25th March 2006 3pm
First surprise was before kick off, no Andy Oakes who picked up an injury. His replacement was Rene Gilmartin, who had started against Chesterfield and looked like a rabbit caught in the headlights. Some FA Cup exploits against Merthyr and Yeovil hadn't settled the nerves of the Bescot boys, after Tuesday this enforced change seemed to hearld defeat.
Other changes meant Westwood cam into defence albeit out of position at right back,Daniel Fox passed a late test to play at left back. Keates was pushed into an early return from injury to partner Leary in midfield in the absence of Mills, Osborn, Smith and Demontagnac. out wide was a clearly unfit Wright and Kevin James, Mads Timm joined Devlin up front.
The game started in a seris of throw ins to either side as no one seemed willing to take control. Our only glimpse of attacking effectiveness came through Mads Timm. After a fairly uneventful start Mads Timm used pocession well to feed Leary who unleased a drive that beat Ricketts all ends up, only to cannon off the wood work. James reacted first to head the ball past the stranded Ricketts into the net 1-0, and the sense of relief went around the stadia.
It got better the usual corner routine was played out in the 36th minute. Chris Westwood was able to charge in unmarked to head down past Ricketts 2-0 and we were cruising. Some poor descisions making put us under a small amount of pressure as the first half ended. Just as the board went up giving the final two minutes, the ball was floated over and Mark Bower got between the defenders to stoop a header past Gilmartin.
2-1 at half time and the Walsall fans had sensed that it was important that we had to keep them out and rebuild. Then in the 49 minute Gilmartin came for a cross which is questionable if he needed to. To make matters worse the youngster made a hash of the attempted punch and eventually the ball fell to Wetherall to guide it into the unguarded net. Memories of Gilmartins debut against Chesterfield, 2 up lost 3-2 came flooding back. We lost our way some what at this point and Bradford looked capable of getting a third. As the half progrssed we came more into into, and only a cynical foul by Marc Bridge Wilkinson prevented us getting clean through. Mark Wright was having one of those frustrating afternoons and was reaping the displeasure of the saddlers fans, as was to a lesser extent Kevin James who in a rare so of effort in the 67th minute hurt his hamstring to be replaced by Pead who went on the right with Wright switching sides.Some good positions were wasted by both sides and Walsall seemed to lack a cutting edge with Timms the only source of creativity. On chance lead toa penalty shout and an injury to Ricketts who looked to have injured his hand but after a lenghty treatment from the physio he was able to continue. Walsall brought on Fitzgerald and Constable which injected some urgrncy to out front play. and a late chance for Fitzgerald was saved well by Ricketts from the edge of the box and Constable wanted more time than he had when Devlin presented him with a chance, and the Bradford defence recovered well.
It was heart in the mouth time when in the fourth minute of added time Bradford broke clear only for Gilmartin to save well as he came and closed down to send the ball out for a corner than resulted in nothing.
The end, possible a fair result but at 2-0 up we need to be able to close games out. Other results have not really gone for us we drop to third from bottom, joined by Hartlepool and Rotherham all on 43points. Rotherham with the better goal difference move out of the bottom four.
Blackpool (44), Yeovil and Bournemouth(46),Gillingham (47) Tranmere and Port Vale (48) are not out of the mix yet.
Some reckless moments mixed with some competent keeeping, save at the end ensured a draw, mistake however cost us a goal. Not the man for the relelgation run in but perhaps for the future.