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SADDLERS ALL SQUARE WITH VILLA

25 July 2015

First home pre-season friendly ends in a 1-1 draw...

THE SADDLERS stepped out for our first home pre-season friendly as we entertained Premier League neighbours, Aston Villa.

Both teams were resplendent in their new away kits, which our white and blue colours unveiled on the morning of the game.

It was Villa who had the first strike on goal through Scott Sinclair but it failed to trouble Neil Etheridge, who was making his home debut in the Walsall goal.

Neither 'keeper was seriously tested until Villa got their noses in front when a low ball in from the left found Callum Robinson who fired home.

There was a chance for Scott Sinclair shortly afterwards as he broke through but Etheridge was alert to force him wide and his strike towards goal was mopped up by Jason Demetriou who was back to cover in front of goal.

An inviting forward ball from Anthony Forde looked to pick out Tom Bradshaw but Jed Steer in the Villa goal was alert to gather.

After some skill in the centre circle by Lalkovic which eventually saw him crowded out, there was a low strike from distance at the other end by Idrissa Gueye that was dragged narrowly wide.

As half-time approached, a free-kick to The Saddlers saw Forde step up and his effort took a deflection on its way to beating Steer and levelling the scores.

That was to be the last action of the half as we went in at the break at 1-1.

There was just the one change at the break as Paul Downing replaced Liam Wakefield.

The early action saw Tom Bradshaw clattered into by Micah Richards as the resulting free-kick came to nothing before a pacy break on the left from Villa ended with a low ball across the area find Leandro Bacuna whose effort was off target and cleared.

Villa had penalty appeals waved away as Libor Kozak felt that he was held back by Andy Taylor in front of goal, but the referee waved away the protests.

The Saddlers made a triple change as Rico Henry, Kieron Morris and Jordan Cook came on for Taylor, Lalkovic and Sawyers respectively.

Some neat play down the left saw Henry feed Bradshaw who in turn picked out Chambers in space in the middle and his arrowed effort was straight into the arms of Steer.

There was another raft of changes as Liam Kinsella, Matt Preston, Reece Flanagan and James Baxendale replaced Demetriou, O'Connor, Chambers and Forde with 15 minutes to go. Shortly afterwards, Amadou Bakayoko replaced Bradshaw.

A robust challenge from Matt Preston on Kozak earned him a talking to from the referee as the clock ticked down.

That was to be the last action as the game ended in a 1-1 draw in front of a crowd of 6,606.

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