WALSALL v CARLISLE UNITED
THERE was plenty of festive cheer around Banks's Stadium for this pre-Christmas clash with Carlisle United.
It was the visitors who created the first chance when Lee Miller was able to get in an effort that Richard O'Donnell saved. Shortly afterwards, Milan Lalkovic looped an effort over.
A neat move on the right saw Lalkovic feed James Baxendale whose deep cross was knocked back into the path of Craig Westcarr who went close.
The Saddlers took a 14th minute lead when an excellent through-ball from Paul Downing set Sawyers away and he stayed cool to apply the finish and make it 1-0.
Walsall playing some neat football, but our visitors do look a threat when they go forward as Paul Thirlwell fires well over.
Another neat Saddlers' move ended with James Baxendale fouled out wide on the right and Andy Taylor's left-footed free-kick was whipped in as Andy Butler's deft header landed just wide.
In the 24th minute the visitors won a penalty for handball against Andy Taylor. Lee Miller stepped up and saw O'Donnell save his spot-kick before he blasted the rebound well over from right in front of goal.
It was a let-off for Walsall, but we continued playing some good football as the opening period went on.
There was an enforced change for The Saddlers five minutes from the break when Craig Westcarr was replaced by Troy Hewitt.
Low drive from James Baxendale is easy for Ben Amos to gather as half-time approached.
Crosses from Lalkovic and then Ben Purkiss both scrambled clear by the visitors' back-line.
HALF-TIME: Walsall 1 Carlisle United 0
The Saddlers started the second period brightly, however there was a let-off on 49 minutes as we lost the ball in a dangerous position and Lee Miller fired hard, low and wide.
There was a booking for Purkiss for a mis-timed challenge as Walsall had to defend in numbers as the resulting free-kick came in.
After having a minor skirmish with James Berrett that soon petered out, Milan Lalkovic curled home an absolute beauty from distance to make it 2-0 with 65 minutes on the clock.
With the tackles flying in, Adam Chambers was booked for a foul whilst a nasty collision between two Carlisle players ended with their substitute, Josh Morris, forced to gingerly leave the field.
Nicky Featherstone came on for Adam Chambers on 84 minutes.
The visitors were reduced to ten men late on when Sawyers' through-ball played in Lalkovic but he was pulled back by Courtney Meppen-Walter was was duly dismissed.
There was a late change as Julian Gray replaced Lalkovic, who was given a standing ovation.
In stoppage time, Troy Hewitt curled just wide from distance as The Saddlers pushed for a third goal.
Our 2013 home games ended in a winning fashion with a deserved 2-0 success. Merry Christmas!
FULL-TIME: Walsall 2 Carlisle United 0