WALSALL v BARNSLEY
THE SADDLERS stepped out on a chilly but sunny December afternoon for our first home game in almost a month as we played host to Barnsley.
The early action saw a probing ball forward from Romaine Sawyers almost find Tom Bradshaw who looked to nip in only for Ross Turnbull to be alert to the danger to clear just outside his area.
Moments later, Jordan Cook tried his luck from distance with an ambitious lob that landed just over.
There was a booking for Bradshaw as he obstructed the 'keeper as he looked to clear the ball long down-field.
Chances for either side were at a premium as the first half went on as the players battled to get to grips with the conditions.
It was the visitors who took a 27th minute lead when a corner was met by the head of Nyatanga as he guided the ball beyond O'Donnell to make it 1-0.
The lead lasted for only a few minutes as The Saddlers were back on level terms when Michael Cain drilled a corner into the path of Jordan Cook who hit a sweet half-volley into the top corner to leave the 'keeper standing. It was a superb goal.
As the action started to hot up, Bradshaw went through only to fire over, but he seized his chance moments later on the edge of the area as he tucked the ball home to make it 2-1.
The visitors looked to hit back straight away as O'Donnell saved with his legs to deny Marcello Trotta.
Ben Purkiss battled his way through as the action continued but his eventual strike went over the crossbar.
The game certainly opened up in the closing stages of the first half with Devante Cole firing over for the visitors and then Dale Jennings seeing his strike gathered by O'Donnell, whilst some neat play out wide on the left ended with a cross from Cook landing just wide of the mark.
The Saddlers went in at the break 2-1 to the good in what was a half of two halves.
Within seconds of the restart, Bradshaw won a free-kick on the edge of the area which Cook dipped just inches over with the 'keeper motionless.
There was an assist from the referee to set up Baxendale whose low strike was pushed out by the 'keeper. As the ball rebounded out, there were shouts for a penalty but nothing was given as Bradshaw went down.
It was a lively opening to the second period from The Saddlers as we looked to add to our lead.
As our visitors started to build up a head of steam, O'Donnell did well to deny Hourihane with a block before finger-tipping Jennings' effort round the post.
An inviting low ball in from Sawyers on the left was smothered by the 'keeper as Bradshaw looked to profit.
With 20 minutes to go, our first change saw Anthony Forde on for James Baxendale.
Some excellent play out wide from Henry saw him win a free-kick which was headed away by the visitors.
A brave block by Adam Chambers thwarted the visitors as they lined up a shooting opportunity as the clock ticked down.
There was a further change as Bradshaw was replaced by Mathieu Manset late on.
Some positive play from Forde won a corner deep into stoppage time and as the ball came in, Cook was on hand to despatch and make it 3-1 to seal the points.
It was to be the last action as the full-time signalled a deserved three points for The Saddlers.