The Taming Of The Shrews
The Banks Stadium
Walsall eased into the second round of the FA Cup with an effcient display from a team that finally looks like it's coming together. Shrewsbury looked like a decent League Two outfit, heavily depleted by injuries and that's just what they were, as Walsall's higher ability pathed the way to possible future Cup adventures.
Walsall named the same side that had earnt their point against Brighton, Shrewsburg were missing top goalscorer Dave Hibbert and former Walsall trainee Ben Davies. Both exchanged pleasantries with determination before a clever Fox cross from the left was pinpointed onto the head of Ricketts who rushed in to send a bullet point header low into the net. One nil to the Saddlers!
Shrewsbury tried to get back straight away, but they just didn't have the quality to trouble one of the best defences in a division above. Though Albion loanee Kevin Nicholson did get through but his low drive was parried by Ince, who'd done excellent to close down the angle. A couple of half chances from Mooney should have seen the Saddlers double their lead. First Ricketts' low drive to the back post was volled over and then after a spout of head tennis Mooney flicked the ball over the goal, he should have done better on both.
Shrewsburg came out for the second half early, and immediately took the game to the Saddlers as expected. But Walsall were always willing to hit them on the break and though Shrews had much possession in dangerous areas it was always the Saddlers who seemed the most likely to score a second.
Eddie Sonko was put in the clear by Mooney, but the Gambian seemed to be in two minds as what to do, he waited for support and then messed up his pass. Credit to the visitors they broke with pace, hitting us on their own counter attack.
A high ball was played over the top by the visitors, Weston the last man on the half way line had to deal with it, but the Welsh man took his eye off the ball and Shrewsbury were in. Fortunate for the Saddlers their defence were able to sprint back and breakdown the attack, that was a mistake that would have surely been punished in a divison above.
Sonko who'd been poor once more for the Saddlers was replace by Demontagnac, the young winger came on and immediately wound up the Shrew defenders. He tackled feriously but fairly and showed his silky skills off. The game was over on the hour mark as the visitors clearly hadn't done their homework, giving Demontagnac space and time outside your own penalty area is a major no no, but they did and his fierce left foot piledriver flashed into the roof of the net. Standing directly behind the goal, I was expecting Garner to pull off a Hollywood save but the pace and the swerve of the ball was too much for the lower divison keeper, he could hardly be blamed. Demontagnac received a shoulder injury from the over zealous celebrations of his team mates and in truth never shrugged the injury off during the remainder.
Shrewsburg's heads dropped, their supporters started to filter away, their cup dreams had ended before they'd even started. Walsall were after more, Ricketts was unlucky as he poked the ball between a defenders legs before one of his colleagues recovered to clear the ball for a corner. Dann had a header cleared off the line. Demontagnac missed a one on one, firing the ball over the bar as Garner raced towards him to close down the angle and in the final minutes Mooney twisted and turned before firing just wide.
The Saddlers never got out of first gear, if Shrewsbury had managed to trouble the home side, there was enough believe that the Saddlers would've stepped up their game and took control. The central midfield duo were a major concern, Darren Wrack was poor in possession and lost every 50/50 challenge until the later stages. But Wrack cannot be blamed as he's playing out of position and tough tackling just isn't his game. Bradley fails to find consistency which will come with age, he was absent in the first half but improved in the second. But a new loan midfielder is on the horizon and whether it's Sheffield Wednesday's Kenny Lunt, Toronto's Carl Robinson or Mark Davies from the Wolves they'll be sorely welcome, especially since Bradley will be absent for the visit of Luton.
An note on the attendance, Money mentioned midweek he would have been disappointed if the gate wasn't eight thousand, the club had been expecting six and half, the result was just under five. The fans fueled by Mr. Money's previous forays in cup competition seemed to have come to the consenus that cup competitions are not high priority for the Gaffer. In truth last season they went out to Macclesfield without a whimper and have done the same in the two cup competitions this term. Many of the fans had expected defeat, a few were expecting a weakened side to be fielded but Mr. Money does appear to be up for the cup this season. So if Walsall draw a home tie in the second round you'll want to get a ticket, because at times it was ugly but the player's workrate and effort couldn't be faulted, the desire to win was clear to see.
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