PRESTON NORTH END v WALSALL
THE SADDLERS stepped out at Deepdale for our first of eight games during the month of March.
There was an explosive start here in the opening five minutes as firstly Paul Downing put the ball into his own net to gift the home side the lead, but Walsall showed great reaction as Sam Mantom fired home a leveller at the second attempt after the 'keeper had beaten away his first effort.
Both teams showing their attacking intent in the early exchanges and whilst things calmed down as the half went on, both teams looked purposeful.
A neat ball from Milan Lalkovic picked out the returning Nicky Featherstone but he was wide with his effort.
With 25 minutes on the clock a corner for the home side was met with a deft header from Joe Garner that was pushed around post by Richard O'Donnell. Moments later James Chambers booked for a foul out wide.
There was a half-chance for Febian Brandy as he beat the offside trap but the ball just ran too far away from him.
Just before the half-hour mark the home side regained the lead when a free-kick from Paul Gallagher was headed home by Bailey Wright who was up from the back to make no mistake.
As Walsall looked for a way back, Benning fed Mantom who got to the by-line only for his pull-back to evade everyone in the middle. A free-kick out wide in the next attack was easily cleared.
There was a great chance for The Saddlers as Mantom and Featherstone linked up well for the latter to break through and place his effort just inches wide of the target.
A neat, sharp move from Walsall ended with Mantom putting his cross astray, but there are certainly encouraging signs from The Saddlers as half-time approaches.
With 45 minutes on the clock, O'Donnell did well to keep out Keith Keane's powerful strike.
It was to be the last action of the half.
HALF-TIME: Preston North End 2 Walsall 1
The first action of the second period saw Craig Davies do well inside the area to make room for a strike that O'Donnell did well to block.
The Saddlers had to defend another dangerous ball into the area as the home side looked threatening.
A positive burst into the area by Brandy sees The Saddlers win a free-kick right on the edge of the area for handball. Sam Mantom steps up and fires his effort straight into the defensive wall.
At the other end, O'Donnell tips the ball over from Neil Kilkenny's long-range effort.
There was a double change as James Baxendale and Romaine Sawyers replaced Brandy and Feartherstone respectively.
A neat ball from Benning played in Lalkovic who delivered an inviting low ball that was cleared as far as Sawyers who tried in vain to make something happen.
The third and final Walsall change saw Michael Ngoo replace Lalkovic.
There was a straight red card for Mantom as he clashed with Garner on the half-way line. Leaving The Saddlers with ten men for the final seven minutes.
In stoppage time, a great run and strike from James Baxendale was pushed over by the 'keeper as Walsall pressed.
Then an inviting cross from the left by Westcarr saw Ngoo just fail to connect in the middle as the home side breathed a sigh of relief.
The home side managed to hold out to win the game 2-1.
FULL-TIME: Preston North End 2 Walsall 1