Walsall Cap Off Excellent Week

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As far as weeks go, they don’t get much better than this for Walsall. A 4-3 victory over Championship side, Nottingham Forest, in the cup, coupled with a 2-0 away win over newly promoted Southend United sees the Saddlers into the second round of the cup and up to an astonishing fifth in the league.

A trip to a freshly promoted side early on in the season is never easy, yet Walsall were seamlessly running the show from the beginning. The Saddlers are making a bit of a habit of scoring early goals; they added another to the collection after nine minutes, when in-demand striker, Tom Bradshaw, tucked the ball into the far corner after Rico Henry bombed up the left wing.

It was well deserved, and Phil Brown knew this. 20 minutes later, he was making his first substitution of the game, replacing forward, David Mooney, with midfielder, Jack Payne. Such a tactical change was made in order to try and match the Saddlers in midfield, signalling that maybe Brown knew he’d got it wrong – something he later admitted post-match.

Walsall’s Jason Demetriou and Rico Henry continued to panic the hosts with a number of counter-attacks, as the Saddlers drove forward in search of a second goal; something you’d feel would end the game as a contest if Walsall had got it.

They did so just after half-time, when Andy Taylor’s deflected cross eventually fell nicely to Sam Mantom, who unleashed a good effort from just outside the box, nestling into bottom left, leaving Bentley with no chance. The Shrimpers’ goalkeeper had gone from conceding nothing at home since October, to conceding two in one game – again showing just how much of a grand result this was for Walsall.

To Southend’s credit, they had chances of their own; a disallowed goal and a clearance off the line. However, make no doubt about it – this was a dominant display from the Saddlers, who, on their day, could have had more.

This caps off a superb week for Walsall. With the side now finding themselves fifth in the league, there are three exciting games coming up, too.

The two in-form sides, Coventry and Rochdale, who sit in first and second, respectively, are up next for Dean Smith’s men; although it’s early days, positive results in these games could show just how close Walsall are to challenging for a promotion spot.

As for the third game, it’s a reward for beating Nottingham Forest, Brighton at home and a really good opportunity to make it into the third round for the first time since 2002. The gruelling ‘Saturday, Tuesday, Saturday, Tuesday’ run of games continues…

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