THE SADDLERS were made to work hard to earn our place in the second round of the FA Cup with a 1-0 victory at Stourbridge.
An early strike from distance by Troy Deeney was easy for Stuart Brock before a break from Sean Evans after a Walsall corner broke down, saw his dangerous low ball cleared to safety.
There was a melee in the fifth minute following a foul by Rhys Weston on Evans. It was sparked by Ross Collins who was unhappy with the challenge, but the referee soon restored order.
On nine minutes Darren Byfield had a good chance as the home 'keeper and defender got in a muddle, but as Byfield lost his footing, Stourbridge were able to scramble clear.
Appeals for a penalty were waved away after Byfield was felled after tricking his way into the box, before some neat link-up play between Mark Bradley and Byfield ended with the latter forcing a corner that came to nothing.
Weston was booked for a reckless lunge on Ben Billingham, whilst a loose ball from Dwayne Mattis presented Drew Canavan with a shooting chance that Clayton Ince gathered.
The opening goal arrived just past the half-hour when the lively Steve Jones twisted and turned to break into the area from the right before lashing the ball into the roof of the net.
Stourbridge failed to let their heads drop and a free-kick from Evans was curled superbly towards goal only for Ince to make an equally impressive save as he got down low to push out. The resulting corner was headed just over by Canavan.
Right on the stroke of half-time, Evans took on Weston before making room for a strike that was saved low to his right by Ince. The flag-kick that followed caused problems but Matt Richards was on hand to complete the clearance.
A sweeping move from Walsall early in the second half saw Jones break with pace and his cross found Richards whose goal-bound effort was touched over the line from close range by Byfield but the effort was ruled out for offside.
The home side were having to defend for their lives as The Saddlers upped the pressure in the opening stages of the second period. Bradley did well to win the ball in the middle of the park and he found Troy Deeney who set Byfield away only for him to fire into the side-netting.
Then a loose ball fell to Jones who drilled well wide.
Just past the hour there was a good chance for leading scorer, Ryan Rowe in front of goal, but his looping effort was grabbed by a grateful Ince. Straight away at the other end, Byfield was given space only for Brock to block as he lined up a strike.
A probing cross from Byfield in the next attack was headed just wide by Deeney from a good position, but a minute later came the best chance of the game for the home side when Rowe got in a strike from close range that deflected off Hughes in front of goal and just past the post.
Stourbridge were growing in confidence as they searched for a way back into the game and a quick corner on 81 minutes was whipped onto the head of James Dyson who was off target.
There was a booking for Hughes as he pulled back Sam Rock as the home substitute looked to break away.
Deeney was replaced by Stourbridge lad, Alex Nicholls on 83 minutes, but there was more defending to do as Hughes was brave to deny Rock and despite loud appeals for a penalty against The Saddlers' skipper, a corner was the best that the home side were given and that came to nothing.
With Peter Till on for Richards, a break by Nicholls ended with him skimming the top of the crossbar.
Right at the death, Evans blazed over as a corner found its way over to him at the far post.
In the end, the 2,014 crowd gave both teams a round of applause for what was a good FA Cup battle.