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15:50 21st September 2009


THE SADDLERS returned to winning ways with an entertaining 3-2 success at Tranmere Rovers.

Neither goalkeeper was seriously tested in the opening stages of the game as former Saddler, Michael Ricketts fired well over in the ninth minute following a break down the right by the home side.

Tranmere took the lead in the 11th minute when Chris Shuker beat the offside trap before taking advantage of a slip in the Walsall defence to guide the ball beyond an exposed Rene Gilmartin.

The goal gave the struggling home side a real lift and shortly afterwards Clayton McDonald did well to get in a tackle to deny Craig Curran. In the next attack, Alan Mahon delivered a low ball into the danger zone that found Curran who brought a good save out of Gilmartin, however the offside flag had already been raised.

With 24 minutes on the clock, Alex Nicholls, who came back into the starting line-up in place of Peter Till, did well out wide on the right and his cross found the head of Darren Byfield who was inches off target.

Then Dwayne Mattis set Darryl Westlake away down the right with a neat ball and the youngsters' first-time cross found Troy Deeney who in turn teed up Nicholls but he lashed his effort wide of the target.

It was a better spell from Chris Hutchings' side, although Jamie Vincent was booked for a foul just inside the Tranmere half.

A clash of heads between Paul McLaren and McDonald saw both players on the ground and the biggest cheer of the afternoon so far came for the race between the two physio's. Thankfully both players were able to continue after treatment as Jon Whitney took the gold medal for his sprinting!

On the stroke of half-time, Richard Taundry hit a low strike from distance that Luke Daniels in the home goal could only push out into the path of Byfield who was alert to turn the ball home from close range.

There was still time for another raid by The Saddlers in stoppage time at the end of the half, but Deeney was thwarted by a brave block from Daniels on this occasion. However, the home 'keeper took a knock for his troubles and was unable to continue for the second period as 17 year-old youth teamer, Joe Collister took his place between the posts.

Within seconds of the restart, Collister's first task was to pick the ball out of the net as a raid down the right ended with Deeney finding space inside the area to lash the ball home.

Walsall were well on top at this stage and Deeney saw a header from a corner well saved by the 'keeper before Nicholls blazed over from another purposeful raid.

On the hour-mark a speculative effort from distance by Mahon, a summer target for The Saddlers, saw the ball take a wicked deflection that took it beyond Gilmartin to level the scores at 2-2.

There was further disappointment for Chris Hutchings ten minutes later when Taundry was forced to limp out of the action as Josh O'Keefe was given a first senior opportunity to show what he can do.

After McDonald blocked well from Ricketts, there was a yellow card for Westlake following a foul on Kithson Bain who was making his debut for Rovers.

Collister did well to head clear as Deeney broke the offside trap before flashing a shot on the turn over moments later.

With time running out, Nicholls broke from deep and used his pace to skip past Ian Goodison out wide on the right before cutting inside as he reached the penalty area and picking out Deeney at the far post with an inviting ball. Deeney, who signed a new two-year deal just days ago, made no mistake as he fired home to put Walsall back into the lead.

Some solid defending by Manny Smith saw him black well from Ricketts as the home side searched for a way back into the game.

On 86 minutes a Rovers free-kick took a wicked deflection off O'Keefe as the ball this time dipped agonisingly onto the roof of the net. It sparked a series of corners, the last of which had to be scrambled clear after Gilmartin failed to properly get a hold of the ball.

Nicholls became the third Saddler to see yellow late on and with just two minutes left, Deeney had a glorious chance to complete his hat-trick as he beat the offisde trap only to get the ball tangled between his feet as he faced a one-on-one with the 'keeper. This allowed Collister to position himself to make the save when Deeney finally managed to get his shot in.

Thankfully it mattered not as three points were duly secured to make it three League games without defeat.


PHOTOS: Kevin Grice

    Data provided by Press Association


    For the first 50 years of their existence, England played their home matches all around the country.