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23:02 16th January 2010


THE SADDLERS' first game of 2010 ended in defeat as Brighton & Hove Albion went home with a 2-1 success.

The opening exchanges saw both teams looking to adapt to the tricky conditions.

The first real opening fell to the visitors on seven minutes as they broke the offside trap only for Nicky Forster's inviting ball to flash across the face of goal with no-one able to apply the finish.

Within seconds Brighton were in front when Glenn Murray was able to turn the ball beyond Clayton Ince who found himself on the edge of his area.

The goal gave the visitors a real shot-in-the-arm and Forster tried his luck from distance only to see the ball fly well over.

Forster was then involved in the next attack as his low effort was deflected wide and the resulting corner found the head of Adam Virgo who was just off target from close range.

The Saddlers were second best at this stage and in need of a spark from somewhere.

A foul by Tommy Elphick on Darren Byfield gave Matt Richards a free-kick out wide on the right in the 18th minute but he curled the ball harmlessly into the arms of Michel Kuipers.

Another free-kick, this time from Peter Till, was scrambled clear in the 25th minute, only as far as Richards who did well to beat a couple of players on the edge of the area before getting in a powerful strike that beat Kuipers and the defender on the line to level the scores.

The Saddlers started to grow in confidence immediately after the goal and a neat move saw Daryl Westlake do well on the right to feed Dwayne Mattis who in turn linked up with Darren Byfield. He then found Till out wide but his cross was claimed by Kuipers.

The visitors edged back in front out of the blue with nine minutes to go until the break when a powerful strike was blocked and the deflection saw Forster on hand to acrobatically turn the ball home.

With half-time approaching, Alan Navarro hit a sweet strike from distance that curled just wide, whilst straight away at the other end, Byfield went down inside the area under a clumsy challenge but the referee waved away the protests.

A foul by Elphick on Byfield in the next attack gave Walsall a free-kick in a promising position which Richards fired into the defensive wall.

There was a glorious chance for Byfield right on the stroke of half-time as he latched onto a ball in front the left to touch it past the advancing Kuipers. Unfortunately the ball landed just the wrong side of the post.

In stoppage time at the end of the opening period, Ince failed to deal with a routine cross but was able to redeem himself and claim the ball.


The second half started with Deeney blazing a chance over from close range befpre a high ball into the area from Sansara found the head of Manny Smith whose effort lacked the necessary power to trouble Kuipers.

At the other end, the lively Forster saw an effort blocked well in front of goal by Smith.

There was a double substitution by Chris Hutchings as Peter Till and Mark Bradley were replaced by Sam Parkin and Josh O'Keefe respectively.

O'Keefe's first touch saw him pick up a loose ball from Kuipers but his ambitious effort from distance sailed well wide of the target.

The Saddlers were in need of a spark as the game wore on. With 81 minutes on the clock, Kuipers had to be alert to clear ahead of Byfield before Byfield's cross in the next attack found Richards who lined up a shot that Kuipers saved.

As the clock ticked down, former Brighton loanee, Richards delivered a free-kick onto the head of Parkin but his effort looped over.

On 87 minutes, Deeney caused problems for the visitors' defence only for the loose ball to be scrambled clear as Byfield looked to profit. Deeney's initial challenge left the visiting 'keeper in need of lengthy treatment but he was okay to continue.

There was a great chance for Deeney right at the death as the ball came across to him in space but some desperate defening saw The Seagulls clear the danger as he pulled the trigger.

In the end , Walsall were left to reflect on a defeat in our first game of 2010.


PHOTOS: David Linney Photography

    Data provided by Press Association


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