Walsall 1-0 Fleetwood Town
11/04/2015 - 15:00
When I woke up this morning I knew I was embarking on a week of landmark events. I turn 30 next weekend, my partner is due to give birth any day now, and now I`ve even seen Walsall score a goal!
The fact it was Tom Bradshaw`s 17th goal of the season would suggest such events happen with some degree of regularity, but the fact we`d spent the previous 85 minutes huffing and puffing like a chronic asthmatic trying to find a break through and getting precisely nowhere, it meant the relief that was felt around the ground when the ball finally hit the net for the first time since St Patricks Day was touchable.
It hadn`t been through a lack of effort that another blank looked ever more likely and there was a noticeable effort to be more direct and attacking, but we just didn`t look capable of pulling it off. Whether that was through a lack of ability or just a lack of confidence is a debate for another day, but for the first 85 minutes of this game we`d have struggled to score past Fleetwood Mac. Kieron Morris had the only effort on target of the first half when he forced Maxell in the visitors goal to push wide from a narrow angle. Michael Cain continued his recent trend of slicing efforts high and wide with alarming regularity, Sawyers had an effort blocked after it took him all day to hit it, and Jordan Cook looked as unlikely to score as he usually does.
We were never in any danger of losing the game as our playoff chasing visitors somehow managed to look even less likely to score than we did. The only real threat came in the second half when the visitors had a reasonable shout for a penalty. Jamie Proctor looked to latch on to a long ball, got his head to the ball before Richard O`Donnell could get there, and when the two collided you feared Andy Haines, with his habit of giving penalties against Walsall, might point to the spot. He didn`t but, while we`ve had more clear cut penalties turned down this season, it definitely fell into the 'seen them given` category.
The winning goal, when it came, had a fair amount of quality about it as neat interplay between Cain and Adam Chambers saw the ball threaded through to Bradshaw to slot home his only clear chance of the match. You can`t help but wonder just how high up the league we`d have been had Bradshaw been fit all season, although that thought is quickly sobered when you wonder just how much trouble we`d have been in had we gone the season without him. It gave us three vital points and, due to our significant goal difference over most of the sides below us, probably now puts us safe from relegation. We're now only 7 points shy of last seasons final total and, with five games still to go, it's unimaginable we could match or even still beat it.
If we manage it then, taking our maiden Wembley appearance into account, there'll be a compelling argument that this may have been a season of progress after all.