FA Cup Match Report: Walsall 2 Darlington 2

Here is our Match Report from Saturday afternoon's Emirates FA Cup clash between Walsall and Darlington.
Walsall have endured a dismal spell of form as of late and went into this weekend's cup clash on the back of a string of six defeats and in desperate need of a return to form.

Manager Darrell Clarke has seen his side slip ever-closer to the foot of the League Two table and would no doubt have welcomed the distraction of a cup outing as he seeks to find a line-up which is capable of securing a much-needed win.

After an well observed minutes silence, Liam Kinsella got the match underway. Darlington started the game brightly, winning the first corner just two minutes in, as Mat Sadler was forced to turn the ball behind, but the visiting side were unable to make use of the flag-kick.

Walsall went on to win a string of free-kicks, the best of which came in the fourth minute, but Alfie Bates ball in from the set-piece was ultimately headed clear.

Darlington continued to see plenty of the ball as the game progressed, and eleven minutes in, created their first real chance on goal, as Ben Hedley found himself in shooting range and fired an effort in on goal, but Jack Rose was untested in the Walsall goal as the effort sailed high and wide.

With just twelve minutes on the clock, Cameron Pring became the first name added to the referee's notebook, as he saw yellow for a foul on Josef Wheatley.

Walsall shot-stopper, Rose was given more to do in the sixteenth minute, as Omar Holness found space to get a shot away, but the man between the sticks was equal to it and made a good save.

Seventeen minutes in, Darlington took the lead. It had been coming, and after a scramble in the box, Holness finally slipped the ball past Rose, into the bottom corner, to put his side a goal to the good.

With just twenty-two minutes played, Darrell Clarke decided he had seen enough, and opted to make a double change to his line-up. Rory Holden and Zak Jules both departing early, as James Hardy and Wesley McDonald took their places.

Clearly feeling confident, Stephen Thompson attempted a right-footed effort from thirty-five yards in the twenty-seventh minute, but Rose was alert to the incoming shot and made a save.

The Saddlers finally began to see a little more of the ball as we raced towards the half hour mark, with Shay Facey playing in both of the recently introduced men within moments of one another. Neither resulted in an equalising goal though, as Hardy saw his shot sail wide of the mark before McDonald's effort was saved by Darlington 'keeper, Liam Connell.

The two substitutes continued to offer something more to Walsall's attack as the match continued, with both going close again in the thirty-sixth minute. Wes seeing an initial effort saved by Connell, before James' follow-up shot was fired directly at the well placed 'keeper.

Walsall's forward momentum was halted moments later, as Darlington were awarded an indirect free-kick inside the box after Rose picked up the ball from a back-pass by Sadler, but the visitors were unable to make use of the chance.

With forty-two minutes on the clock, Will Hatfield became the second player to see yellow, as he picked up a booking for kicking the ball away after fouling Hardy.

In the final of the opening forty-five minutes, the Saddlers really ought to have levelled the scores, as a thirty yard screamer from McDonald hit the bar, before Rory Gaffney collected the re-bound and fired wide, when he really should have scored.

That would be the last action of the first-half, and the sides headed off to their respective dressing rooms with Darlington leading by one-goal-to-nil.

0 - 1

The sides returned unchanged following the break, and Darlington got the action back underway. The visiting side quickly set about looking to double their advantage, but Jarrett Rivers' forty-sixth minute back-heel goal-wards was well scouted by Rose, who spared the Saddlers blushes.

Walsall soon saw an attempt missed at the other end, as Gaffney headed wide from close range in the forty-seventh minute.

Moments later, with the end-to-end action continuing, Wheatley drew a fine save from Rose, who did well to tip the long-range effort over the bar, with the resulting corner coming to nothing.

The pressure from the visitors continued, as Stepthen Thomspon saw an effort blocked in the fifty-first minute, as Pring put himself in the way of the effort. The resulting corner also again coming to nothing.

The Saddlers were eventually able to work the ball out of the danger zone and up to the other end in the fifty-sixth minute, winning a corner from Hatfield, which was played in for Sadler, whose first time effort sailed over the bar.

Walsall saw more of the ball as the match continued, and sixty-two minutes in, manager, Darrell Clarke decided it was time to make his third and final change of the afternoon. Rory Gaffney making way as Caolan Lavery entered the fray.

The home side continued to press, as they sought a route back into the game, and almost found one in the sixty-third minute as Elijah Adebayo found space to shoot from the centre of the box, but his effort was well saved by Connell.

Adebayo continued to look the most likely man on the pitch to score, as two minutes later he fired a left-footed effort in from close range, this time with just a little too much height on the ball as it sailed over, after some good work from Pring to play him in.

With sixty-seven minutes on the clock, Ben Hedley joined those in the referee's notebook, as the defender saw yellow for a foul on Kinsella.

The visiting side then opted to make their first change of the afternoon, as Stephen Thompson made way for Justin Donawa.

Seventy minutes in, Dan Scarr saw yellow, though it could have been red, as a mix-up at the back saw Hatfield felled by the Walsall man before he could get a shot away. The resulting free-kick saw Adam Campbell fire over.

With sixteen minutes still to play, Darlington opted to make their second change of the afternoon, with Adam Campbell making way for Louis Laing.

Seventy-seven minutes in, Adebayo should have levelled the scores, as a Lavery cross found the striker yards out, but somehow Elijah's effort sailed over the bar.

Moments later, Darlington opted to make their third and final change, as goal-scorer, Omar Holness made way for Osagi Bascome.

Eight minutes from time, a poor tackle from Dan Scarr on Rivers saw the Walsall man given his marching orders for a second bookable offence.

Unperturbed, the Saddlers continued to press for a late equaliser, and after making a save to deny McDonald in the eighty-fourth minute, Connell was finally beaten in the eighty-sixth minute as Bates tried his luck from range, drawing a save from the Darlington 'keeper, before Lavery pounced on the loose ball and turned it home to level the scores.

With eighty-nine minutes on the clock, the comeback was complete, as an in-swinging corner from Bates was knocked over the line by an unfortunate Connell.

As we reached the ninetieth minute, Elijah Adebayo saw yellow, whilst Ben Hedley saw yellow for a second time and was sent from the field of play.

Six additional minutes were added to end the match, and two minutes into them, Alfie Bates joined the growing list of names in the referee's notebook, as he saw yellow for a foul on Hatfield.

Walsall could have doubled their advantage late on, but Adebayo's close range effort sailed over the bar. The Saddlers would come to rue this missed chance, as moments later, as seconds before the final whistle sounded, Rivers tied the scores with the final kick of the game.

An interesting afternoon of football, which culminated in Walsall finally breaking their run of defeats. Darlington, on balance, deserving to get something from the game, though both sides could probably have done without a replay.

2 - 2
Lavery (86')
Bates (89')
Holness (17')
Rivers (90+7')
Attendance: 2,882 (1,229)
Referee: Adrian Quelch
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