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9 April 2013

All the latest second-string action direct from Banks's Stadium...

THE KICK-off for this game was delayed by half-an-hour after our visitors' team coach suffered a break down en route.

A neat move by The Saddlers within the opening minute saw Richard Taundry feed Romaine Sawyers whose clever flick released Omari Sterling-James who won a corner, which came to nothing.

It was Walsall who were asking the early questions as Nicky Featherstone fired wide on three minutes.

With five minutes on the clock, Greg Rutherford turned well for the visitors just outside the area only for his strike to lack the power to trouble trialist, James Belshaw in The Saddlers' goal.

There was an opportunity for Nathan Luscombe in  the eighth minute as he was played through only to lift the ball over.

A couple of minutes later, Sawyers found Hemmings who took on his marker but fired straight at Adam McHugh.

The Saddlers rattled the crossbar on 18 minutes when Hemmings did well on the left to cross low for Sterling-James whose powerful effort from close range cannoned off the woodwork and away to safety.

Some more trickery from Hemmings saw him carve out an opening for Sterling-James who dragged a low powerful strike just wide of the target.

A fine crossfield pass from Hemmings found Benning with ten minutes to go until the break. He controlled well before going on a positive run that saw him beat a couple of players before teeing up Sawyers who curled his effort just wide.

The Saddlers seeing more of the ball but not seriously testing the visiting 'keeper as half-time approached.

HALF-TIME: Walsall Reserves 0 Hartlepool United Reserves 0

The second period started with some skill from Sterling-James whose eventually strike took a wicked deflection that won a corner. The resulting flag-kick from Hemmings was curled in dangerously but cleared as Hartlepool launched a counter-attack that ended with Tom Mitchinson firing straight at Belshaw.

In the next raid. Sawyers caused problems as his effort was cleared off the line by Josh Rowbotham.

There were shouts for a penalty when Sawyers played in George Bowerman who was bundled off the ball but nothing given.

A Luscombe corner saw Belshaw stretch to get a hand to it as his defence completed the clearance.

With 57 minutes on the clock, a high, hanging cross from the left was met by a deft header from Rutherford that landed wide.

Walsall made the first change of the afternoon when Sterling-James was replaced by Reece Flanagan on 58 minutes.

A spell of pressure on the visitors' goal saw Bowerman denied and then Hemmings' follow-up was blocked.

There was a teasing cross from Richard Taundry on the right which carried a bit too much power for Sawyers to get a proper headed connection.

On 66 minutes Lewis Hawkins won a free-kick for Pool that Luscombe curled inches wide as Belshaw scrambled across his goal.

After receiving treatment off the field, Sawyers came back on and immediately got in a low strike that was saved.

Neil Woods made a double change on 71 minutes bringing off Mal Benning and Dean Holden for youth teamers Aris Christopherou and Callum Williams respectvely. Williams was soon involved in the action as he headed a Pool corner away at the far post.

A deft header from Hemmings landed over as The Saddlers searched for a break-through with 15 minutes to go.

The visitors defended for their lives to deny Hemmings and then Bowerman with Nathan Buddle in particular showing bravery.

There was a committed collision between Rutherford and Belshaw as both players went for a through-ball. Belshaw was okay as the Pool front-man received a blooded nose for his troubles. He was replaced after receiving treatment as he gingerly left the field.

Ben George looped a header over at the far post in the closing stages before Josh Hawker curled an effort inches wide from just outside the area as we entered stoppage time at the end.

In the end it finished goalless.

FULL-TIME: Walsall Reserves 0 Hartlepool United Reserves 0

WALSALL: Belshaw, Taundry, Benning (Christopherou), Featherstone, Holden (C. Williams), George, Sterling-James (Flanagan), Hawker, Bowerman, Sawyers, Hemmings. Subs not used: Griffiths, Roberts.

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