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11:30 17th July 2013
By  Andrew Poole


THE SUN was shining to welcome in the start of the 2013/14 season.

The season was just two minutes old when The Saddlers took the lead as Adam Chambers delivered an inviting ball in from the right of the area which was seized upon by Craig Westcarr to fire home.

Some trickery by Milan Lalkovic in the tenth minute saw him enter the area before winning a corner which was half-cleared and as James Baxendale delivered the ball high back into the danger zone, Paul Downing headed just wide.

It was a bright start from Walsall.

A free-kick for The Saddlers was lashed goalwards by Sam Mantom and as the ball spilled from the grasp of Owain Fon Williams, the Welsh 'keeper was able to recover to deny Craig Westcarr.

Walsall upping the pressure as James Baxendale's shot took a deflection and brought a good save out of Fon Williams who then had to be alert to deny Mantom. 

It was only a matter of time before the second goal arrived and it came on 25 minutes when James Chambers intercepted a break from the visitors to launch an attack which saw Westcarr and Lalkovic link-up well to create a shooting chance for the on-loan front-man who made no mistake as he tucked the ball home to make it 2-0.

The Saddlers getting a number of shooting opportunities on the edge of the area, with Westcarr in particular trying his luck. Rovers offering little in return with just a couple of efforts flying well over in the opening half-an-hour.

Another raid from Walsall saw Baxendale get in a low strike that Fon Williams blocked and then grabbed the loose ball ahead of Westcarr who was loitering with intent.

A foul by James Chambers out wide gave the visitors a free-kick which found the net from Andy Robinson to reduce the arrears on 39 minutes.

Straight away, Walsall looked to attack as Ashley Hemmings fired powerfully just inches wide of the target.

A foul by Max Power on a full flow Ashley Hemmings saw a free-kick delivered to the far post where Andy Butler's header was off target in the 44th minute.

There was still time for Richard O'Donnell to push over Ryan Lowe's effort as Rovers started to get a bit of belief.

Nevertheless it was a first half display full of promise from Dean Smith's side.

HALF-TIME: Walsall 2 Tranmere Rovers 1

The Saddlers looking to make a similarly bright start to the second period on a warm afternoon at Banks's Stadium.

Jean-Louis Akpa Akpro found some space inside the area but dragged his effort wide as Rovers found their rhythm.

A free-kick out wide from Hemmings flashed across the face of the goal.

With 20 minutes to go, The Saddlers grabbed a crucial third goal as Downing fed Lalkovic who in turn threaded through Westcarr who beat the offside trap and slotted home to make it 3-1.

Another sweet move saw Benning, Westcarr and Hemmings all link up to good effect as Walsall looked slick once again.

Double change for The Saddlers in the 78th minute with Romaine Sawyers and Nicky Featherstone on for Baxendale and Adam Chambers.

A late change by Dean Smith saw Westcarr replaced by summer signing, Troy Hewitt.

A foul by James Chambers gave Rovers a free-kick in a dangerous position which struck the underside of the bar as The Saddlers survived. There were late appeals for a penalty as Akpo Sodje went down under Butler's challenge, but nothing was given.

In the end it was a good day's work from The Saddlers with many positives as we started the season with three points.

FULL-TIME: Walsall 3 Tranmere Rovers 1


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