THE SADDLERS slipped to a 1-0 defeat at Oldham Athletic.
The opening exchanges saw Troy Deeney set strike partner, Alex Nicholls off in chase only for Dean Brill in the home goal to get there first and clear the danger.
On four minutes an inviting ball in from the left by Matt Richards was met with a deft header from Dwayne Mattis that just crept wide of the post.
The home side sprung to life when Joe Jacobson's cross in search of Jason Price caused concern for the Walsall defence, only for the pressure to be eased when the referee blew for a foul.
As The Latics looked to step up the pace, Dean Furman forced a corner that came to nothing, whilst a free-kick from a wide position by Dale Stephens required Clayton McDonald to head clear.
There was a good chance for the home side just past the half-hour mark when Stephens found Pawel Abbott in front but he was thwarted by an important block from Clayton Ince before the loose ball was cleared.
It was Oldham who were looking to most likely side as the opening period came to a close and Abbott linked up well with the on-loan Price whose strike was kept out by Ince.
The last action of the half saw Deeney booked for a high challenge near the half-way line.
On 49 minutes Furman's drive from the edge of the area stung the hands of Ince.
Shortly afterwards new signing, Julian Gray came on for his Saddlers' debut as he replaced Netan Sansara. It meant that Richards moved to the left-back slot to accommodate Gray.
An opportunity opened up for the busy Price inside the area but his strike from ten yards lacked the necessary power to trouble Ince too much.
There was a further change as former Oldham man, Darren Byfield replaced Nicholls.
A couple of opportunities in quick succession opened up for The Latics as Deane Smalley won headers at the far post that flashed across goal with no-one on hand to profit for the home side.
After Stephens had blazed over from outside the area, McDonald took a knock that required heavy bandaging on his ankle as he looked to halt the progress of Chris Taylor.
With 73 minutes on the clock, Price's pull-back saw Abbott denied from close range by Jamie Vincent who did enough to deflect his effort wide.
There was a yellow card for Darryl Westlake as he took too long over taking a throw-in for the referee's liking and a minute later, worse was to follow as the home side took the lead when an inviting cross from the left by Taylor found Abbott in space and he planted his header firmly home.
Josh O'Keefe replaced Richard Taundry as The Saddlers threw McDonald into attack in a bid to try and salvage a point.
Genuine chances were few and far between for Chris Hutchings' side, though. Byfield had a half-chance that he fired over on 82 minutes and shortly afterwards, as Walsall pushed our hosts back, Deeney applied the pressure to Brill as he looked to deal with a back-pass. The goalkeeper's clearance struck Deeney but Brill managed to redeem himself as Byfield looked to pick up the pieces.
The closing stages saw McDonald booked for a late challenge on Jacobson and Byfield followed him into the book after some unnecessary goading from a couple of the Oldham players in the aftermath of the incident.
It was a fitting end to a disappointing afternoon for The Saddlers.
PHOTOS: Kevin Grice