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MATCH REPORT

PUBLISHED
16:45 19th March 2016
By  Daniel Briggs

WALSALL 2-1 COLCHESTER

Late goals from Tom Bradshaw and Matt Preston gave Walsall a dramatic win over bottom-of-the-table Colchester.

Alex Gilbey’s first-half header appeared to have earned the visitors victory, only for Bradshaw to level with a minute of normal time remaining.

And the Saddlers then grabbed all three points when Preston hammered home a 94th-minute winner after a goalmouth scramble.

Walsall remain third in League One, level on points with second-placed Wigan, who won 1-0 against Bradford.

Interim head coach Jon Whitney made one change to his side, with Liam Kinsella replacing injured captain Adam Chambers.

Despite sitting bottom of the division, nine points from safety, Kevin Keen’s Colchester made the brighter start and looked lively in the early stages.

Gavin Massey had their first attempt inside two minutes, when he received possession 25 yards out before bending a low shot off target.

They went close on eight minutes, with home keeper Neil Etheridge pushing out Chris Porter’s downward header from Owen Garvan’s corner.

Walsall were forced into an early change, with centre-back Jim O’Connor coming off through injury and being replaced by Matt Preston.

The Saddlers’ first real chance came on 17 minutes, Andy Taylor firing a deflected right-footed effort just wide after his initial free-kick had struck the wall.

Relegation-troubled Colchester continued to display their attacking intent as they went close at the other end.

Lee burst between Jason Demetriou and Romaine Sawyers into the box but his scuffed shot was kept out by Etheridge at his near post.

The resulting corner was cleared only as far as Chambers but his half-volley was parried by Etheridge.

Walsall threatened before the half-hour mark, as Hiwula lifted a delightful pass over to Henry, whose shot from a very tight angle was saved by Parish.

Walsall, though, were struggling to test the league’s leakiest defence, with Colchester creating the clearer openings.

George Moncur and Chris Porter each fired weak attempts straight at Etheridge, while Lee’s curling attempt deflected narrowly wide.

And the U’s went ahead on the stroke of half-time, when Gilbey directed a bullet header past Etheridge from Garvan’s left-wing corner.

HALF-TIME: WALSALL 0-1 COLCHESTER

The second period started slowly, with little incident of note in the first quarter of hour.

Walsall – winless in six at the Banks’s - were badly out of sorts and almost fell further behind on 61 minutes.

Moncur’s cross flashed across the box and arrived with the unmarked Massey at the far post but his shot was bravely blocked by Etheridge.

With the Saddlers looking disjointed and desperately short of creativity, Whitney made a double switch with Milan Lalkovic and Kieron Morris coming on for Henry and Kinsella.

Walsall were still struggling going forward and not really looking like scoring.

Demetriou twisted and turned before shooting straight at Parish, while Morris steered a left-footed drive harmlessly wide.

Colchester could have put the game to bed nine minutes from time, as Massey raced forward down the right and glided past Preston, only for Etheridge to smother his attempt.

The hosts pushed for a leveller and fashioned a good chance on 83 minutes.

Mantom’s diagonal pass was missed by a Colchester defender and found Lalkovic, who cut the ball back for Hiwula but he completely miscued his shot.

Walsall looked a beaten team, yet a minute from time they snatched a leveller.

A long ball was headed down by Preston to Bradshaw, who took the ball away from a defender and slammed a left-footed half-volley into the roof of the net.

The match – and the atmosphere inside the stadium – was transformed as Walsall pushed for a winner.

Parish produced a fine finger-tip stop to keep out Bradshaw’s low drive which appeared destined for the far bottom corner.

From the resulting set-piece, Taylor’s header was kept out by Parish, with Bradshaw’s follow-up effort smashing against the bar, before Preston hammered home from close range.

It sparked jubilant scenes from the home players and supporters – completing an extraordinary comeback!

FULL-TIME: WALSALL 2-1 COLCHESTER

Team:
Etheridge, Demetriou, Taylor, O’Connor (Preston 18’), Downing, Mantom, Bradshaw, Sawyers, Henry (Lalkovic 66’), Kinsella (K Morris 66’), Hiwula.

Subs not used: MacGillivray, Forde, Flanagan, B Morris.

Attendance: 5,818 (134 Colchester supporters).

    QUICK FACTS

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