Posted by: Bescot Banter •


Following Saturday afternoon's draw with top of the table Brentford, columnist Alistair Baker shares his Match Report.
Following Saturday afternoon's Sky Bet League One draw with top of the table Brentford, columnist Alistair Baker shares his Match Report;

This Sky Bet League One clash saw two teams at the right end of the table battling it out for the three points. Walsall came into this one fresh from breaking into the top six on Tuesday night, after beating Oldham 1-0. The visitors Brentford were sitting top of the pile before kick off, promising a match of real quality for the spectators.

The first 15 minutes was a cagey affair for both teams. The Saddlers were struggling to get the fpassing football going, while Brentford were seeking a more direct approach. Marcelo Trotta the pick of the players early on, finding the diagnol switch out to the wide right for Clayton Donaldson. If anything Walsall were giving the league leaders too much respect, standing off and letting the Bees dictate the rhythm of the game comfortably. The first real chance for the home side came when Lalkovic hit a rasping drive from 25 yards straight into the hands of David Button in the Brentford goal mouth. Lalkovic seemed to be causing Alan McCormack at right back for The Bees problems, which would turn out to be a key feature of the game.

Approaching the half hour mark Walsall finally seemed to settle into the game, establishing the passing game that has worked so well this season. However that wasn’t enough to prevent Jake Bidwell picking up the ball on the left hand side and picking out a peach of a ball for Donaldson to head home, putting the visitors in front. Donaldson’s 14th of the season, showing just what Walsall seemed to be missing with someone to put the ball in the back of the net.

Brentford continued in the latter stages of the half to cause the home side problems with their direct football, looking at every opportunity to find Donaldson in the box. However after a decent spell of pressure from The Saddlers, James Chambers managed to pick out Lalkovic at the back post with a cross from the wide right, who then nodded back across goal for Craig Westcarr to head home his 11th of the season. The finish couldn’t have been easier for Westcarr, after one of the smallest men on the pitch in Lalkovic, put it on a plate for him.

H/T: Walsall 1 Brentford 1

The second half started like the first half ended, both sides enjoying and then enduring waves of attack. Brentford wasted a good chance from a free kick 20 yards out early on. Febian Brandy had a penalty appeal turned down subsequently, after being cut down on his way into the box. Difficult to see from where I was sitting but certainly softer penalties have been given in the past. The game continued in an end-to-end fashion, Clayton Donaldson driving a low cross from the right across the face of goal, only for Trotta to poke it over the crossbar. A good chance wasted by The Bees.

In the 65th minute, Mal Benning replaced Andy Taylor at left back after he looked to be in discomfort with his hamstring. Hopefully this won’t mean a long lay off for The Saddlers as he has been a key player this season. Both teams continued to have a good go at claiming the vital next goal, Milan Lalkovic looking the danger man for the home side. 
The 68th minute saw the end of Will Grigg’s frustrating return to The Bescot, barely having a sniff at goal all afternoon. Chuba Akpom replacing him while Logan replaced Judge for the visitors. As the game continued, Romaine Sawyers had the chance to fire The Saddlers into the lead but put his chance turned over the bar, while George Saville was the danger man in the middle of the park for Brentford. Saville then put in a terrible challenge on Brandy in the 80th minute, the referee ignoring the home supporters appeals and only cautioning Saville. Jay Chambers went off injured for Ben Purkiss in the 82nd minute, again hopefully for Walsall fans this won’t be a long lay off.

The final ten minutes of the match saw Walsall take the initiative, leaving Brentford rocking at the back. Craig Westcarr fired his chance over while Paul Downing also put his header over the crossbar late on. Brentford had one last chance after Stuart Dallas pulled his shot wide of the home sides near post, after replacing Marcelo Trotta. It was all Walsall for the last five but they just couldn’t get the break through in the end.

F/T: Walsall 1 Brentford 1
GOALS: (Westcarr 45' - Donaldson 30')
ATT: 5,295 (1,089 Brentford Supporters)
REF: Scott Duncan, Northumberland.

A brilliant game for the neutral, but a nervy one for both home and away supporters. Either side could have snatched it at some point in the game, however Walsall will feel slightly disappointed they couldn’t capitalise on the late spells of pressure. In fairness the Walsall defence dealt with the attacking talent of Brentford very well, with Richard O’Donnell having not a lot to do in the home goal. Lalkovic looked the danger man for the home team, but with very little cutting edge from the Walsall offence in front of goal, it was destined to be a frustrating afternoon. Donaldson was a handful for the visitors, displaying what the Saddlers seem to be missing, a force up front.

All in all, a brilliant advert for League One football, Walsall proving that they can mix it with the best this season.

By: Alistair Baker
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