WALSALL 1-1 CREWEDominant Walsall were left to rue a host of missed chances after being held to a frustrating home draw by lowly Crewe.
Tom Bradshaw’s early header put the Saddlers in front, but Ben Nugent equalised with a firm left-footed drive on 18 minutes.
Walsall dominated for long periods but just couldn't find a winner, with Jason Demetriou hitting the bar and Bradshaw blazing wastefully over.
Dean Smith's men remain second in League One, with 18 points from nine matches.
Walsall made three changes to their starting XI; in came Bradshaw, Andy Taylor and Anthony Forde, while Rico Henry, Kieron Morris and Jordan Cook dropped to the bench.
The Saddlers, who bowed out of the Capital One Cup against holders Chelsea in midweek, settled quickly into their passing rhythm.
And it was the returning Bradshaw who opened the scoring inside three minutes, when he headed home Forde’s in-swinging corner from six yards after being left completely unmarked.
It was the prolific striker's eighth goal of the season in all competitions.
The hosts could have extended their advantage shortly after.
Milan Lalkovic twisted and turned before sending a right-footed shot off target, and Forde then glanced wide from Sam Mantom’s accurate first-time cross.
But against the run of play, Crewe drew level on 18 minutes.
The Saddlers couldn’t clear their lines from a free-kick and the ball fell to Nugent, who fired a low left-footed drive past Neil Etheridge from 20 yards.
Walsall continued to dominate despite Crewe’s equaliser.
Andy Taylor fired a speculative strike over from distance, and Bradshaw was then inches away from connecting to Jason Demetriou’s dangerous centre.
Bradshaw threatened again on 31 minutes. Crewe defender Ryan Colcough slipped and lost possession 25 yards from his own goal. Bradshaw picked up the loose ball but lashed a right-footed effort wide.
The visitors were restricted to sporadic counter attacks, but went close when Chris Atkinson sent a looping header onto the roof of the net.
Walsall finished the half strongly.
Forde’s corner was volleyed goalwards by Bradshaw but a defender was perfectly positioned to hack clear.
Adam Chambers and Mantom each found the arms of Crewe keeper Ben Garratt with strikes from range, and Lalkovic bent an effort wide of the far post.
HALF-TIME: WALSALL 1-1 CREWE
On 48 minutes, Walsall fashioned their first opening of the second period.
Mantom’s floated far-post centre was headed back across goal by Demetriou into the path of Bradshaw.
The striker sent a weak stooping header towards the far corner, but Garratt scampered across his line to scramble the ball away.
Crewe were a threat on the break and Ryan Colclough had two shots in quick succession around the hour mark.
His first, from a narrow angle, deflected off Andy Taylor into the side-netting.
And moments later, he tested Etheridge with a low drive at his near post.
Colcough turned creator shortly after as he played in Adam King, but his miss-hit shot bobbled safely through to Etheridge when he should have done much better.
Then, at the other end, Adam Chambers headed wide from Demetriou's right-wing cross.
With 17 minutes remaining, Walsall spurned a golden chance to go in front.
Bradshaw flicked the ball goalwards for Forde, who was well placed eight yards out, but he couldn't get a clean connection on his shot, allowing Garratt to save with his legs.
The pressure was building.
Demetriou rattled the bar with a sweetly-struck left-footed pile-driver, and substitute Cook's powerful drive from a tight angle was smothered by Garratt.
Morris then stroked wide after delightful build-up play involving Bradshaw and the sponsors' Man of the Match Romaine Sawyers.
Garratt again denied Walsall in the closing stages, producing a superb tip-over stop from Morris’ blistering drive.
And at the death, Bradshaw missed a gilt-edge opportunity, blazing over the bar from close range.
FULL-TIME: WALSALL 1-1 CREWE
Team: Etheridge, Demetriou, Taylor, O’Connor, Downing, Chambers ©, Mantom, Bradshaw, Sawyers, Forde (Cook 75'), Lalkovic (Morris 75').
Subs not used: Baxendale, MacGillivray, Henry, Preston, Flanagan.
Attendance: 4,229 (394 Crewe supporters).