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22:55 26th September 2009


THE SADDLERS came home from Hartlepool on the wrong end of a 3-0 defeat.

The game kicked off in glorious sunshine on the north-east coast, but the opening exchanges were not as bright with neither 'keeper seriously tested.

A Matt Richards corner on ten minutes caused problems for Scott Flinders in the home goal, but he was helped out by his defence as he failed to claim the ball.

At the other end, a foul by Dwayne Mattis gave Hartlepool a free-kick in a promising position which Denis Behan fired powerfully goalwards, forcing Rene Gilmartin into an important block as he gathered the loose ball.

Clayton McDonald had to defend well at the far post to deal with an inswinging corner and with the home side gradually getting on top, James Brown saw an effort from distance dip just over.

Hartlepool edged in front on 25 minutes when an intelligent ball from the experienced Ritchie Humphreys cut open The Saddlers' back-line as Andy Monkhouse beat the offside trap before placing the ball beyond Gilmartin.

On the half-hour mark a deep cross saw Adam Boyd's header saved by Gilmartin before Mark Bradley produced an important block in the next attack as the home side threatened once more.

As half-time approached, Richards' corner was met with a deft header from Mattis which was well kept out by Flinders. It was Walsall's best chance of a half that came to a close with another dangerous cross from Richards scrambled clear ahead of Troy Deeney.


The home side doubled their lead five minutes into the second period when The Saddlers failed to clear a cross from the left and Monkhouse fired low beyond Gilmartin.

With Rhys Weston on in the heart of the defence to replace McDonald who appeared to pick up a knock, Behan drilled a shot just over for Pool.

Shortly afterwards it was Darren Byfield's turn to see an effort on the turn fly over the crossbar.

Arguably Walsall's best chance of the afternoon came on 58 minutes when Richards' corner was met by the head of Weston at the far post and the ball landed just inches wide as he headed back across the face of goal with no-one on hand to make the crucial touch.

The Saddlers were starting to get on top as the hour-mark passed and a foul on Bradley presented Weston with a free-kick in a good position but he fired over.

There was a yellow card for Deeney and Flinders following a skirmish after the 'keeper failed to release the ball as Walsall won a corner.

With 20 minutes to go, Darryl Westlake pulled down Armann Bjornsson as he looked to break through. It gave Pool a free-kick on the edge of the area, but Neil Austin failed to take the opportunity as he fired wide of the target.

Steve Jones replaced Alex Nicholls and he was soon involved in the action as he delivered an inviting low cross that was cleared.

Within seconds, Hartlepool went down the other end and sealed the game as substitute, Colin Larkin beat the offside trap before lifting the ball over the exposed Gilmartin.

After a free-kick from Richards crept wide, Sam Parkin replaced Byfield.

The closing stages saw Humphreys put a free-kick well over following a foul by Richards and the last kick saw Gilmartin deny Larkin on what was a bad day at the office for The Saddlers, one that the loyal travelling contingent of 137 will want to forget in a hurry.


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.