A DEBATABLE penalty denied The Saddlers at in-form Colchester United as we came home with a 2-1 defeat.
Chris Hutchings was forced into a late change of his starting line-up when Jamie Vincent suffered a hamstring strain in the pre-match warm-up and had to be replaced by Netan Sansara.
It was Walsall who burst out of the blocks as an early raid saw the ball headed clear in front of Troy Deeney as the resulting corner flashed agonisingly across the face of goal.
At the other end, Kayode Odejayi effort lacked the necessary power to trouble Clayton Ince too much.
With six minutes on the clock, the returning Peter Till did well on the right and his inviting cross was met with a deft header from Mark Bradley that landed just wide of the target.
In the next attack, Odejayi had the ball in the net but it was quite rightly ruled out for offside.
After Matt Richards had seen a low ball driven across the danger zone with no-one on hand to profit, the home side took the lead out of the blue in the 26th minute when a powerful strike by former Saddler, Clive Platt was deflected home from close range by Kevin Lisbie who had managed to find space.
The lead was to last just over a minute, though, as Darren Byfield was played through and he made no mistake to beat Ben Williams in the home goal.
An inviting cross by Sansara found its way to Byfield who teed up Till for a strike that was deflected wide as The Saddlers posed all the serious questions against a side who were unbeaten in eight games going into the match.
On 40 minutes a break by Byfield almost saw him tee up strike partner, Deeney as Colchester defended for their lives. The next attack ended with Richards' corner being headed just over by Dwayne Mattis to end an impressive half for Walsall.
The home side came out with more purpose for the second period and a foul out wide by Sansara gave them a free-kick which Anthony Wordsworth curled just off target.
At the other end, Till's cross saw Richards get away from his marker only to fire over.
Some strong play by Odejayi saw him beat Mark Hughes to line-up a shot that Ince did well to keep out. The 'keeper was then at his best to deny the lively Lisbie who cut inside from the right.
Colchester were starting to build up a head of steam as the half went on and with an hour on the clock, they were awarded a rather dubious penalty when Hughes appeared to have won the ball against home debutant, Josh Payne. The referee pointed to the spot and Lisbie did the rest for his second of the afternoon.
The home side were upping the pressure and making The Saddlers' back-line work hard. They had the ball in the net again but there was a clear foul on Ince by Platt in the build-up.
As the ball fell out to Richards, he tried his luck with an effort from distance that was on target but well pushed out by Williams.
There was a yellow card for Deeney for a foul before Alex Nicholls came on to replace Byfield with just over ten minutes to go.
Sansara was booked for shirt pulling shortly before a break by home substitute, Steve Gillespie ended with his strike cannoning off the bar and away from danger.
Walsall pressed hard for an equaliser in the closing stages and Richards' cross-cum-shot had Williams back-peddling to push over. There were further chances in the closing stages but the home side held firm to get the victory.
PHOTOS: Kevin Grice.