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Walsall 1 Huddersfield Town 1 - Match Report

Following today's all important point against play-off bound Huddersfield Town, columnist Rob Jones shares his Match Report;

As a fan, this afternoon's match was always going to be a case of balancing phone-checking and radio-listening with watching the match as a number of permutations could see us safe or in dire straits come the final whistle. Naturally, the afternoon was a complete roller-coaster in a way Walsall fans are only too familiar.

Huddersfield, guaranteed a playoff place, began the game with 30-something goal top scorer, Jordan Rhodes on the bench. Those home fans boosted by that news were soon put in their place as some neat work around the edge of our penalty area freed up Lee Novak to drive home the opening goal - inside two minutes.

Frankly, at this point and for most of the first half, we looked doomed. Goals going in elsewhere saw Wycombe and Chesterfield both leading in their respective games, whilst we struggled to string two passes together in a real men vs boys encounter.

The visitors' neat passing carved us apart on a number of occasions, notably as Lee Novak again found enough space to sweep a low effort centimetres past the far post, with Walker beaten.

We did have the odd glimmer of hope as Ledesma went close with a 25-yard free kick, and Butler placed his header wide having got the beating of his marker. Ultimately though, Macken didn't make any impact up front and the midfield were chasing shadows for most of the first period.

Going into half time, the one consolation was that we were only one goal down. It should have been more.

As the players came out early for the second half, unusually warming up on the pitch before the restart, it was a case of hoping we started the second half better than the first - and so it proved.

Ledesma got himself more involved and with Sadler breaking forward in support of Nicholls down the left, the ball was slid through to Cuvelier on 49 minutes - his quick feet worked enough space for him to drive a left footed effort beyond Bennett to equalise. We were back on level terms in Cuvelier's last game in a Walsall shirt.

From then on in, we were undoubtedly the better side, but didn't quite get that all-important slice of luck in front of goal. Ledesma fired another free kick just over the bar, Lancashire glanced a header into the side netting and Nicholls drive through midfield resulted in a shot which sailed marginally past the post. Suddenly, you got the impression the players knew this was their chance to claw themselves to safety.

Huddersfield did threaten on the break and we were beaten by long, straight balls down the middle on the odd occasion, but in truth, Walker wasn't tested.

Much to the delight of the home fans, results started to turn elsewhere. Yeovil went ahead against Chesterfield and Notts County levelled things up at Wycombe with just injury time remaining - injury time which saw them score a late winner to send Wycombe down and see us to safety.

Quite rightly given his performance and goal, Cuvelier claimed the man of the match award in his last game, however Olly Lancashire also stood out on the odd occasion we did have to weather a Huddersfield storm.

The highlight of the match for me was the moment a break in play a minute from the end saw the players hear the news that they were safe, assuming they could hold on. Mat Sadler's celebrations before play restarted said it all.

So on we go to Milton Keynes - safe in the knowledge that however fortunate, we'll be in League One next season. Dean Smith has to prove his worth in the summer, but arguably we've improved on last season having secured safety with one game to spare. Let's hope we're not in a similar situation this time next year!

RESULT: Walsall 1 (Cuvelier 49') Huddersfield Town 1 (Novak 2')
ATT: 4,646
REF: A, Bates

By: Rob Jones
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