Saddlers round-off pre season with a win...
THE SADDLERS brought the curtain down on another pre-season campaign with a 1-0 win over Luton Town at Kenilworth Road.
Tom Bradshaw’s cool first-half finish gave Dean Smith’s men the victory in our last run out before the new league season.
It was a final chance for the Boss to take a closer look at his players, including spanish trialist, Adrian Pazo, who was named amongst three defenders in a new-look formation.
It took just five minutes for the Saddlers to break the deadlock. A long ball forward saw Tom Bradshaw evade the offside trap to race clear and fire home at the front post.
Smith will be pleased having watched his side settle quickly into a rhythm with lots of neat build up play in and around the Luton box.
So it would have been against the run of play should Conor McGheehan have kept his effort down after 10 minutes.
The Luton midfielder latched onto a pull back from Danny Green but failed to test Neil Etheridge from 8 yard out.
The visitor’s enjoyed much of the possession in the opening exchanges with Kieran Morris and Rico Henry combining frequently down the left.
Luton unveiled new signing Craig Mackail-Smith ahead of kick-off and the former Peterborough and Brighton man had shouts of a penalty waved away midway through the half.
A combination of Paul Downing and Matt Preston crowding out the curly-haired frontman who went to ground too easily for referee Graham Horwood.
Kieran Morris picked up the ball on the midway point moments later and after driving at the sea of orange defenders, picked out Jason Demetriou whose shot was more threatening to the corner flag than Mark Tyler in goal.
Neil Etheridge was called into action late in the first half, clawing out a powerful Paul Benson header, away to his left hand side.
The Filipino international showed why Neil Cutler rates him so highly again moments later, bravely punching clear a dangerous cross from Green.
A comfortable half for the Saddlers without reaching top gear.
HALF TIME: Luton Town 0-1 Walsall
Rico Henry and Adrian Pazo were replaced by James O’Connor and Andy Taylor at the break and it was Taylor who nearly made an immediate impact.
The Saddlers fullback sneaking in at the back post to drill an effort narrowly wide of Tyler’s goal from an acute angle.
Dean Smith’s team talk seemed to galvanise his players with Demetriou and Chambers adding to the shot count inside the opening minutes of the second period.
Kieran Morris was the beneficiary of some fine footwork from Demetriou moments later, who twisted and turned his way into the box only for Morris to fire straight at Tyler.
Next it was the skippers turn. Chambers’s strike bounced down into the ground and over Tyler before being cleared from inside the six-yard-box.
The hosts best hope of drawing level fell to Mackail-Smith. The lively frontman dispossessing Matt Preston on the hour mark before unleashing a curling effort goalwards, though Etheridge was equal to it.
The hosts grew into the contest, enjoying considerably more possession in the second period without finding a way past Etheridge in goal.
Both managers rang the changes throughout the second half, disturbing the flow and pattern of the game that was so evident in the first half.
A winning end to pre-season. Now on to the new League One campaign…
Attendance: 2180 (149 Walsall)
Starting XI: Etheridge, Henry, Pazo, Preston, Downing, Demetriou, Mantom, Chambers, Morris, Cook, Bradshaw