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14:34 1st January 2014
By  Andrew Poole


WIND and rain greeted the start of 2014 as The Saddlers stepped out at Banks's Stadium for the visit of Sheffield United.

It was the visitors who started on the front-foot with an early corner, which came to nothing.

There was a free-kick on the left curled in dangerously by former Blade, Andy Taylor, but the 'keeper was able to punch clear and as the ball fell out to James Baxendale, he was off target.

At the other end, James Chambers did well to clear for a corner as United launched a raid. The resulting flag-kick saw the ball land harmlessly wide.

The conditions making life tricky for both teams as Walsall forced to defend in numbers on a couple of occasions.

The visitors took the lead in the 17th minute when the lively Chris Porter managed to fire home into the top corner following a low cross from McGinn.

The Saddlers starting to get into our stride as a promising move ends with a back-heel from Romaine Sawyers being scrambled clear from in front of goal. The resulting corner saw Lalkovic go close.

As the opening period progressed, chances at either end were at a distinct premium.

HALF-TIME: Walsall 0 Sheffield United 1

The half-time interval saw Craig Westcarr on for James Baxendale.

The Saddlers were awarded a 52nd minute penalty as Andy Butler was pushed by Harry Maguire as the ball came into the area from the right. Westcarr promptly picked the ball up and fired home with aplomb from the spot to level matters.

Ten minutes later and James Chambers makes it 2-1 with a determined run and finish after some neat play involving Mantom and Sawyers.

Walsall showing plenty of determination and commitment with every player working hard for each other.

The visitors went close with a low drive on 73 minutes which just crept wide of the target.

Julian Gray replaced Hewitt on 76 minutes.

As the wind and rain whipped up again, Lalkovic put an inviting ball across the face of goal which evaded everyone.

There was a slick move that ended with Sawyers crossing for Gray who missed from a good position. Then Lalkovic made a positive run only for the 'keeper to push his effort away.

Lalkovic was replaced by Ashley Hemmings as United introduced Febian Brandy to a chorus of boos.

Former Blade, Andy Taylor went close with a powerful low drive that landed narrowly wide of the target.

There was a stoppage time booking for Richard O'Donnell for taking his time over a goal-kick.

It was a winning start to the New Year for The Saddlers as we secured a deserved three points.

FULL-TIME: Walsall 2 Sheffield United 1


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