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MATCH REPORT: WALSALL 3 PRESTON NORTH END 1

Following Saturday afternoon's Sky Bet League One clash between win-less Walsall and undefeated Preston North End, Bescot Banter columnist Scott Brotherton shares his Match Report.

Following Saturday afternoon's Sky Bet League One clash between win-less Walsall and undefeated Preston North End, Bescot Banter columnist Scott Brotherton shares his Match Report.

There was a confident start from in-form Preston in the first five minutes, with Jack King's shot being blocked by a mass of bodies in the Saddlers' box.

But they were rocked when Romaine Sawyers broke the deadlock in only the 7th minute.

Adam Chambers found his way to the byline before pulling the ball back to the St. Kitts and Nevis international. And Sawyers built on his midweek goal for the national side by calmly slotting home.

There was then somewhat of a lull in the game for 20 minutes or so. Simon Grayson's side maintained overall control and passed the ball around nicely but the Walsall defence - including former captain Andy Butler - held firm and no real chances were created.

With the game getting closer to half-time, the Lilywhites began to apply some pressure. Defender Bailey Wright headed over from a corner and it wasn't long before Preston got their equaliser.

It came after a lapse in concentration by Sawyers. The goalscorer lost the ball in midfield and allowed the visitors to break.

The ball eventually came to danger man Joe Garner who hit a sweet strike from outside the area into the far corner past a despairing Richard O'Donnell.

That was a great goal, but Garner could have completely turned the tide with an even better one minutes later. A misjudged header gave ball to him on halfway and he nearly made a fool out of O'Donnell.

The goalkeeper was caught on edge of the D as there was initially no danger looming, but Garner's long range half volley dropped just wide with O'Donnell rooted and praying for the best.

King then curled wide and right-back Calum Woods forced a good low stop from the keeper in added time, as Preston were definitely on top at the interval.

H/T: Walsall 1 Preston North End 1

Adam Chambers was replaced by Billy Clifford for the second half (after a reported ankle injury) but Walsall were back in front just four minutes after half-time.

Anthony Forde charged down the right flank and delivered a cross towards the near post. It was met by Tom Bradshaw who darted into the box and buried the header with aplomb.

That was his fourth goal of the season in the league and the summer signing from Shrewsbury looks like a prolific finisher.

Full-back James O'Connor then burst forward on the overlap and winger Mal Benning came in at the back stick the meet his ball. He got underneath the ball and ended up nodding over, however the Saddlers were looking more and more threatening.

The attack was slightly blunted when Bradshaw was replaced on the hour mark, giving Mathieu Manset a chance to lead the line.

Bradshaw was given some heavy strapping around his thigh, pointing to a tight hamstring, and the substitution might just mean he can be fit for the trip to Rochdale on Tuesday night.

Back to matters on the pitch, Garner put well off target from 20 yards before things got a bit feisty and Preston were reduced to ten men.

A hefty challenge by on-loan Butler on Jordan Hugill drew an unsavoury reaction from the centre-forward. Hugill, who teed up Garner for his goal, connected with an apparent headbutt on Butler and gave the referee no option but red.

The headbutt also drew a huge reaction from O'Donnell. He sprinted out to the left hand side and pushed Hugill to the floor. Ref Geoff Eltringham only brandished a yellow card and the fact it was a chest push may well have saved the Walsall stopper. Even so, the away supporters were livid.

They got a chance to vent their anger when Chris Humphrey put over from close range, clattering O'Donnell in the process.

The visiting fans gathered behind the advertising boards and gave the keeper some real abuse while Jon Whitney worked his magic.

But they were firmly back in their seats by the time Paul Downing made it 3-1 in the 76th minute.

He rose above everyone to meet a Clifford corner and put the towering header into the bottom corner to make sure of the win.

And it could have been a more emphatic scoreline. Excellent work from Reece Flanagan set up Clifford on the angle but he blasted right across the face of goal.

Benning also fired over in the dying minutes, as Preston were reduced to hopeful long balls up to the likes of Garner and veteran sub Kevin Davies.

The ten men did get through the defences once with Alan Browne bearing down on goal. His shot was well saved by O'Donnell and gathered at the second attempt -Dean Smith's men could finally celebrate their first league win.

F/T: Walsall 3 Preston North End 1


F/T: Walsall 3 (Sawyers 7', Bradshaw 49', Downing 76') Preston North End 1 (Garner 36')
MOTM: Romaine Sawyers (Walsall).
AT: Banks's Stadium, Walsall.
ATTENDANCE: 4,776 (1,122 Preston North End).
REFEREE: Mr. Geoff Eltringham, Tyne and Wear.

Walsall: O'Donnell    ; O'Connor, Butler, Downing, Taylor; Forde, A.Chambers (Clifford 45'), Flanagan, Benning    ; Sawyers (Baxendale 80'); Bradshaw (Manset 59')

Subs not usedMacGillivray; Kinsella, Morris, Grimes

Preston North End: Jones, Clarke, Wright, Woods, Buchanan, Kilkenny, King, Humphrey (Davies 77'), Gallagher (Browne 77'), Garner, Little (Hugill 20'    )

Subs not used: Stuckmann; Wiseman, Hayhurst, Brownhill
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