Earlier this afternoon Walsall Football Club played host to Coventry City in the latest Sky Bet League 1 fixture of the season. Bescot Banter columnist Scott Brotherton was in attendance, and shares his match report below.
Earlier this afternoon Walsall Football Club played host to Coventry City in the latest Sky Bet League 1 fixture of the season. Bescot Banter columnist Scott Brotherton was in attendance, and shares his match report below.

Like the Swindon game on Boxing Day, this match got off to a dreadful start for the Saddlers.

Romaine Sawyers lazily tripped midfielder Jim O'Brien as he was going away from goal, gifting Coventry a penalty within the first five minutes.

Marcus Tudgay stepped up for the Sky Blues but his spot kick was a poor one. It was low and central with not much power, bouncing off the diving Richard O'Donnell's legs to safety.

The Walsall fans couldn't celebrate for long though, as penalty-winner O'Brien took matters into his own hands with a 30-yard screamer.

It came in the sixth minute after O'Donnell advanced to collect ball but Downing cut it out and cleared. O'Brien was alert and saw the keeper struggling to get back on his line, hitting a bullet over O'Donnell's despairing dive and into the top corner.

Although aided by the mix up, O'Brien's piledriver may well have beaten the goalkeeper whether he was ready for it or not. It was a peach of a strike.

The Saddlers provided a good response, first through James Baxendale whose shot took a looping deflection into the arms of Ryan Allsop.

Barely a minute later the other winger Anthony Forde again showcased his dead-ball ability. His 25-yard free kick beat the wall but the keeper got down well to clutch at the base of his post.

Walsall kept pressing and Tom Bradshaw darted towards Andy Taylor's near post cross to nick the ball. It popped up nicely for him but the striker blazed his volley over from a difficult angle.

Although they started the day in 17th, the Sky Blues looked a strong and pacy side and especially potent now they could sit back and counter attack.

Their attacking threat was made clear again when Tudgay rose highest to meet a looping cross and his header smashed off the bar.

Ipswich loanee Frank Nouble then hammered wide after the ball was only half-cleared to him on the edge of the area with the goal at his mercy.

The visitors kept coming. A Coventry corner came back in after the initial clearance and was headed towards Matthew Pennington near the penalty spot. He fired a half volley at goal but fantastic goalkeeping denied him, as O'Donnell got down smartly to his left to palm the shot away.

The Saddlers' number 1 must have left Sky Blues boss Steven Pressley baffled at how his side weren't already out of sight.

Up the other end Michael Cain's tester from 20 yards was stopped by Allsop at his near post, and Taylor's menacing-looking free kick dropped just over.

At the interval though, despite some chances, Walsall should have been satisfied with only being 1-0 down when it could have been a four or five goal deficit.


Dean Smith had clearly given some players a piece of his mind at the break, as they came out with much more purpose.

Bradshaw teed up Sawyers whose low shot took a nick on its way wide, and Taylor then blasted high and wild from the resulting corner.

Moments later Forde did brilliantly to beat two men and play a low ball to Bradshaw at the near post. He flicked goalwards but Allsop stayed big and the effort cannoned off the on-loan Bournemouth stopper.

The pressure continued and Walsall came closer still. Baxendale's shot was parried away by Allsop but Forde followed it in and his shot from an acute angle ricocheted off the post.

Sawyers then played a sumptuous flick with the outside of his boot to Cain in the box. The on-loan Leicester midfielder took it first time on the volley but again the Saddlers were thwarted by the post.

Coventry wisely chose to slow down the game at this point, as they were starting to be overrun. The Sky Blues became more defensive-minded, started wasting a bit of time, and began making some pretty cynical fouls.

Sawyers nearly lost his head when Conor Thomas came in with a particularly crunching tackle, reacting angrily to the challenge. Luckily he was dragged away before he did something silly, and Coventry received their first and only card of the game.

The shots dried up a little but Taylor and Cain both had attempts off target, Cain's being an especially sweet strike which whistled inches wide.

Just to add insult to injury the Sky Blues gained some momentum late on as Walsall started to look deflated, and they put the game to bed in the 87th minute.

A deep corner found the unmarked Tudgay who made amends for his wasted penalty by planting a firm header into the top corner, a cruel blow after the Saddlers had dominated the second half.

By: Scott Brotherton.

 RESULT    WALSALL     0     COVENTRY CITY     2   
 GOALS  O'Brien 6', Tudgay 87' 
 AT  Banks's Stadium (Walsall) 
 ATTENDANCE  5,930 (1,772 Coventry City) 
 REFEREE  Mr. Carl Boyeson (East Yorkshire) 

  WALSALL   O'Donnell; O'Connor, J.Chambers (Purkiss 71'), Downing, Taylor; Cain, A.Chambers; Baxendale (Benning 67'), Sawyers, Forde (Manset 83'); Bradshaw

  SUBS NOT USED   MacGillivray; Henry; Flanagan, Grimes

  COVENTRY CITY   Allsop; Pennington, Phillips (Finch 78'), Willis, Haynes, Fleck, O'Brien, C.Thomas    , Jackson (Barton 79'), Nouble, Tudgay

  SUBS NOT USED   Burge; Pugh, Swanson, Maddison, G.Thomas
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