Writer: Alsop Richards
Date:Saturday December 15 2007
The Banks' Stadium
If Walsall were poor on Tuesday against Northampton they were magnificent on Saturday against the juggernaunt of Leeds United in town. The fact that Walsall will have felt robbed/disappointed to have not won the game is testament to the fantastic job Richard Money is doing. A fixture like this at the start of the season would have been feared instead of relished by the Walsall fans, but the Saddlers are fast improving now going eleven games unbeaten in all competitions.
The Saddlers started with two changes on the flanks with Peter Sweeney and Troy Denney coming in for Hall and out of form Eddy Sonko. The Leeds side was absent of Tresor Kandol but did include League One top goalscorer Jermaine Beckford. It was the Saddlers who started the brightest and Leeds who have been disappointing on the road recently were going to have to be at their best to survive.
Walsall were up for this and no more was this evident than in the committed Troy Denney who was playing out-of-position out on the wing. He jumped into challenges and was doing his best to supply crosses into the box. Walsall were playing some of their best football, Leeds pushed forward with purpose but Anthony Gerrard was a rock at the back winning everything in the air and was heads above any other player on the pitch.
The homeside felt that they'd taken the lead early on in the match when Mark Bradley found space outside the penalty area, his volley was tipped onto the crossbar and it bounched back to Mooney who fired in, but unfortunately he was given offside.
Leeds were relieved and were getting more than their fair share of the green from the Referee, who awarded numerous free kicks to the men in yellow.
Walsall continued to push forward and a Sweeney corner found the head of Dann who should have found the net but his header was straight into the hands of Casper Ankergren. Soon afterwards clever footwork from Mooney gave him enough space to fire towards the top corner but the Leeds goalkeeper again denied the Saddlers tipping the ball away for a corner.
It was half time and Leeds United except for a couple of wayward shots outside the area had failed to even trouble Clayton Ince.
Walsall started the second half from where they'd left off, Leeds were struggling, they seemed to have few ideas except to thump the ball in the direction of their centre forwards. The homeside were growing in confidence and Ricketts was determined to silence his Yorkshire critics as he showed class touches and a great work ethic.
Walsall finally scored fourteen minutes from time, a Fox cross was tipped onto the post by Ankengren but Mooney followed up to tap home to the roar of the packed Banks' Stadium. Dennis Wise responded by putting on Tore Flo for the disappointing Leon Constantine, things didn't improve much so Alan Thompson and Jonathon Howson came on for David Prutton and Kishchiev.
The temperature grew as Leeds grew more desperate and the Walsall goal came under an aerial onslaught, Flo was a true test for Dann and Gerrard. With the seconds ticking down with Walsall looking like they were going to take a deserved three points, disastor struck.
Jonathon Howson was tackled by Sweeney and Bradley who both took the ball. Howson desperate not to lose possession grabbed back at Bradley and strangerly unsurprisingly the Referee saw a Leeds United free kick. Former Aston Villa player Alan Thompson stepped up to whip in a low free kick which took a cruel deflection and found the back of the net.
Leeds were all back on level terms, like all good teams they had come from the abyss and managed to claw points out of nowhere. It was hard luck on the Saddlers who had been brilliant from start to finish. The Fourth Official put up a surprising four minutes of stoppage time and both sides felt they might be able to take all three.
There were ugly scenes at the end of the match, first of all Walsall were given a free kick on the wing, Andy Hughes made the suicidal decision to start a flare up with hardman Anthony Gerrard. The Referee and his near Assistant were being over fusy regarding the blade of the grass the free kick should be taken from and were failing to realise the situation. Fortunately for everyone the calmer, senior heads of both sides managed to settle down the two players. There was one last opportunity but Daniel Fox volleyed over under pressure from Douglas who was hurt from the fall out of his challenge.
Teams in League One will be looking at the Saddlers and they'll be wary, their next encounter with Millwall may be seen by some as a home banker and if they play like they did today it will be.
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Date:Saturday December 15 2007
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