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REPORT: WALSALL 1 SHEFFIELD UNITED 1

On Tuesday evening Walsall Football Club played host to Sheffield United in the latest Sky Bet League 1 fixture of the season. Blogger Pete Sadler was in attendance, and shares his match report below.
On Tuesday evening Walsall Football Club played host to Sheffield United in the latest Sky Bet League 1 fixture of the season. Blogger Pete Sadler was in attendance, and shares his match report below.

Anyone that sat near me tonight will testify that I was not myself. Quite frankly I'm dying of man-flu as I write this. So when you read this with your bacon sarnie or cuppa tea in the morning/maybe even a Horlicks this evening spare a thought for me...and never question my commitment to Bescot Banter!

Arriving at the ground slightly later than my usual I saw sad to see Tom Bradshaw and Andy Taylor not in the matchday squad due to injuries. In came Anthony Forde, restored to the starting XI from the bench on Saturday against MK Dons and Malvind Benning fresh into the team after a loan spell at York City. I love Mal for his attacking threat but feel that he neglects defensive positional sense...this would be a big test for the academy graduate against tough opposition and a chance to prove his doubters wrong.

Walsall started positively and got a break of the ball on 4 minutes where Forde broke forward before shanking the shot wide from outside of the box. No problems in that attacking intent from me or the locals.

Sheffield United quickly grew into the game however and on 7 minutes Matty Done did well just inside the area to control, turn and unleash a vicious shot which was palmed away from the top left corner by the home stopper Richard O'Donnell.

The plaudits for the Saddlers was short lived as a missed tackle in the middle of the park from Sam Mantom allowed Jose Baxter to advance unchallenged and fire a fantastic strike into the left side of the home net. Baxter has shown his quality before and was allowed too much time and space.

The game ebbed and flowed for much of the first half and to be honest the most entertaining thing was Nigel Cloughs constant moans at the officials, which were warmly rebuked by the Saddlers faithful behind the two dugouts. I have to credit Bob the Walsall Nutter for his persistent badgering of the away support staff causing Chris Morgan to answer back. He caught a bite. Congrats fella and welcome back from your op.

Back to the action and Walsall's best chance of the half came on 35 minutes when a foul on Jordan Cook to the left-hand side allowed Forde to show his quality and bend a lovely strike over the wall and narrowly wide of the near post.

The only half-chance was a ball from the right hand side which was headed straight at the Blades keeper Mark Howard from inside the six-yard box. A melee followed which was allowed to boil over for the last five or six minutes as the referee lost control of the game much to the annoyance of both sets of fans. Kieron Freeman taking the brunt of the cajoling in front of the dugouts, rightfully so. You know your having an off day when neither manager rates you!

One down at half-time and despite predicting a draw I couldn't see where the goal was going to come from. The decisions all seemed to be going the oppositions way...even the hit-the-crossbar game was ruled in favour of the travelling Blades. Come on Gavin, sort it out.

HALF TIME: WALSALL 0 SHEFFIELD UNITED 1

Walsall came out in better shape and created the first chance of the second period on 48 minutes as the influential Romaine Sawyers danced to the edge of the box and fired just over. Maybe a goal was coming after all.

On the 65th minute a corner from the right hand side found it's path onto Paul Downing's head inside the box, under challenge admittedly, but he failed to take advantage and headed over.

Deano had seen enough and with Clough prepared to sit behind the ball and see if the home side could break them down, it looked bleak as a Walsall fan. The introduction of Ashley Grimes for Jordan Cook on 69 minutes made a virtual instant impact. Within two minutes Ben Purkiss was freed down the right and whipped a lovely ball to the near post for sub Grimes to head into the net to the keepers left.

*I must publicly apologise for suggesting seconds before the goal that Ben cannot cross so there was no threat. Mr Purkiss I am sorry*

*I feel I also must apologise to Jordan Cook as I hollered 'great sub Deano!' moments after the goal, without any foresight for the feeling of the lad. Mr Cook I offered no ill wishes and actually like you as a player. Just smile once in a while yeah...I mean just a bit...I digress*

Grimes seemed to have his tail up and possibly had a reason to prove himself...a big game coming up maybe...and on 73 minutes he cut inside from the right and fired a right footed passing shot off the left-hand post. So close to taking the lead yet it was not to be.

A minute later Benning unleashed a looping strike just inside the opposition half straight into the clutches of Howard in the Blades goal. The Saddlers were definitely in the ascendancy despite this speculative effort.

As the game approached the last 10 minutes the replacement of Done for Ryan Flynn produced chants of 'you don't know what you're doing' from the travelling Blades. Clearly Bob's assessment of the opposition manager is counted by more than a majority of one. Are his employers watching?

The tide ha turned and Walsall could have had a penalty in the 83rd minute as Jordy Hiwula broke into the box and was felled before being able to get a shot off. I didn't really see it, neither did Clough. Answers on a postcard please...

Two final chances, one at each end. First the substitute Amadou Bakayoko, on for Hiwula, headed to the keepers right lower corner following a cross from the right. I couldn't help but wonder if Jordy would have scored had he still been on. Harsh on Ama to criticise however with youth on his side and being so fresh into this match. At least referee Rob Lewis gave him a break and didn't book him for closing down the long-ball. Oh he did. Maybe he won't put it through.

In the last minute of normal time Sheffield had the last real chance of the game. Substitute Ben Davies' free-kick just outside the area on the left was blocked by the wall but the rebound was fantastically saved by O'Donnell with an impeded view around his left post. A true point-saver from the excellent and surely much coveted goalkeeper.

A point a piece which really does neither team any favours. I did predict it but hoped to be wrong. On the plus side the performances of James O'Connor and Grimes off the bench gives the management team positive headaches in the selection for starting places for The Big One. We can now finally start to dream and and focus on the biggest game in our history on Sunday.

It goes without saying but best wishes to all the boys, no idea if any of them read this mumbo jumbo, but if you do enjoy it and let your ability do the talking. We are proud of you.

By: Pete Sadler.

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