The County Ground
Walsall are the Champions of League Two after surviving 'day of destiny' with fellow promotion rivals Swindow Town. Walsall needed to better Hartlepool's result to take the crown, Swindon needed one more point for their promotion. The stakes were high, especially since their rivals were favourites against the inform Bristol Rovers and Acrington Stanley respectively.
A great atmosphere at the County Ground and not just generated by the mass away following but a home support ready to raise the roof for their side to get the point for their promotion. It was a cagey affair and both teams were on the offensive foot as they didn't want to look back with regrets when it came to the final whistle. The Walsall line up had Craig Pead restored at right back and Kevin Harper resonably recovered from illness replacing Mark Wright. Swindon had player of the season Lee Peacock and creative maverick Christian Roberts.
Walsall played in the right half and got a number of set-pieces around the Swindon penalty area but the final ball was never good enough. Phil Smith in Town's goal commanded his area well. News filtered through of a Stanley goal at the National Hockey Stadium and a Joel Porter goal for the potential Champions. Overall in the first half there was no clear openings and both teams realised they were going to have to go up a gear if they were to make the breakthrough.
It was the Saddlers realising what they had to do who took the game by the scruff of the neck. Possession outside the Swindon area was all very good but it came to nothing as Walsall failed once again to find a penetrative pass or were willing to shoot from outside the area. Harper did skip pass Walsall-reject Jamie Vincent after a clever dummy by Butler but failed to pick out a teammate in the penalty area. Swindon on the break gained a corner, the ball was lofted into the area and Jarel Ifill rose to send a diving header into the roof of the net, the big defender was completely unmarked. The home fans were jubilant, the away fans were nervous.
Benjamin had an immediate chance to equalise but was slow and then hen challenging for the loose ball a harsh foul was given against him. Then controversy arrived at the hour mark, Demontagnac flew down the wing and easily kept the ball in the play. The linesman down in the other half looking down the line and under pressure from tubby Paul Sturrock flagged the ball had gone out of play. The fact the Swindon players carried on with play is clear testament to the degree of how bad the decision was. Demontagnac was then hacked down savagely from behind and the Ref was willing to book the Swindon player until he discovered that the linesman had incorrectly flagged. Richard Money was enraged and the dispute was only ended when he was sent from the dugouts and into the stands.
Demontagnac seeking his own retribution was subbed and Hector Sam came on with, Butler going to the left wing. Trevor Benjamin then took hold of a loose ball and clinical volleyed pass Smith only to find he was correctly found offside. The Referee now went through a patch where he was completely out of control, decisions were given for challenging for the ball and full elbows in the back went unseen. Roberts broke several times and could have put the game past the Saddlers but his final ball was never good enough.
The tired Benjamin was replaced by Darren Wrack as the Saddlers looked to restore balance. Hector Sam then headed a ball into the path of Martin Butler and the nearly veteran striker volleyed towards goal but Smith pulled off a terrific save to keep his sides lead. News reached the dissappointed Walsall fans that Hartlepool were not just drawing, they were losing to Bristol Rovers.
The Saddlers encamped in the Robins penalty area, Gerrard became another striker. A corner was only half cleared and the ball bounced up to Keates who half volleyed the ball over Smith and into the top of the net. The Saddlers fans went berserk, the players were lossed in a mob of their followers. When the play did restart it was only a couple of seconds before the Referee blew his whistle and Walsall were offically announced as Champions.
The League table never lies and the thought that the Hartlepool team who were utterly dominated and outclassed in August at Bescot. The same side who had cheated us at Victoria Park were better than us was beyond a sane man's comprehension. The cream rises to the top and Walsall are the Champions and will be looking for another promotion season and into the Championship.
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