Walsall 3-1 Barnsley
13/12/2014 - 15:00
The Saddlers returned to home soil after a month on the road to pick up an impressive three points and extend our current run of form to one defeat in 10 in all competitions which, coincidentally, is also exactly what our home record reads since the end of August. Walsall, who were playing only their second home league game since October 25th, had to do it the hard way to claim their first 'come from behind` victory since, well, Tuesday night.
The first half hour of the game was typical of so many Saddlers home games of recent times, in that it was devoid of any real action and goalscoring attempts. Jordan Cook had tried an audacious chip from 30 yards out which went over, and the visitors had a few snapshots from distance which were closer to troubling the food kiosks than they were to Richard O`Donnell`s goal.
Then, out of nothing, came a three minute spell which illustrated exactly why you should have men on the posts at corners. Connor Hourihane`s left sided corner on the half hour mark was nothing special but Lewin Nyatanga, completely unmarked near the penalty spot, planted a firm header just inside the left hand post leaving O`Donnell with no chance.
It didn`t take long for the Saddlers to get back on terms as just three minutes later, what looked like a poor corner from Michael Cain dropped straight to Cook on the edge of the box who planted an unstoppable half volley past former Chelsea keeper Ross Turnbull in the Tykes goal to draw us level. The shot may have brushed the inside of the post on its way in, and its these fine margins that sometimes define games. Had both teams put men on the posts then it`s highly likely both goals would have been cleared and the game would have drifted towards our normal result of a goalless draw.
Happily that wasn`t the case and just two minutes later the home side took the lead. Cook took advantage of confusion in the Barnsley defence to intercept Holgate and played in Bradshaw, who even took the opportunity to beat a man before sliding the ball past Turnbull.
Straight from the kick off the visitors almost hit back straight away, with O`Donnell needing to be alert to save a Marcelo Trotta shot with his legs when the Barnsley striker should have done better.
The game was incredibly open, and the half time break didn`t really interrupt the tempo as immediately after half time Cook put a free kick inches over, and just moments later James Baxendale forced a smart stop from Turnbull after the referee had inadvertently blocked a Barnsley clearance. Bradshaw was hauled down while attempting to latch on to the rebound for what looked a clear penalty but, given that the ref would have claimed an assist had it gone in, you can sort of understand why he didn`t give it.
Yet the visitors continued to give as good as they got, with O`Donnell being forced into two saves in quick succession from Hourihane and then again from Dale Jennings. Antony Forde, who had replaced Baxendale, then had an effort saved before James Chambers made an almighty block from Kane Hemmings.
The frenetic pace of the game was beginning to wane as the players tired and you got the impression we were probably going to see the game out, especially when during the five minutes of injury time we seemed happy to just keep the ball in the corner. However, having won a corner in the dying seconds the Saddlers made the most of it by playing the ball in the box to substitute Mathieu Manset, who held it up superbly before laying it back to Cook who finished as cool as you like. It`s a result that moves us into the top half of the table and nearer to the playoff places than the relegation zone for the first time this season. Who knows, maybe there`ll be two trips to Wembley for the Saddlers in 2015.