Following Saturday's fantastic Capital One Cup First Round victory over Brentford, columnist Rob Jones shares his Match Report;
In a break from the norm, the 2012/13 campaign began with a league cup fixture as we faced League One counterparts Brentford as both sides looked to set a benchmark for the upcoming league campaign.
Despite the negativity surrounding Dean Smith's summer recruitment drive, we started the game the better of the two sides. Smith's youthful team notably looked to keep the ball on the floor and play through a midfield three of Chambers, Featherstone & Cuvelier.
After a high tempo start, we took the lead after just seven minutes. An outstanding through ball from Cuvelier found Grigg on the edge of the Brentford penalty area before a last ditch tackle saw the ball fall to Hemmings, who drilled a fine strike into the bottom corner from a tight angle.
Brentford saw plenty of the ball with Douglas trying to pull the strings in midfield, but such was the energy in our side, we still carried a threat through Hemmings and Cuvelier. Sitting deep in midfield, Featherstone proved the link between defence and attack, looking very efficient with the ball.
After a niggle of a challenge by Chambers on Reeves, a nasty attempt at retribution just seconds later saw the latter sent for a deserved early bath. The dismissal should have seen us turn the screw on an average Brentford side, but without a real focal point in the final third, we struggled to make our extra man count. Taundry was beaten down our left on a couple of occasions thanks to a combination of looking uncertain at left back and seeing Hemmings fail to track his man.
Half time came & went, before Brentford started the second half the brighter - drawing a couple of impressive saves from David Grof. That said, we were by no means hanging on by a thread and as Paterson grew into the game, we gave as good as we got going forward.
Smith replaced Hemmings & Featherstone with Jake Jones & George Bowerman as we switched to a 4-4-2 and whilst we didn't look poor, we didn't look as effective in midfield. Bowerman & Grigg both worked hard & kept the Brentford back four on their toes, but never really created too much danger other than a couple of snap shots from Grigg.
Despite one nervy goalmouth scramble at our end and a scuffle involving Grigg, Brandy and most of Brenford's back four, the second half was fairly routine and crucially, we held on to make a rare progression into the second round.
Having not seen any of the pre-season friendlies, I was reasonably impressed with our new side, in particular the 4-2-3-1 formation we started with & the way we made every effort to keep the ball on the floor. No reason to assume we'll be a real force in League One by any means, but certainly no reason for the doom merchants to assume relegation is a certainty either. Bring on Villa in the next round! (Here's hoping)
RESULT: Walsall 1 (Hemmings 8') Brentford 0
MOTM: J, Paterson
REF: A, Woolmer
By: Rob Jones