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MATCH REPORT: WALSALL 0 CRYSTAL PALACE 3

Earlier this evening Walsall Football Club played host to manager-less Barclays Premier League side Crystal Palace in the Second Round of this season's Capital One Cup tournament. Bescot Banter columnist Scott Brotherton was in attendance, and shares his match report below.
Earlier this evening Walsall Football Club played host to manager-less Barclays Premier League side Crystal Palace, in the Second Round of this season's Capital One Cup tournament. Bescot Banter columnist Scott Brotherton was in attendance, and shares his match report below.

Walsall started brightly in the opening 5 minutes. Tom Bradshaw was scythed down up front and Billy Clifford sent the resulting free kick straight at Wayne Hennessey.

But all it took was some quick thinking from Adlene Guedioura to put Palace into a seventh minute lead.

As Guedioura placed the ball for a free kick he spotted Dwight Gayle's darting run and played the ball through to the striker. The Walsall defence was caught napping and Gayle had plenty of time to size up Richard O'Donnell, before firing across the Saddlers stopper and into the corner.

It could have been 2-0 within minutes from Jerome Thomas' ball across the six yard box. A slight touch from the sliding Liam Kinsella was just enough to take it away from the onrushing attackers.

Dean Smith's side were trying their best to get back on level terms, but apart from another hopeful Clifford 20-yarder and Anthony Forde's blocked effort, they offered little in reply.

Gayle on the other hand was not messing around, adding his second from a free kick on 25 minutes which in truth owed more to poor defending than an expert finish.

The low strike went through the legs of Clifford in the Saddlers wall, and O'Donnell could do nothing to stop the ball hitting the back of the net.

Walsall heads seemed to drop after the second goal went in while The Eagles kept piling on the pressure. Barry Bannan had a few cracks from distance, one which he sliced just off target and a second that the Scot sent miles over the goal.

But Gayle was making no mistakes with his finishing - he was lethal. And the forward grabbed a deserved hat-trick four minutes from half-time.

He ran on to a brilliant ball from Thomas and, after a few feints and stepovers, blasted low into the right corner to complete a 41st-minute treble.

H/T: Walsall 0 Crystal Palace 3

Things looked grim for Walsall at the break and a thumping looked on the cards, however Keith Millen's intentions were made clear when he brought on all 6ft 7in if Brede Hangeland for the second half.

But even with the veteran defender during up the defence Ashley Grimes had the Saddlers' best chance, and one that proved it wouldn't be their day.

Allowed a rare yard or two of space, he hit a curling shot which cannoned off the post, then Hennessey's back, and finally ricocheting to safety.

The focus may have been on seeing out the result, however Glenn Murray's sweet strike that whistled past the past showed how dangerous the Eagles still were.

Moments later Forde's shot took a wicked deflection and looped out for a corner, as the home side tried to add what would now be a consolation.

The diminutive Jonathan Williams decided to test O'Donnell with a blast from out wide, and his luck was nearly in as the the Walsall keeper made a bit of a meal of it at his near post.

The Saddlers brought on some fresh legs around the hour mark in James Baxendale and Reece Flanagan. They were also pleased to see the back of hat-trick hero Gayle, who was replaced after terrorising the defence all evening.

Walsall left-back Andy Taylor's daisy cutter was speculative to say the least, and Grimes slotted home well after the official had flagged for offside.

Bradshaw, who worked hard but was isolated all game, then did brilliantly to hold off the towering Hangeland but struck right at Hennessey from an ever-tightening angle.

Walsall were taking control now but they were being allowed to dominate - Palace never looked in any real trouble. The visitors also handed appearances to youngster Jake Gray and fringe player Owen Garvan.

With ten minutes left a Saddlers corner finally beat every Crystal Palace head, dropping to Adam Chambers who could only nod wide.

F/T: Walsall 0 Crystal Palace 3

That was that, and the resolute defence had nothing more to deal with. A very comfortable day at the office for Millen's men, and the Eagles could have easily notched six or seven if they had kept their foot on the gas.

Walsall meanwhile should be concerned. They look no closer to finding goals and, even though it was against a Premier League outfit, the performance was extremely lacklustre.

By: Scott Brotherton.

RESULTWalsall 0 Crystal Palace 3 (Gayle 7', 25' & 41')
ATTENDANCE: 3,987 (879 Crystal Palace).
REFEREE: Mr. Darren Drysdale, Lincolnshire.

WALSALL: O'Donnell; Kinsella, Holden, Downing, Taylor; A,Chambers, Clifford (Flanagan 61'); Grimes, Forde (Benning 75'), Sawyers (Baxendale 61'); Bradshaw

Subs not used: MacGillivray; O'Connor; Morris; Bakayoko

CRYSTAL PALACE: Hennessey; Mariappa, McCarthy, Binnom-Williams, Delaney (Hangeland 45'); Guedioura, Thomas, Bannan, Williams (Garvan 75'); Murray, Gayle (Gray 62')

Subs not used: Kettings, Boateng, Kaikai, Puncheon
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