Emirates FA Cup: Darlington 0 Walsall 1

Here is our Match Report from Wednesday evening's televised Emirates FA Cup - First Round replay between Darlington and Walsall.
The Saddlers arrived at the match on the back of a duo of wins and in search of a place in the Second Round of the world's oldest club competition. Recent results over Forest Green and Cambridge United had given the team a much-needed boost heading into the televised clash.

On loan Bristol City winger, Rory Holden got the match underway, and both sides enjoyed spells on the ball in the early goings, but a third minute free-kick awarded to Darlington after a foul from Callum Cockerill-Mollett saw the hosts presented with the first half-chance of the game. As it was though, Liam Roberts had the set-piece covered and got out well to gather.

Darlington 'keeper, Liam Connell into action too, was soon presented with a chance at an easy save also, as a Wesley McDonald cross into the area proved a stretch too far for Caolan Lavery, allowing the shot-stopper to claim.

Walsall went on to win a corner moments later, as Ben Hedley was forced to turn the ball behind, but the visiting side were unable to make use of the set-piece. Three minutes later, the hosts won their first flag-kick of the game, courtesy of Cockerill-Mollett, and were also unable to take advantage.

The home team continued to pressure the Walsall goal, with Stephen Thompson seeing a ninth minute effort on goal blocked, before Will Hatfield saw a right-footed effort saved.

The Saddlers looked likely to open the scoring in the twelfth minute, as the ball fell to Holden inside the box, but his shot on goal sailed wide of the upright.

Walsall went close again just three minutes later, as some good work from Cockerill-Mollett set, in form, Josh Gordon up, with the strikers effort on goal sailed inches over Connell's crossbar.

Darlington would win a free-kick in shooting range moments later, as Hatfield was fouled, but the effort in was aimed straight down the throat of the Walsall shot-stopper, who gathered with ease.

The match became something of a midfield battle as it continued, with neither side really able to create any forward momentum.

With twenty-six minutes on the clock, the hosts won a corner, as Walsall captain, James Clarke turned the ball behind, but the home side were unable to really test Roberts who made an easy save.

The Saddlers worked the ball up to the other end, quickly, but they too were unable to test their opposition 'keeper.

After a very open spell, with few chances, Darlington won a corner in the thirty-second minute, as Gary Liddle blocked a cross, but they were unable to make anything of the opportunity and the Saddlers came away with the ball.

The hosts continued to pepper the Walsall goal with shots as the action continued, but were met by a wall of red. The Saddlers defences working overtime to ensure the scores remained tied.

Walsall withstood the pressure well, and were eventually able to get the ball away from the danger zone, working the ball up the other end and winning a corner in the thirty-eighth minute, but Lavery was unable to turn the flag-kick home.

The Saddlers soon found themselves back in a defensive role, and continued to make life hard for themselves as they struggled to clear the danger at the first attempt on more than one occasion.

One additional minute was added to end the first-half, but neither side was able to create anything further and the sides headed off for their half-time refreshments and a talking to, with the scores still tied.

0 - 0

The sides returned unchanged after the break, and Darlington got the match back underway. Both sides won free-kicks early in the second-half but neither was able to make use of them, though Cameron Norman went agonisingly close in the fiftieth minute with an effort from twenty-five yards following a foul on Liam Kinsella.

The Saddlers could have been awarded a penalty in the fifty-third minute, as a close range effort from McDonald hit a hand in the box, but as it was the referee didn't see it and no appeals were made so play continued.

Walsall continued to show improvement in their performance, though they struggled in the final third.

With fifty-six minutes on the clock, the visitors went close again, as a delightful ball in from Gordon found Lavery in the box, but the latter's effort on goal sailed inches over Connell's crossbar.

Fifty-nine minutes in, the Saddlers opted to make their first change of the evening, with Gary Liddle making way as Alfie Bates entered the fray.

Walsall continued to press following the change and were rewarded with a corner in the sixty-second minute, but some good defending from the Darlington side ensured it would come to nothing.

Darlington were awarded a free-kick on the edge of the box, in the sixty-fifth minute, from which they won a corner as the ball came off Bates before heading out of play. The Saddlers defences stood firm though and the flag-kick came to nothing.

With sixty-eight minutes on the clock, Norman won a corner for his side, which was played into the box by Holden, where Lavery was waiting to nod home his fifth goal of the season.

In the seventy-first minute, James Clarke became the first player to see his name added to the referee's notebook; the skipper seeing yellow for a foul on Thompson.

The Saddlers went close to securing a second goal moments later, as a cross into the box from Gordon was met by McDonald who was unable to get enough on the ball to see it past Connell.

There was a brief pause in proceedings in the seventy-fourth minute, whilst a winded Kinsella recovered. He was soon back on his feet though and able to continue.

With seventy-nine minutes played, Walsall opted to make a second change to their line-up, as Josh Gordon made way for Rory Gaffney.

Just a minute later, Darlington chose to make their first change of the evening, with Josef Wheatley making way for Louis Laing.

After a quiet three minutes, the Saddlers went on to make their third and final change of the evening; Wesley McDonald departing as Dan Scarr took his place.

The home side set about finding a late equaliser once the changes were completed, but the Saddlers continued to defend well, ensuring that each ball in was promptly turned away again.

The Saddlers were awarded a free-kick in a dangerous position, a minute from time, following a foul on Holden by Omar Holness. A move which would also see the Darlington player enter the referee's notebook before the set-piece was dealt with by his team-mates.

Three minutes were added to end the game, during which time Holden joined his skipper and Holness in the referee's notebook as he saw yellow for time wasting. Walsall continued to seek ways to run down the clock, and did just enough to ensure that no further Darlington shots were made. The Saddlers progressing into the second round of the FA Cup with a well deserved one-nil victory.

0 - 1

Lavery (68')
Attendance: 3106 (105)
Referee: Scott Oldham
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