Walsall 2-0 Port Vale - Report
20/12/2015 - 15:00
A brace from Jordan Cook following an inspired substitution by incoming boss Sean O`Driscoll saw the Saddlers kick off a new era with a win in front of the Sky TV cameras. After a first hour that saw the Saddlers offer precisely nothing as an attacking threat, only go in level at half time courtesy of the assistant referees flag ruling out a Vale opener, the introduction of Cook was the unexpected catalyst for the victory that was to follow.
Richard Duffy had the ball in the net for the visitors as early as the 3rd minute after he pounced on a spill from Neil Etheridge, after the Saddlers number 1 failed to hold on to a tame header from former Saddlers loanee Ryan Mcgivern. It was of what was to prove a shaky afternoon for the Walsall keeper who, despite making a couple of regulation saves, had dodgy distribution and questionable decision making all afternoon. I remember a game under Ray Graydon (I forget who the opposition were) when goalkeeper Carl Emberson was replaced at half time and, had Craig MacGillivray not dislocated his finger in the warm-up, I`d have been calling for O`Driscoll to do the same thing with Etheridge as, for long periods of the first half it seemed like only a matter of time until he cost us the game.
Having got to half time goalless, it was more in hope than expectation that we began the second half looking to find a winner as the Saddlers proved Tuesday nights` abysmal showing against Chesterfield in the cup wasn`t just a one-off. However, they say the sign of a good team is one who can play poorly and win, and so often we hear managers say when a result hasn`t gone their way that "We`ve played worse than that in the past and won"; when Sean O`Driscoll says that at any point, it will be this match he`s referring too.
The introduction of Cook for the ineffective Kieron Morris just before the hour mark provided the spark the game needed and, just four minutes after his arrival on the pitch he had given the Saddlers the lead. The visitors only half cleared their lines from the previous Saddlers attack and, having appeared to get in a spat with a Vale defender on the by-line, Cook regained his composure to tuck home after Anthony Forde`s shot had been blocked. The fact he was two yards offside at the time rubbed salt into Vale`s wounds, but it was the stroke of luck that turned the game in our favour.
Eight minutes from time Cook doubled the lead, turning and firing into the corner of the net after the visitors had failed multiple times to get the ball away; it was the finish of a confident, and belied the form the ex-Sunderland man has shown, or failed to show, so far this season. It means we`ll spend Christmas in the automatic promotion places; in fact if it weren`t for the lack of drains in Fleetwood we may have spent it top of the league.
It`s been a good start for the new man, long may it continue.