WALSALL 1 CRAWLEY TOWN 2 - MATCH REPORT

Following this afternoon's Sky Bet League One clash between Walsall and visitors Crawley Town, Bscot Banter columnist Scott Brotherton shares his Match Report.
Following this afternoon's Sky Bet League One clash between Walsall and visitors Crawley Town, Bscot Banter columnist Scott Brotherton shares his Match Report;

It was a nightmare start for Walsall and in particular Andy Butler, who gave away a penalty just four minutes into his return from a one-match ban.

The ball was blasted into the area and Butler stooped to control it with his chest. The captain misjudged the bounce though and the ball cannoned into his arm, leaving the referee with no option but to point to the spot.

Matt Tubbs was composed from 12 yards and sent Richard O'Donnell the wrong way to give the Red Devils an early lead.

Crawley hadn't played for nearly a month and they are six games behind the Saddlers in League One , but showed no signs of rustiness as Billy Clarke carved out two further chances.

His first effort was easily gathered by O'Donnell to his right and Clarke bent the second attempt harmlessly over from distance.

Walsall were the ones who looked out of practice. They seemed lethargic and Craig Westcarr's over-hit free kick from 20 yards was the closest Dean Smith's side came in the opening half an hour.

There was a little hope when Sam Mantom struck wide. It followed a nice move where Milan Lalkovic had pulled back the ball after Febian Brandy's mazy run.

That was a rare bit of excitement in what was a thoroughly disappointing half though. The hosts were just not at the races and needed to improve their display to stand any chance in the second period.

H/T: Walsall 0 Crawley Town 1

It was a promising start just two minutes in and Michael Ngoo, making his full home debut, shanked a shot horribly wide from distance.

The air of positivity didn't last long though because on 51 minutes Tubbs completed his brace.

Clarke broke forward as the Walsall defence was back-pedalling and floated a delicious cross to the far post where Tubbs was waiting unmarked to nod the ball in.

Amid the panic of Crawley's counter-attack Butler and Downing must have lost their bearings, as both were nowhere near Tubbs when he ghosted into the box to head past O'Donnell.

On the hour mark the visitors could have had the game sewn up when Mike Jones ran through the entire Walsall half and thundered a strike against the crossbar, but the brilliant run didn't have a finish to match.

Ngoo nodded over a speculative effort from the edge of the area before he finally made way for Romaine Sawyers, after what was a pretty uneventful hour on the field for the on-loan striker.

A surprise was in store on the 64th minute when the Saddlers suddenly found themselves back in the game.

Westcarr played his corner to Mantom on the edge of the box, and the midfielder rifled a shot off the inside of the post and into the goal. It stunned everyone but especially the home fans who must have thought their team were down and out.

A different Walsall emerged after that goal and Crawley were pushed deeper and deeper into their own half.

The passing was back, the flair was back. The Saddlers were rampant and threatening at every opportunity, especially down the flanks.

John Gregory's Red Devils were then forced even further against the wall when Clarke was sent off for a very harsh second yellow card.

The forward seemed to genuinely not realise that he had been flagged offside and in fairness the home fans also took a while to notice the flag. Referee Jamie Simpson had already made his mind up though, and dismissed Clarke to the amusement of most people at the Banks's.

The final ten minutes, including five minutes of added time, were all Walsall. Brandy darted down the right and cut into the box but could only stab a weak shot at goalkeeper Paul Jones.

Sub Sawyers also struck a vicious volley with just a few minutes to go which took a looping deflection and went out for a corner.

Walsall pressed and pressed but were unable to make these brilliant 20 minutes make up for an hour or so of poor play, slipping to a second consecutive home defeat.

The Saddlers also lose ground on the play-off places: the loss means they slip to five points from Peterborough who still occupy sixth spot.

F/T: Walsall 1 (Mantom 64') Crawley Town 2 (Tubbs PEN 4' & 49')
ATT: 3,904
REF: J, Simpson

By: Scott Brotherton
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