Posted by: Bescot Banter


Following Saturday afternoon's Sky Bet League One defeat to high-flying Bradford City, Bescot Banter columnist Calum Williams shares his Match Report.
Following Saturday afternoon's Sky Bet League One defeat to high-flying Bradford City, Bescot Banter columnist Calum Williams shares his Match Report;

Both sides went in to this game in the top half of the table, and looking to get points on the board, in what are still the early stages of the SkyBet League One season.

The Bantams were without eight goal striker Nakhi Wells, out with a foot injury, but with a run of six league games undefeated, they would certainly be a tough test for the Saddlers! The home side started with an identical line up to the squad that salvaged a point against league leaders Leyton Orient, thus ruining there 100% winning record, last Saturday.

The travelling Bradford fans were very vocal early on, and their players seemed to respond well to the upbeat atmosphere. Kyel Reid the first man to pose a threat going forward, his shot evaded the reach of Walsall keeper O’Donnell, but rippled the side netting, and went harmlessly out for a goal kick.

The ideas seemed to be there for the Saddlers, but the execution was lacking. A smart cross played in by Sam Mantom failed to find a man in the box, before good link up play between Craig Westcarr and Milan Lalkovic broke down in the final third.

The first real effort on goal for Walsall came from striker Troy Hewitt, after he made space amongst the group of defenders marking him. He managed to get a shot away, but skewed it wide of the goal. And with the away side making mistakes, the Saddlers kept knocking on their door, Sam Mantom the next player to find himself in space, he went for a finesse shot which had precision, but not power, and was easily smothered by Bradford keeper Jon McLaughlan.

The Bantams keeper was called into action once again 27 minutes in, a fierce strike from long range from Mantom forced a smart save out of the City number 1, to keep the scores level.

In truth, it was very much a midfield battle in the first half, both sides pressing well but failing to make a breakthrough. This was, however, before a Bradford surge just before the half way mark turned the tide of the game.

Hanson and Yeates linked up well for Bradford up front, forcing some last ditch defending out of the Saddlers back-line, and the away side certainly posed an aerial threat. But it would be a moment of brilliance that would break the deadlock on the 45 minute mark. A sublime strike from Kyel Reid, from about 30 yards out, left O’Donnell with no hope at all, and fired City into the lead.

GOAL: Walsall 0 Bradford City 1 (Reid 45’)

H/T: Walsall 0 Bradford City 1

Bradford came out of the blocks quickly in the second half. In fact, they caught the Saddlers completely oblivious at the back. An angled ball over the top by McArdle was completely misjudged by the defence, and Hanson emerged to fire powerfully past O’Donnell from a tight angle, to give The Bantams a two goal cushion.

GOAL: Walsall 0 Bradford City 2 (Hanson 47’)

Walsall then started to get in to the game more, but were limited to long range efforts. Sam Mantom certainly wasn’t afraid to shoot, but an effort from him went wide, followed by a subsequent strike being smothered by McLaughlan. A ball in by Craig Westcarr later flashed across the face of goal and towards the path of Troy Hewitt, but he failed to make a connection.

Dean Smith then opted for a complete change around, with Sawyers, Hemmings, and Baxendale all coming on in search of what would be an impressive comeback. The introduction of these players seemed to bring more fluidity to the Saddlers’ play, but there was still an absence of decisiveness in the final third.

Andy Taylor became more involved in the game down the left hand side, putting some good crosses into the danger zone, and trying his luck himself, but to little avail, with the City defence holding strong and staying very tight with their marking.

The closest Walsall came to scoring was in fact on about the 67 minute mark. A ball lifted over by Taylor found Westcarr, who drove the ball across the box into the path of Paul Downing, who made contact, but send the ball just wide to the right of the goal, with the keeper stranded.

The Saddlers fans did become more vocal, they could see their side were pushing for a goal that could see them get back into the game, but Ashley Hemmings & Troy Hewitt both missed good opportunities. And Hemmings later saw a promising curled effort go just over the crossbar, although the keeper appeared confident it was always rising.

Andy Taylor then worked an opening with about 5 minutes of normal time remaining, but McLaughlan got down well at his near post, to parry away the effort. Taylor would have a few more unsuccessful attempts at goal before the final whistle sounded, but in the end the Saddlers just couldn’t find a way through a resilient Bradford defence.

F/T: Walsall 0 Bradford City 2 (Reid 45', Hanson 47')
ATT: 5,364
REF: Eddie Ilderton
MOTM: Sam Mantom (Walsall)

This game was always going to be tough for the Saddlers, the win boosted The Bantams up to 4th in the league, stretching their unbeaten run to seven games, and their prospects for this season certainly look very bright. The Saddlers themselves remain in 9th position, although appear to be lacking in the goals department, with an average of just over one goal per game in the league!

Home form is also an issue, with just one win out of five games at the Banks’s Stadium so far, but if statistics are anything to go by, Walsall were by no means outplayed in this encounter, and Dean Smith’s men will now be looking forward to a trip to mid-table Colchester United next Saturday.

By: Calum Williams
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