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12:06 26th April 2010


THE SUN was shining on The Saddlers as we made it four home wins in a row with a 3-1 victory over Hartlepool United.

A slick break by Walsall in the sixth minute saw Troy Deeney feed Alex Nicholls who set Steve Jones bursting through with a fine ball. As Jones closed in on goal, his ball across the face of goal found Julian Gray whose initial effort was blocked by Sam Collins only for the rebound to find its way into the net off Gray.

The Saddlers went close to extending the lead shortly afterwards as Nicholls headed inches wide.

A back-pass almost let in Roy O'Donovan with 17 minutes on the clock, but he lost his footing at the crucial moment and the opportunity was lost.

Andy Monkhouse broke the offside trap before cutting inside and firing in a low effort that Rene Gilmartin did well to block. Within seconds, the offside trap was broken again and this time O'Donovan took full advantage to take the ball around Gilmartin and slot into the net.

Minutes later, Walsall were back in front when a ball pumped forward found Deeney who showed strength to hold off his marker before making room for a strike that found its way into the net.

With ten minutes to go until the interval, a high free-kick from Richard Taundry caused problems for Scott Flinders who failed to get hold of the ball as Clayton McDonald made his presence felt, but he was helped out by his defence who cleared the loose ball.

Flinders saved the day on 40 minutes when Nicholls linked up well with Deeney who picked out Gray in space on the left of the area and his strike was well saved by the 'keeper.

Julian Gray v Hartlepool WEB

The first chance of the second period fell to Hartlepool as Ritchie Humphreys saw his effort pushed out by Gilmartin as O'Donovan blazed the rebound over.

Then a cross from Monkhouse found the head of Leon McSweeney who was just off target.

A foul on Deeney on the hour-mark gave The Saddlers a free-kick which Matt Richards played out to Jamie Vincent whose low cross was cleared.

There was another free-kick in a promising position shortly afterwards when Collins dragged the lively Nicholls back and this time, Taundry curled the ball around the wall but into the grateful arms of Flinders.

Some smart play on the left by Gray saw him get away from three players before crossing into the danger zone where Gary Liddle was on hand to clear.

A neat move in the 74th minute saw Deeney play in Jones who found Richards and he in turn picked out Gray whose cross caused problems as Nicholls looked to profit.

The third goal wasn't long in arriving, though, and came following some more good play as the visitors' defence was carved open to play in Taundry who made no mistake as he slotted home.

It was to be Steve Jones' last involvement in the action as he was replaced by Peter Till.

There was a chance for Peter Hartley just outside the area but he dragged his effort inches wide with Gilmartin scrambling across his goal. Then some brave defending saw substitute, Antony Sweeney denied on not one but two occasions after McSweeney played him in.

Clayton McDonald then did well to clear off the line from Adam Boyd as the visitors applied the pressure.

On 88 minutes, Richards picked up the ball in midfield and there was only one thought on his mind as he hit a dipping drive that smashed against the crossbar with the 'keeper beaten.

The final minute saw some excellent wing play from Till who made good progress before pulling the ball back from the by-line into the path of Deeney who blazed over from a good position.

Nevertheless, The Saddlers can be pleased with their latest victory in the Banks's Stadium sunshine.

Troy Deeney congratulated v Hartlepool web

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.