On Wednesday evening Walsall Football Club travelled North to take on Preston North End in the First Leg of the Johnstone's Paint Trophy Northern Area Final. Bescot Banter columnist Pete Sadler was in attendance, and shares his match report below.
On Wednesday evening Walsall Football Club travelled North to take on Preston North End in the First Leg of the Johnstone's Paint Trophy Northern Area Final. Bescot Banter columnist Pete Sadler was in attendance, and shares his match report below.

I  have to firstly apologise for any errors that I am likely to make on the recollection of events from last nights game. I'm writing this at the early hours of the morning after my phone battery died at the game and the forgetting of a charger. Oh and I'm still dizzy with joy.

As I had mentioned to friends in the last week; Walsall are the most consistently inconsistent team around at the moment. Whilst our first choice XI can match and/or beat any team in the division there just isn't the strength in depth and we have a real reliance on certain players every single game. It must be weighty and my belief is that this is the reason why games are lost to teams that most fans would consider very beatable.

Anyway, I had booked my ticket plus one for this game some time ago and cajoled by dad into coming with me to Preston, passing it off as partly a father-son bonding thing but also because the last game I dragged him to was MK Dons which was a fantastic performance. I was praying for the positive karma to follow us once more.

Having left work early in an effort to beat the M6 carpark we had plenty of time to spare and take on a stop for a popular American Cooked Poultry dinner whereby I was treated to the worst coffee I have ever had the misfortune of having. Moribund. Was this a sign of things to come?

We arrived at the grand old ground, Deepdale, well before kick-off and as it was hardly the weather to be wandering around I checked the team and put on some bets for the game. The only change for Walsall being Jordan Cook who returned from illness to replace James Baxendale. The starting line-up therefore was the strongest possible team as far as I believe; a view shared by the Ginger Mourinho himself too it seems. This was more positive.

Preston began the game in the ascendancy and in striker Jermaine Beckford they were always going to have an attacking threat. His strike partner for the evening, Kevin Davies, however did little to support him. That support however came in majority from wide man Chris Humphreys. The two combined to create at least 2, possibly 3, decent chances for Beckford which would have broken the deadlock but for the superb Richard O'Donnell in the Saddlers goal. Rightly so the in-form stopper took plaudits from both sides after the game and I can only imagine how different the result would have been but for the big man.

In terms of offensive threat for the away side there was very little for the travelling faithful to enjoy. Much touted striker Tom Bradshaw was hardly seen due to both careful marshalling by the Preston back four and the fact the Saddlers were shooting into the far goal away from the away fans and the sheets of rain was quite heavy.  Walsall's best chance came from an Andy Taylor free-kick which struck the home keeper's left-hand post before being cleared.

The second half started much brighter for Dean Smith's men; with more purposeful, quick passing the chances for the away side started to develop as Romaine Sawyers, Anthony Forde and Cook becoming increasingly involved going forward.

James O'Connor played a low ball across the face of the goal from the right-hand side but there was unfortunately nobody to turn the ball goalwards. Cook fired a venomous free-kick straight at the keeper which was punched away to safety before Bradshaw was upended in the box under the challenge of two Preston defenders. The referee deeming the challenge insufficient for either a penalty kick or a booking for simulation which I found strange.

The troublesome Beckford made an early exit from the game due to an appeared injury, to be replaced by former Wolves tubster Sylvan Ebanks-Blake, who was given a warm welcome by all. It seemed that the game was heading for a familiar nil-nil draw, which wouldn't have been a bad result in my opinion. It was not to be.

In the final ten minutes of the game home goalkeeper Stuckmann shanked a long punt straight to the feet of Sawyers near the halfway line, who then carried the ball forward and was fouled by Neil Kilkenny near the edge of the D. Up stepped Forde who wrong-footed the hapless keeper to fire the ball past the keepers right hand to give the Saddlers the lead and send the travelling supporters into raptures.

But it got better. Moments later Baxendale, who had entered the fray for Cook, pressed the ball wide on the left touchline forcing Paul Huntington to play the ball back to his keeper, however the pass was under-hit and Bradshaw pounced to caress the ball through the legs of the advancing keeper into an unguarded net. Unbelievable scenes at Deepdale Jeff. 2-0 away from home and 90 minutes from a first Wembley appearance.

Whilst I wouldn't want to jump the gun and assume we are already there I seriously hope for the staff, players and all our fans that we finish the job and reach the final at least. Therein as I have said, on our day we can beat anyone in the league. Let's get behind the team and pack out the Bescot for the home leg and support with positivity. For tonight however you've made me a very happy Sadler.

By: Pete Sadler.

 GOALS  Forde 84', Bradshaw 88' 
 AT  Deepdale Stadium (Preston) 
 REFEREE  Mr. Simon Hooper (Wiltshire) 
 MAN of the MATCH  Richard O'Donnell (Walsall) 

  PRESTON NORTH END   Stuckmann; Wiseman, Clarke, Huntington, Laird, Browne, Kilkenny    , Gallagher, Humphrey (Ebanks-Blake 75'), Beckford (King 74'), K.Davies (Reid 63')

  SUBS NOT USED   Jones; Wright

  WALSALL   O'Donnell; O'Connor    , J.Chambers, Downing, Taylor; A.Chambers, Cain; Cook (Baxendale 77'), Sawyers, Forde; Bradshaw (Grimes 90')

  SUBS NOT USED   MacGillivray; Purkiss; Flanagan
You can keep up to date with all the latest Walsall FC news across our social media channels, we're on 𝕏, Facebook, Threads, and Instagram. We also offer updates via Google News.
If you appreciate our coverage, please consider buying us a coffee via Ko-fi. You can also sign up to make regular contributions via Patreon.
Previous Post Next Post