Following Saturday's victory over npower League One rivals Colchester United, Bescot Banter columnist Calum Williams shares his Match Report.
Following Saturday's victory over npower League One rivals Colchester United, Bescot Banter columnist Calum Williams shares his Match Report;

The Saddlers started this game boosted by the return of midfielder Flo Cuvelier from injury, who started the game on the bench. Dean Holden joined him on the sidelines, with centre back Paul Downing starting for Walsall. There was a familiar face in the starting 11 for Colchester, former Saddlers striker Jabo Ibhere, who could quite easily have made a return to the Bescot in September, was out in search of his fifth goal for the U's.

With Christmas songs replacing the normal soundtrack at the Bescot, there was an air of optimism amongst the supporters, despite a run of 17 games without a win, and an attendance barely reaching 3,000. They faced a Colchester side only above the Saddlers in the league thanks to goal difference.

Walsall had a bright start to the game, a series of corners early on failing to threaten the Colchester goal early on. It took until around a quarter of an hour for the first noteworthy effort on goal, a shot from on form striker Febian Brandy being deflected into the side netting

With little to cheer about on the pitch of late, Saddlers fans resorted to Christmas songs to get them into the festive spirit! And with Walsall fans livening up, so did the players. Attacks looked evermore promising, Andy Taylor, Sam Mantom and Febian Brandy all having shots wide, Brandy's the better of the three, after having wriggled his way past the U's defence, his finish lacked conviction.

Striker Jabo Ibhere then came very close to coming back to haunt Walsall. A ball over the top was misjudged by the Saddlers defence, allowing Jabo to flick the ball over keeper Aaron McCarey. To the relief of the Walsall players and fans, it bounced of the crossbar, and was promptly booted out of danger by defender Ben Purkiss.
This was Colchesters first meaningful attack, and they did start to come back into the game after this. Another effort from the left was sent curling its way towards the Walsall goal, but missed to the right of the target, with McCarey at full stretch.

This Colchester pressure didn't last for very long however, with the Saddlers responding immediately. A cross from on loan striker Craig Westcarr found the head of Will Grigg, who couldn't keep his shot down. A Walsall corner then received some suspect defending, U's goalkeeper Mark Cousins making a meal of the cross, but the men in the box for the Saddlers were unable to capitalise on the mistake.

Walsall continued to push forwards and create chances, but couldn't find the back of the net. A Sam Mantom shot was ballooned over the bar to signal the end of a promising first 45 minutes.

HT: Walsall 0 Colchester United 0

Again, it was the Saddlers who began the brighter of the two sides in the second period. Winger Jamie Paterson doing well to beat his man, before delivering a cutting ball across the box, which Will Grigg would have prodded into the net but for a brilliant save from U's keeper Cousins. Febian Brandy's follow up was also well blocked to keep the score at 0-0.

Chances kept on coming for Walsall, another cross this time from the right found Westcarr in space, but he miss timed his jump, and the ball flew harmlessly over his head.

A Saddlers corner around the 57th minute mark was poorly defended by Colchester, but again Walsall couldn't bundle the ball into the net, Adam Chambers the guilty culprit on this occasion.

Walsall needed a moment of magic, which was provided by striker Febian Brandy on the 61st minute. A fantastic ball up field from Sam Mantom found Brandy in the clear. With an exemplary first touch, superb work to weave his way past numerous defenders that were back for the U's, and a cool finish into the bottom left hand corner of the goal, Walsall finally had the goal their hard work deserved

GOAL: Walsall 1 (Brandy 61') Colchester United 0

Prior to this goal, striker George Bowerman had come on for Will Grigg, and he made a positive impact in search of a second goal for Walsall. He picked up the ball on the left wing, and directed an ambitious left footed effort wide of the goal, with Cousins beaten.

To the delight of the Saddlers faithful, with around 15 minutes left on the clock, on loan Belgian midfielder Flo Cuvelier came on to ensure Walsall came away with all 3 points. But as many have come to expect at the Bescot of late, the fans were in for a nail biting final 10 minutes.

Colchester began to push a lot of bodies forward, in a bid to snatch a point from the game. Andy Wordsworth tried his luck from some 20 yards out with a powerful effort skimming the top of McCarey's crossbar, although the keeper appeared to have the shot covered.

The U's then came even closer, this time a  header from defender Josh Thomson after some nervy Saddlers defending dipped onto the crossbar with the 90 minute mark approaching.

The fans were made to suffer a gruelling 4 minutes of added time, but the Saddlers defence held on well. A final shot from Colchester's John-Joe O'Toole was parried away by Aaron McCarey, and with that, Walsall had done it. They had finally ended a run of 17 games without victory.

The Saddlers faithful gave their players a health round of applause at the end of the game, particular praise falling to Man Of The Match for a second game in a row, striker Febian Brandy, who had another impressive performance.

The perfect Christmas present for the fans who were vocal throughout the game, to help their side to their first win since September, and a win that means they leapfrog their opponents Colchester, into 17th place.

Here's to a revived Walsall Football Club, and a very Merry Christmas to all!

F/T: Walsall 1 (Brandy 61') Colchester United 0
ATT: 3,006
REF: Andrew Madley
MOTM: Febian Brandy

By: Calum Williams
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