Walker was put into action almost straight away with a good save from Morgan Schneiderlin.
Lee Barnard took a shot on 8 minutes but the shot was saved.
Walsall found it hard to put around many passes as Southampton piled non stop pressure on them. Some good work from Macken, Marshall, Lescott and Taundry was seen but the visitors soon stopped the Saddlers in their tracks.
The ref got in the way on 21 minutes as Danny N'Guessan went through on goal, but the shot was saved by an alert Walker.
N'Guessan was on hand again to give Saddlers a fright as he was clear on goal, passed the ball but (another Southampton player) put the ball into the side netting. Phew!
Richard Chaplow then played in Rickie Lambert, only for Lancashire and Marshall to stop them in their tracks, Emmanuel Ledesma was then fouled. The Argentinian went down like a tin of Fray Bentos and a free kick was awarded to Walsall. Richard Taundry stepped up and fired his effort straight to Kelvin Davis.
Marshall was then on hand to head away from an immense danger from Richard Chaplow, the defence was trying and luckily the midfielder came up with the goods.
Williams was then booked in a laughable mistake by the referee who mistook him for Marshall. They do look alike but the referee really should go to Specsavers. Matthew Richards protested the error but the yellow stood.
Ledesma then put the ball just over the bar from quite a distance in a good opportunity to fire the Saddlers in front, Kelvin Davis almost stepped over the line but fortunately stopped just in time.
The first half was positive for the Saddlers and with no goal, the game way anybody's.
Walsall came out for the second half with some good play, Macken teed up Ledesma but the play was defended by Danny Butterfield.
Lescott then out the ball over the bar before Julian Gray shot just wide on 56 minutes. Very unlucky on him after some good work on the right wing.
Alex Nicholls then replaced Paul Marshall in midfield.
The game was getting increasingly nervy as a goal for the visitors would give Walsall an all too familiar mountain to climb.
But! As if by miracle on 68 minutes, the ball was played into tremendous space and Jon Macken blasted through on goal. Could it be? Yes! Kelvin Davis had come way off his line and seeing was believing when the ball hit the back of the net. The Banks's erupted, the players congratulated the well over due goal for the striker and Walsall were 1-0 up! Wow!
The Saddlers still has 22 nail biting, gut wrenching minutes to play out. Southampton really put out everything they had to pull a goal back but the entire stadium rallied behind the players to maintain the lead.
Emmaunel Ledesma left the field and made way for Darren Byfield.
Ever impressive Andy Butler then defended superbly as The Saints threw on their young hotsot, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain. The youngster set up Lee Barnard and the new defender was on hand to block the shot.
Williams was then on hand to block a low shot into the Walsall area.
Time ticked down and 5 minutes were added. It was truly heart attack time as the visitors gave everything and Walsall were tiring.
Oxlade-Chamberlain set up Radhi Jaidi deep into stoppage time as the shot whiskered wide.
Manny Smith entered the fray for the remaining few minutes in place of goal hero Jon Macken.
Finally the whistle sounded and all three glorious points were Walsall's.
Amazing! Dean Smith has truly turned the team around based on that performance and they seem to have much more to come. There are so many positives to come from the match. It was a special night for Walsall.
A clean sheet, a goal for Jon Macken, being lifted out of the relegation zone, not being overwhelmed by a bullish and determined Southampton side, giving Southampton their first defeat since January 22nd, a fantastic performance across the whole pitch, to name but a few.
We now look forward to moving on and hopefully further into safety away to Swindon Town on Saturday.
Take a look at the current league one table here: http://news.bbc.co.uk/sport1/hi/football/eng_div_2/table/default.stm
Up The Saddlers!
Date:Wednesday March 2 2011
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