Tom Marshall's match report...What a game lies before us at the Banks’s, the biggest game in club football all weekend with today’s visitors setting the pace in top spot it’s the job of runners up Walsall to knock them off their perch with a win today!
A lively following from the brewers faithful in the away stand backing Hasselbaink’s boys all the way with chants of “we’re Burton Albion we’re top of the league”.
But today’s biggest question is would they be singing that at full time? Or will it be the boys from the Black Country leading the way in the English third tier?
3:00 arrived on a gloomy afternoon in Walsall and it was the lads in second place to kick off, the referee blew the whistle and allowed the battle to commence.
The opening five minutes displayed a catalogue of midfield battles both teams testing the keeper but nothing major to report on at the moment but it’s the Brewers who look the most dangerous in the final third.
After a crafty piece of play down the left hand side Taylor played the ball into Sawyers that saw him pull of a spectacular backheel which proves the quality within the side.
A lofted ball played by Burton then led to three committed lunges came out in the midfield which saw the ref distribute the first yellow card of the game. This saw Dean Smith shaking in anger on the touchline although the free kick then came to nothing.
20 minutes into the game and the deadline remained unbroken after a penalty appeal for Burton was waved away. However moments after a foul was committed to the delight of the fans for Walsall as they felt unfairly treated during the game.
After a handball and a Rico Henry interception the ball found its way to the feet of Romaine Sawyers who let fly from distance. The shot was heading into the bottom corner until McLaughlin in the Burton net managed to pull off a smart save to divert it around the post.
Walsall seem to be enjoying control of the game on the half hour mark but the main threat seems to be the combination of Sawyers and academy youngster Liam Kinsella out on the far right hand side but still nothing to separate the sides in a stalemate 0-0 draw.
Then a through ball slid through the defence like a knife through butter allowed young Rico Henry to motor down the line and he whipped in a sublime ball to the edge of the box which picked out midfielder Mantom who connected with a thunderous effort that just fell shy of the post but a good spell of play from Walsall just before half time.
McLaughlin’s goal kick ballooned up in the air and anchor-man Chambers leapt like salmon to win the header that Sawyers managed to touch town with ease and play out wide to Kinsella. He took a touch and rifled a strike across the keeper’s straining right arm and into the bottom corner. It was a well-deserved goal from the Saddlers but they have the Sawyers and Kinsella combination to thank for the good attacking spells of play.
MacGillivray in goal for Walsall was kept fairly quiet as the first half passed and the clock ticked the 45th minute. The whistle was blown in the top of the table clash and it stood Walsall 1-0 Burton Albion.
The second half began and it was the boys from the Pirelli to kick off towards the world renowned Tile Choice stand. They know they have 45 minutes to get a goal and take a minimum of a point on the 54.8 mile trip back to Burton, whereas for the Saddlers it was a case of maintaining shape and not giving away any silly mistakes.
55 minutes saw Walsall work the ball to the feet of playmaker and Kitts St Nevis international Romaine Sawyers who played the ball through to talisman Bradshaw who apparently committed a foul in the process of holding the ball up.
64minutes had been played and Bevan tested the Walsall keeper MacGillivray but the scholar pulled off another save and, considering first choice keeper Neil Etheridge is away on international duty for the Philippines, he had big shoes to fill but he’s done superbly between the sticks so far.
Then Burton produced a piece of attacking play with 20 mins left on the clock, it would be cruel for Walsall to throw it away now and the ball was drilled across the box dangerously for the Brewers but Chambers threw his body in front of the ball.
10 minutes to play and Burton began to throw everything but the kitchen sink at the Walsall back line.
Sawyers and Bradshaw linked up in the middle to pick out Mantom once again in front of goal but the shot was deflected wide and that later saw Henry be replaced by Anthony Forde.
MacGillivray denied Burton with a diving save while a goalmouth scramble took place as Burton missed two opportunities from point blank range, and it’s that that could keep Walsall in top spot this week.
The 90th minute came and Sawyers glided his way forward with the ball and tried to chip the ball up and past the defender but it struck a hand and with the appeals of the players a delayed reaction from the referee then resulted in a penalty.
League One player of the month nominee Tom Bradshaw stepped up for the spot kick and he executed it superbly – Goal to the super Saddlers!
The points were wrapped up and it was the Walsall fans going home happy.
The whistle was blown and Dean Smith later added he was pleased with the first half performance and there was room for improvement in the second half.
However they’ve been flawless in the opening 12 games and they need to carry this momentum forward so they can remain in the top spot come May.