Walsall 2-0 Doncaster Rovers
12/09/2015 - 15:00
Two goals in the last six minutes from Tom Bradshaw fired the Saddlers back into the top two and instantly erased the memory of the turgid 84 minutes that had gone before it.
Lining up with personnel suited to a 4231 formation, the Saddlers began in a 442 formation with Romaine Sawyers starting wide right with Milan Lalkovic partnering Bradshaw up front. Naturally it didn`t work, with Sawyers unable to curb his instinctive tendencies to drift into the centre meaning we spent most of the first half with either Sam Mantom on the right of midfield, or nobody at all. Any attacking down that side was done by the returning Jason Demetriou, who had the best chance of the first half for the Saddlers when he connected with a Rico Henry cross but fired wide from close range when he really should have done better. Down the other end Neil Etheridge made a full stretch save to push away a spectacular James Coppinger overhead kick, before Curtis Main somehow put the rebound wide.
The next chance fell to Bradshaw who, after we`d spent a minute or so seemingly trying to play ourselves into trouble at the back, finally moved the ball forward with pace and set Bradshaw through only for him to be thwarted by Thorsten Stuckmann in the Rovers goal, who was clattered by Bradshaw for good measure. The stoppage in play killed any momentum the game had, and it wouldn`t recover until the second half.
That second half began with the Saddlers finally lining up in the formation they should have started the game with. We were keeping possession better, but the only real chance of note for the home side was when Stuckmann did well to push out an Andy Taylor effort on the hour. At the other end Etheridge pulled off a stunning stop to tip Andy Williams fierce drive over the bar.
The game seemed destined to fizzle out into a 0-0 draw, until 6 minutes from time. A low Morris cross was cut out, but when Sawyers dispossessed a Rovers defender on the 6 yard line suddenly there was danger. Sawyers himself tried an effort that spun up off the recovering defender and fell plumly onto the right boot of Bradshaw who smashed the ball home and sent the stadium into raptures.
If you were a Doncaster fan you`d probably feel you at least deserved something from the game, and it was hard to argue as the Saddlers performed considerably worse than they did in the home defeat to Bury last week. They almost clawed their way back into it when Aaron Taylor-Sinclair`s effort saw another full stretch save from Etheridge.
Yet it was Bradshaw who would have the final word, racing through one on one having been put clear by Mantom, and produced a delicious chip over Stuckmann to seal what could be a pivotal 3 points in our season. Had the game fizzled out as it was expected too, we`d have had back to back home games that we`d failed to win and not scored in either. Some of the enthusiasm generated by our spectacular start would have begun to wane and we`d have been in danger of slipping away from the top of the table. As it happens, it`s home win and a clean sheet to boot and we`re back in the top two.
Never in doubt was it.