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STOKE MEMORIES

28 August 2013

As we prepare for Capital One Cup clash, we recall our play-off semi-final of 2001...

THE SADDLERS head for Stoke City in the second round of the Capital One Cup this evening (kick-off 7.45pm).

It's the opportunity for Dean Smith's men to pit their wits against Premier League opposition as we seek to display the spirit of 30 years ago when we embarked upon a run to the semi-final of the competition.

Talking of semi-finals, who can forget the play-off semi-final of 2000/01 when we beat The Potters over two legs to set up a clash with Reading at the Millennium Stadium?

The first leg at the Britannia Stadium saw The Saddlers display passion, commitment and professionalism in a goalless draw. Roared on by a travelling contingent of over 4,000, Walsall were the better side on the day and it set up an enthralling contest under the Bescot Stadium floodlights three days later.

With the game finely balanced, Stoke drew first blood just past the half-hour mark when Graham Kavanagh's sweet strike silenced the home faithful.

Parity was restored just before the break when Tom Bennett's corner was misjudged by future Saddler, Gavin Ward, in The Potters' goal and the ball found its way over the line.

It gave Ray Graydon's men the momentum going into the second period and within seconds of the restart, Pedro Matias made it 2-1. That soon became 3-1 when a Dean Keates free-kick landed into the back of the net.

Walsall were simply oozing confidence at this stage and Matias notched his second to make it 4-1 as he closed down Wayne Thomas' attempted clearance.

There was still time for Peter Thorne to pull a goal back but it was mere consolation as we celebrated reaching the play-off Final.

"That play-off semi-final against Stoke was amazing," recalled Pedro Matias. "For me to score two goals is something that will stay with me forever.

"I still look back on that game and smile.

"After the game the lads were so focussed on the Final and knew that we stood just 90 minutes away from promotion. We knew that the victory over Stoke would have counted for nothing had we lost at the Millennium Stadium."

TICKETS HAVE NOW GONE OFF SALE FROM BANKS'S STADIUM BUT IT WILL BE POSSIBLE TO PAY ON THE NIGHT AT THE BRITANNIA STADIUM...

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