NOTTS COUNTY v WALSALL
IT'S part two of our West v East Midlands double-header as we take on Notts County at Meadow Lane, scene of that emphatic 5-1 win last season.
The Saddlers came out of the traps brightly and created a chance within the opening 20 seconds as Ben Purkiss found Jordan Cook who was denied by a smart save. The next raid saw Tom Bradshaw break through but he was caught marginally offside.
The home side started to get back into it and Richard O'Donnell had to be alert to deny Garry Thompson before we survived a series of County corners.
We managed to get our noses in front on 16 minutes when Romaine Sawyers and Jordan Cook linked up well just outside the area and as the latter hit the ball goalwards, it took a deflection off Gary Jones which saw the ball roll over the line.
County kept plugging away and after O'Donnell had saved from Thompson, he could do nothing to prevent the equaliser on the half-hour when Stephen McLaughlin's cross from the left found Thompson who made no mistake.
With their tails up, Thompson went close again moments later.
A strike from outside the area from Tom Bradshaw took a deflection which saw the ball loop just over and from the resulting corner, James Chambers' header is cleared off the line.
The Saddlers lost the ball in midfield as Michael Petrasso danced his way through into the area but O'Donnell was alert to make a crucial save as half-time approached.
The second period saw Walsall see plenty of the ball and look the most likely side.
A powerful strike from Anthony Forde was kept out by the 'keeper before The Saddlers won a penalty for handball just inside the area. Top scorer Tom Bradshaw stepped up and coolly slotted home to make it 2-1.
The Saddlers looking in control with some nice football at times. A ball in from Forde found the head of Bradshaw but his deft header was easy for Roy Carroll to gather.
Some good play from Cook saw him make room a strike that was straight at Carroll.
It was to be Cook's last involvement as he was replaced by Mal Benning on 81 minutes.
There was some neat play from Sawyers to find Bradshaw who fired over before a positive break ended with Sawyers crowded out as he shaped to shoot.
With the clock ticking down, Mathieu Manset and Ashley Grimes came on for Sawyers and Bradshaw respectively.
The hosts won a free-kick in a promising position in stoppage time but O'Donnell pulled off a cracking save.
The Saddlers worked extremely hard to see this one out and secure a deserved win against a side who had not tasted defeat since August.