A night of drama at the City Ground...
A TOM Bradshaw hat trick propelled the Saddlers into the second round of the Capital One Cup on a night of drama at the City Ground.
With the score at 3-3 and just 30 seconds left on the clock, Bradshaw was grounded inside the box by Reds skipper Kelvin Wilson. The prolific frontman got up to convert the penalty kick and bring the curtain down on a thoroughly entertaining cup-tie.
The early warning signs were there for Forest.
Sam Mantom’s effort from the edge of the box deflected up and over the bar inside the opening 2 minutes moments before Rico Henry’s cross flashed past De Vries in goal.
Dean Smith’s men were winning the midfield battles from the off but the first meaningful chance of the game fell to the home side.
Chris Burke’s cross was met by Jamie Ward’s darting run to the front post, but the Forest man could only lift the ball over Etheridge’s goal.
Moments later it was the Saddlers chance to threaten. Mantom’s whipped free kick took a nick off a red shirt and momentarily wrong-footed De Vries. The Forest number one doing well to get down to his left to claw the ball out.
Then came the breakthrough. The lively Lalkovic found space down the left and calmly squared the ball across the 6-yard box for the onrushing Bradshaw to register his first goal of the new campaign.
It was nothing less than what Dean Smith’s men deserved and moments later it was 2-0.
Rico Henry skipped over the half way line before feeding Mantom with a slide rule pass to the by-line. The Walsall number 8’s cross was deflected up in the air for Tom Bradshaw to throw himself at the ball and double the Saddlers lead.
With the City Ground now subdued, the Saddlers were in full flow when Kieron Morris sliced an effort wide on the half hour mark. Dougie Freedman was still bellowing at his defenders when James O’Connor’s outstretched leg diverted the ball over Etheridge and on to the crossbar.
The Saddlers failed to heed the warning and wouldn’t be so fortunate minutes later. A short corner caught the visitors out and after the ball eventually found it’s way to the back post for Tyler Walker to prod in from 2 yards out.
The teenager’s goal blew the game wide open and when Milan Lalkovic combined with Mantom inside the area, the Saddlers should have extended our lead.
Patient build up play by Mantom resulted in a neat ball to Lalkovic who, after skipping round Kevin Wilson, brought the best out of De Vries with stinging effort across goal.
An action packed first-half came to a close with former Saddler Jamie Paterson rattling the post, his volley from 12-yards out had Etheridge beaten to his right.
HALF TIME: Nottingham Forest 1-2 Walsall
It was Paterson who went close again in the second period. The talented midfield man let the ball run across his body and unleashed a left-footed pile driver just over the bar.
Romaine Sawyers replaced Adam Chambers ten minutes into the second period and the St. Kitts and Nevis international came close to making an immediate impact. Patient build up play involving Mantom and Henry fell to Sawyers who had no hesitation in pulling the trigger from 20-yards out only to see his effort rise into the away support.
Both sides continued to commit men forward, contributing to what felt like an old-fashioned cup-tie. Paterson again at the heart of the action found the side netting before Flanagan had a goal-bound effort blocked for the Saddlers.
Romaine Sawyers is yet to reveal his goal target for the season but with 15 minutes to go, he got he found the net for his second of the season.
Fantastic work by Morris to turn Fox on the corner of the 18-yard box before unleashing a swerving effort goalwards. De Vries could only palm it straight to Sawyers who smashed home for a second successive game.
The introduction of Michail Antonio galvanised the hosts and he showed why moments after coming on. The former Wednesday striker received the ball on the half way line before driving forward and beating Etheridge with a stunning strike from 25 yards. 3-2
The former Wednesday striker then drew Forest level for the first time in the game. A headed effort was cleared off the line by Rico Henry only for Antonio to back heel the ball past the helpless Etheridge.
With the clock ticking down and the game heading towards extra time Tom Bradshaw squirmed his way into the area before being grounded by Wilson. The prolific frontman dusted himself down to drill the spot kick past De Vries and put the Saddlers into the second round.
An unbelievable night of drama at the City Ground.
Starting line-up: Etheridge, Demetriou, Downing, O'Connor, Henry, Mantom, Chambers, Flanagan, Morris, Lalkovic, Bradshaw