The latest action from a chilly Deepdale...
THERE was a chill in the air as The Saddlers stepped out at Deepdale for this Sunday clash with Preston North End.
The first chance fell to Walsall in the fifth minute when a marauding run on the left by Mal Benning saw him pull the ball back to Jamie Paterson whose effort was deflected wide. From the resulting corner by Sam Mantom, skipper, Andy Butler's towering header was tipped over by Thomas Stuckmann.
A break by Joe Garner saw Benning do well to stay with him and force him into shooting well over.
There were loud appeals for a penalty on 17 minutes when Stuart Beavon fought off the attentions of Butler and crossed into the path of Garner who fell under the challenge of Paul Downing, but the match officials allowed play to continue.
The Saddlers took the lead when Will Grigg did well on the left to weave his way into the area and then cross for Febian Brandy to fire home to make it 1-0 and celebrate with his now trademark somersault.
A low drive from distance by Lee Holmes was well pushed around the post by debutant goalkeeper, Ian McLaughlin as the home side started to up the tempo in search of an equaliser.
With 28 minutes on the clock, a pacy burst by James Baxendale saw him get into a good position, but his lob over the advancing 'keeper landed just wide of the target.
Another good break by Walsall saw Paterson feed Baxendale who did well to skip a couple of challenges before firing just wide with a low strike from the edge of the area.
The second goal came on 39 minutes when a free-kick was only half-cleared as far as Adam Chambers who put the ball back into the danger zone where Paul Downing glanced a header home for 2-0.
Mantom given room to run in the middle of the park and line up a shot that flew over.
As the half came to a close, former Walsall loanee, Lee Holmes dipped an effort over the crossbar.
HALF-TIME: Preston North End 0 Walsall 2
There was an early chance for Grigg who turned well only to see his strike blocked by Stuckmann from close range. There were appeals for handball from the rebound but the referee was unimpressed.
Shortly afterwards another shooting opportunity opened up for Grigg but his effort lacked the necessary power to trouble the 'keeper too much.
The third goal arrived when Grigg seized upon a some sloppy defensive play by the home side to tee up Baxendale who arrowed the ball home for 3-0!
Excellent save from McLoughlin to deny Holmes from a free-kick on the edge of the area.
Saddlers frustrating the home side with some committed play.
Ashley Hemmings replaced Baxendale with just over ten minutes to go.
After Brandy had nicked the ball off a home defender to set up Grigg who blazed over, there was a double change for The Saddlers as both players were replaced by James Chambers and George Bowerman respectively.
The home side pulled a goal back in stoppage time to make it 3-1 but by this time Walsall were in cruise control as our unbeaten start to the year continued.
FULL-TIME: Preston North End 1 Walsall 3
WALSALL: McLoughlin, Butler, A. Chambers, Grigg (Bowerman), Paterson, Brandy (J. Chambers), Purkiss, Benning, Downing, Baxendale (Hemmings), Mantom. Subs: Grof, Taundry, Featherstone, A. Taylor.