WALSALL v COVENTRY CITY
2015 got underway with this local derby against Coventry City at a decidedly wet Banks's Stadium.
There was a dramatic start to proceedings when the visitors, who were forced into a late change during the warm-up when Andrew Webster was taken ill, won an early penalty after Jim O'Brien went down just inside the area under a challenge from Romaine Sawyers. Marcus Tudgay stepped up and Richard O'Donnell made the save.
The joy was short-lived, though, as shortly afterwards, in the next attack O'Brien found the net from distance as O'Donnell got his finger-tips to it but couldn't keep it out.
The Saddlers looked to hit back as Anthony Forde crossed for Tom Bradshaw who failed to make a proper connection and then Forde himself saw a free-kick saved.
Just before the quarter-hour mark, Bradshaw went close as he hooked the ball over from inside the area.
With 21 minutes on the clock, a looping header from Tudgay was touched onto the crossbar by O'Donnell as the loose ball was cleared and then in the next raid, a low strike from Nouble was deflected wide.
Then O'Donnell saved well to thwart the visitors with a great reaction stop to deny Matthew Pennington.
Some neat football from Walsall ended with a strike from Michael Cain kept out by the 'keeper.
There was a foul on Anthony Forde which gave The Saddlers a free-kick in a promising position which Andy Taylor curled just inches wide as the 'keeper scrambled across his goal.
A cross from the left saw James Baxendale head wide as half-time approached.
The second period started with Romaine Sawyers getting in a powerful low strike that was deflected just wide.
In the next raid, a dangerous low ball in from the right found Bradshaw who was denied by the 'keeper from close range.
The Saddlers started the half with real purpose and a curling effort from Baxendale was pushed out before Forde's stinging follow-up was also blocked as the ball hits the woodwork.
Another neat move saw Baxendale feed Sawyers who in turn picked out Cain but his effort went narrowly wide.
The first change saw Mal Benning on for Baxendale with 66 minutes on the clock.
With 71 minutes on the clock, James Chambers was replaced by Ben Purkiss.
The game started to boil over as a poor challenge on Sawyers saw him react as players from both sides came together. The referee managed to take the sting out of the situation on this occasion.
An arrowed drive from Michael Cain is inches wide of the target as we entered the final ten minutes.
The third and final change came as Forde was replaced by Mathieu Manset.
The visitors were able to double their lead with three minutes to go when a corner found Marcus Tudgay who was able to head home unchallenged.
A swerving effort from Andy Taylor in the final minute was gathered by the 'keeper.
In the end, The Saddlers were left to reflect upon a 2-0 home reverse.