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7 August 2012

Match report direct from Banks's Stadium...

THE SADDLERS stepped out for our final first-team pre-season friendly as West Bromwich Albion provided the Banks's Stadium opposition.

Manager, Dean Smith gave a run-out to trialist, Jordan Stewart in the left-back slot as summer signings Nicky Featherstone, Ashley Hemmings, Ben Purkiss, Paul Downing and James Baxendale all started.

The first chance fell to the visitors in the eighth minute when a free-kick in a dangerous position was curled into the side-netting by Yassine El Ghannasy.

The Saddlers got into their stride in the 11th minute when former Albion man, Adam Chambers did well out wide on the right to release Florent Cuvelier whose cross into the danger zone carried too much power and evaded everyone.

On the quarter-hour mark, David Grof did well to block from Marc-Antoine Fortune but from the resulting corner kick, Craig Dawson was up from the back to turn the ball home and open the scoring for The Baggies.

A long-range attempt from Cuvelier was deflected over and from the corner that followed, Chambers' effort was tame and failed to trouble Boaz Myhill.

Cuvelier went close again shortly afterwards only for the 'keeper to deny him as the ball came in from the left.

The Saddlers were finding some rhythm and Stewart went close with an effort from distance on the half-hour mark.

With 41 minutes on the clock, a cross in from the left by Ashley Hemmings caused problems for The Baggies' defence but Myhill was able to gather the ball ahead of Will Grigg.

There was a good chance for Grigg as half-time approached when Cuvelier threaded him through but Myhill saw alert to block. The loose ball fell to Cuvelier whose strike had the sting taken out of it by a couple of deflections.

The Saddlers went in at the break a goal down.

The half-time interval saw Walsall make three changes with Andy Butler, Adam Chambers and Will Grigg being replaced by Richard Taundry, Febian Brandy and George Bowerman respectively.

There were few chances at either end in the opening exchanges of the second period.

Simon Cox dragged an effort well wide for Albion after they won the ball back in midfield.

A good spell of play by Walsall saw Febian Brandy go close with a header whilst James Baxendale's powerful drive was bravely blocked as the attack stayed alive.

The visitors were able to double their lead somewhat against the run of play on 61 minutes as The Saddlers were cut open down the middle and substitute, Saido Berahino was played in with a defence-splitting pass before finishing coolly.

Dean Smith made a double change as Ashley Hemmings and Florent Cuvelier made way for Jake Jones and Kieron Morris.

The Saddlers won a penalty in the 71st minute when Febian Brandy burst into the area only to be felled as he lined up a shot. Brandy picked himself up to take the spot-kick only for his effort to be pushed away by Myhill diving to his left.

With the game petering out, first-year professionals, Ben George and Malvind Benning came on for Jordan Stewart and Nicky Featherstone. Shortly afterwards, Aaron Williams got his chance in place of James Baxendale.

There was a good block by David Grof but his distribution was poor as the ball was picked up by Marc-Antoine Fortune who played the ball across to Yassine El Ghannasy who had the simple task of rolling the ball home from close range with the offside flag staying down.

The Saddlers grabbed a consolation goal with just over a minute to go when Bowerman's effort found its way into the net to make it 3-1.

That's how the scoreline stayed in front of a crowd of 4,736.

WALSALL: Grof, Stewart (George), Butler (Taundry), Featherstone (Benning), A. Chambers (Brandy), Cuvelier (Morris), Grigg (Bowerman), Hemmings (Jones), Purkiss, Downing, Baxendale (Williams). Sub not used: Walker.

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