Saddlers end the year with mixed fortunes...THE MONTH of December began with The Saddlers on FA Cup duty as we faced a tricky away trip to high-flying Leyton Orient in the second round.
In what was an evenly-contested tie, both teams had opportunities but it was our hosts who were able to progress courtesy of a goal, against the run of play, just before half-time.
The second period saw Walsall go close on a number of occasions, including the very last kick of the game as our interest in the famous old competition ended for another season.
It was back to League business with a short trip to local rivals, Shrewsbury Town.
With a large and vocal following behind us, we had to weather something of an early storm before we were able to get a grip of the proceedings.
In the end a strike from the on-loan, Milan Lalkovic, proved to be the difference as we ran out worthy 1-0 winners in difficult conditions with wind and driving rain.
Our only home encounter of the month saw us play host to a Carlisle United side that had started to find some form.
The Saddlers started brightly and we managed to get our noses in front on the quarter-hour mark with a well-worked goal from Romaine Sawyers.
Some of the football that we played was impressive and we deservedly doubled our advantage after the break through Milan Lalkovic.
Our visitors saw Richard O'Donnell save a penalty and then had a man sent off late on, but by that stage they were already well beaten as we went into Christmas with three points.
Boxing Day saw us head to Bristol City and it was to be one of those days as we failed to get into our stride and reach the standards that we have set ourselves.
Richard O'Donnell was in good form with a number of fine saves to keep us in it, but the winning goal proved to be a first half penalty.
We brought the year to a close with a long trip down to Gillingham.
The opening period saw Dean Smith's side dominate possession but we were unable to open the scoring as our hosts duly snatched the lead with a stunning goal right at the start of the second period.
After finding ourselves under pressure for a spell, we were soon able to get back into our stride and equalised when Romaine Sawyers fired home just past the hour-mark.
There was late drama when substitute, Julian Gray, found the net in the 90th minute for his first goal of the season to put us 2-1 up. Then in stoppage time, Craig Westcarr almost extended our lead before The Gills broke down the other end and grabbed a leveller.
Even at that late stage, there was still time for O'Donnell to make a great save as the home side pushed for a winner.
In the end, honours were even as we ended the year with a point from a 2-2 draw.