REPORT | Walsall 2 Coventry City 1 REPORT | Walsall 2 Coventry City 1

REPORT | Walsall 2 Coventry City 1

On Saturday afternoon, Walsall Football Club played host to Coventry City, in the latest Sky Bet League 1 fixture of the season. Columnist Pete Sadler was in attendance, and you can read his latest match report below.
On Saturday afternoon, Walsall Football Club played host to Coventry City, in the latest Sky Bet League 1 fixture of the season. Columnist Pete Sadler was in attendance, and you can read his latest match report below.

I don't think many will disagree with the suggestion that the visit of a high-flying Coventry City side represented the biggest test to a very positive start to the season for the Saddlers.

Whilst two away wins on the spin at Southend and Rochdale were amazing results it would be a throwback to last season should the Saddlers not back this up with solid home performances too. The range of opinion as to how this would play out before the game was varied between the very optimistic and extremely pessimistic.

Dean Smith seems to have become League One's tinker man and surely there could be prizes for anyone successfully predicting the next match starting line-up. Special 12-inch plate carvery maybe? Imported portion of chips? Hug from Tom Bradshaw? Credit to the man though, it seems to be working. From the team that started against Rochdale Romaine Sawyers and Anthony Forde came in for Reece Flanagan and Kieron Morris; in what appeared to be a 4-2-3-1 formation. Positive intent but mindful of the threat posed by a potent attacking front line for the Sky Blues in Adam Armstrong, Jim O'Brien and Ruben Lameiras.

As the game began it was barely 3 minutes old when the first positive sign for the Saddlers came with the withdrawal of the influential playmaker James Maddison due to injury, Jacob Murphy taking his place. Less than ideal for the pre-match plans of Tony Mowbray's side.

Whilst Walsall seemed to be getting the better of the play on the pitch, the travelling Sky Blues fans seized the advantage of the volume levels in the stands with many a chorus to the tune of them being top of the league and less-than-favourable comments about the quality of the opposition. The Saddlers responded with a number of ironic cheers from the stands. Only the players will be able to say whether this raised them, as Andy Taylor whipped a delicious cross in from the left which was not converted by Forde, shortly before Milan Lalkovic fired a rasping shot across the front of goal shortly after, followed up with a couple of long-range efforts from both Lalkovic and the influential Sam Mantom.

The breakthrough came shortly before the break with Mantom receiving the ball just inside the opposition half as playing a delightful through ball into the path of Forde on the left-hand side of the box, who took it well into his feet and slotted the ball calmly past the onrushing keeper Lee Burge. 1-0. A great time to score you could say.

At the break the locals around me were happy with the half, less so with the music choices of Reece Flanagan which blared over the sound system at the break. If you know the lad can you please have a word. Bobby Valentino and R Kelly. Just let that sink in.

SKY BET LEAGUE 1 - HALF TIME
WALSALL 1 COVENTRY CITY 0

At the break Coventry made their second change, with Bryn Morris replacing O'Brien. I can only assume this was because of injury as I really rate O'Brien and he was quite influential in the first half despite some wayward shooting. I'll not tell anyone that Deano didn't know much about the replacement either and resorted to reading about him from the back of the programme.

If you expected the same sort of Saddlers performances as last season then you'd be surprised by what was witnessed today. Gone was the sluggish start to the second period to allow the visiting side a foothold back into the game, instead the Saddlers nearly doubled their advantage as Bradshaw was played through one-on-one with the keeper by Mantom, however the wanted Welsh wizard was unable to get the ball onto his favoured right food and Reda Johnson was able to force him wide.

The second goal came shortly after however, Lalkovic dancing down the left flank before fizzing a shot goalwards which was palmed away by Burge but straight to Bradshaw who manoeuvred skilfully to volley it into the net. A two-goal cushion was just what was required to ease the growing nerves of the home faithful.

The nerves were not allayed for too long however, much to the appeasement of the by-then quieter travelling Sky Blues fans. After Jordan Willis was allowed a rest to contemplate a report to West Mids Police for the footballing assault received at the hands of Lalkovic and Armstrong had clipped the bar for the for the away side with the ball eventually cleared for a corner. The corner was headed clear to the left-hand side only to be struck by substitute Murphy from about 25 yards of the far post of Neil Etheridge's goal and into the Walsall net. A thunderbolt that you just have to applaud. Here we go again I thought with over half an hour to go.

Forde was replaced by Kieron Morris with about 25 minutes to go as Coventry pressed for an equaliser and almost scored his first of the new season from a drive at the edge of the box, however it sailed over the bar after good work from Lalkovic and Sawyers.

Lalkovic made way shortly after firing a free-kick wide of the right hand-post, with Jordan Cook taking his position in the left. Whilst there inevitably were chances for Coventry to draw parity in the game there were also chances for the Saddlers to extend their advantage. Reda Johnson was pushed up-top by Mowbray in the final few minutes and Smith looked to counter with the introduction of Matt Preston for the Saddlers, however it never materialised. And neither did the equaliser. 2-1 it finished as the home fans celebrated a fabulous performance.

Milan Lalkovic was awarded the Man of the Match Award by the sponsors, possibly fair for his attacking threat, however I thought the full-backs of Andy Taylor and Jason Demetriou were outstanding and Sam Mantom continues his fine form. Congratulations all round and onto Tuesday's cup game with Brighton.

Surprisingly I didn't hear any singing about being top of the league or the quality of the opposition from the Sky Blues fans on leaving the ground. No idea why.

SKY BET LEAGUE 1 - RESULT
WALSALL 2 COVENTRY CITY 1
GOALS: Forde (40'), Bradshaw (52') - Murphy (56')
ATTENDANCE: 7,176 (2,281 Coventry City)
REFEREE: Mr. Jeremy Simpson (Lancashire)

BY: PETE SADLER - @Pistol_PeteS9 
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