Walsall 1-1 Sheffield United
21/11/2015 - 15:00
Tom Bradshaw`s first goal from open play in ten weeks was not enough to send the Saddlers back into the automatic promotion places as a Jose Baxter goal earned Sheffield United a point at a freezing cold Banks`s Stadium.
The Saddlers had the better of the first half and really should have been out of sight by half time and, had it not been for a combination of bad luck, poor composure, and a fair share of decent goalkeeping by Blades stopper George Long then we really should have been. George Evans had a decent left footed strike saved in the opening minutes, Keiron Morris then had an effort saved by Long who recovered well enough to also push Romaine Sawyers rebound out for a corner when the ball really should have been nestling in the net. Evans then had another effort saved before Milan Lalkovic hit the scoreboard (the old one, on the roof of the away end), when more composure was needed. When Long wasn`t pulling off saves he was fortunate enough to have the woodwork come to his rescue; first Bradshaw hitting the frame of the goal with a header from a corner, before Lalkovic smacked the bar from the edge of the box.
Half time came and went, and even an injury to Baxter in the opening minutes of the second half that caused a reasonably lengthy stoppage failed to knock the Saddlers out of their stride as they took the lead in the 51st minute. A move that had seen the home side keep the ball for what felt like ages ended Sawyers smashed the ball across the face of goal for Bradshaw to poke home from close range.
The goal sparked the visitors into life, as did a substitution for the Blades that saw Connor Sammon replace Billy Sharp. Suddenly the away side were looking more dangerous as the Saddlers continued to attack but now looked susceptible to the counter attack as the full backs pushed on, creating space between the centre halves that Sammon was better at utilising than Sharp had been. It resulted in a lot of good work coming down the Blades right as Rico Henry found himself caught up field on more than one occasion. Che Adams saw an effort well saved by Neil Etheridge when he really should have done better, before Neill Collins saw a header saved from the resulting corner. Sammon then went through only to be bundled over by a combination, first by Etheridge and secondly by O`Connor that justifiably had the visitors calling for a penalty; an appeal we were lucky to see waved away.
Had we reacted quickly enough, we could have brought off Lalkovic and replaced him with Andy Taylor, pushing Rico forward to tighten things up at the back. However, we didn`t, and moments later we paid the price as Baxter, who had now fully recovered from his near death experience at the start of the half, cut in from that very flank and fired the Blades level with a left footed strike.
Both sides were looking for a winner. Evans had an effort off target, then Baxter fired wide for the blades, before Evans, who is surely the best player we`ve had on loan since Gary O`Neil, put another one wide.
The game finished all square and, despite our first half domination, the Blades will still probably feel they deserved something from the game, and I think on balance I`d still just about consider it a point gained. However, our home form continues to be our achilles heal; we may have beaten the table topping side 3 times on the spin at the Banks`s, but our record on our home patch against sides who WEREN`T top of the league currently reads P6, W1, D3, L2, averaging just a point a game. It would be nice if it was just a bit of a weird quirk that would right itself in due course, but we`ve had a poor home record for far too long to dismiss it quite that easily. It`s our single biggest failing and puts a lot of pressure on our away games.
It needs to be put right, immediately.