Stevenage 3 Walsall FC 2 - match report

Luke Freeman scored the winner nine minutes from time as relegated Stevenage came from behind to beat Walsall.

Walsall boss Dean Smith
Walsall boss Dean Smith

The midfielder pounced on a dreadful error by Mal Benning to seal a game which saw several changes of momentum.

Jimmy Smith had put the already-doomed hosts ahead in the first half before quickfire goals from Benning and Craig Westcarr put the Saddlers in command.

But Jo N’Guessan levelled things up for the home side, before Freeman then clinched it.

Benning had tried to chest the ball back to visiting keeper Richard O’Donnell but only managed to direct it into the path of a grateful Freeman.

Victory for the hosts snapped an eight-game winless run but the Saddlers have now won just twice in 17 games. After a season which at one stage promised so much, there is a sense the end can’t come quick enough.

Boss Dean Smith named an unchanged side from the one which drew 1-1 with Gillingham on Easter Monday.

It was the hosts who threatened first and they might have taken the lead had Fejiri Okenabirhie directed his header anywhere other than straight at Saddlers keeper O’Donnell.

The Saddlers then really should have taken the lead but Sam Mantom pulled his finish wide of the post from six yards out after starting a neat move which led to Romaine Sawyers rounding home keeper Chris Day and pulling the ball back to the midfielder.

Craig Westcarr also went close when he shaped a shot wide of the far post after being left in acres of space inside the box by the home defence.

The Saddlers top scorer also had another effort deflected wide but the visitors attacking player lacked finesse and on 35 minutes they found themselves behind.

James Chambers has been one of their most consistent players this season but his error handed the ball to Okenabirhie and he crossed for Smith, the home skipper taking a touch before firing a left-footed finish past O’Donnell.

Luke Jones headed over following a short corner routine as the hosts, buoyed by the goal, began to harass an oddly shaky visiting defence.

But the hosts never looked totally comfortable at the back and Lalkovic almost levelled before half-time, with a shot that crept just wide of the upright.

With just 45 seconds of the second half gone the Saddlers did draw level as Benning grabbed his second of the season. There was an element of fortune as Lalkovic’s through ball deflected perfectly into the full-back’s pass and Day got a touch on his driven shot but could not stop it dribbling over the line.

Four minutes later, they were ahead when Day could only parry Sawyers’ shot from distance into the path of Westcarr, who simply rolled the ball home from six yards out.

Alas, the lead lasted less than three minutes as Smith picked out N’Guessan with a pinpoint through ball and he fired past O’Donnell.

Mantom shot wide from distance while there were appeals for a penalty when Brandy’s strike from inside the box appeared to strike a hand.

The frenetic pace was not maintained as the game settled down again. Benning hit a free-kick straight at Day and home substitute Roarie Deacon flashed an effort wide.

Stevenage were offering little going forward but with nine minutes to go were handed a goal on a plate. Benning tried to chest a cross back to O’Donnell but directed it straight to Freeman who could not miss from six yards out.

Mantom had a shot deflected wide and tested Day with another drive in stoppage time but there was no way back.

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Comments for: "Stevenage 3 Walsall FC 2 - match report"


sack him now terrible manager 2 wins from 17 games got to go


Why on earth are we playing three loanees, who won't be here next season? Surely, in these meaningless games we could be giving fringe players a go to get them experience.


A bit harsh but calls for his head will increase unless things change


you must have short memories when Dean took over from Chris and co we were on the way down to the second but he managed to keep us in the fist division he had players out of contract and those he had on contract up and left ok Dean should have signed at least three forwards (not the likes of westcarr) but may be players did not want to sign for the Saddlers because of the pay structure let dean do his job let him resign and sign new players and then he can be judged on his team not a team made up of another managers I think next year Dean knows the players he needs to strengthen the team to enable us to get into the play offs or the second spot so get behind Dean and his backroom staff and lets have a good season next year

kick out the boo boys and be positive GOOD LUCK FOR NEXT SEASON COME ON YOU SADDLERS

Saddler in Sweden...

Dont talk rubbish-- Which Manager are you experts picking out to come and run Walsall, after Deno goes.... Its a great job, no money and no ambition, and even if you do a decent job you still get called "terrible"... Quite the hotspot or what??? ( And its not like we have never ended a season like this before ...!!!)

Dean is as good a manager as walsall can expect right now, and I personally have faith in him, as do the players... this year is done... lets see what happens next season..


Lee in Sweden.

Red Andy

Some of you fellow Walsall fans make me laugh. We have the best manager seen down Bescot for over 10 years and you start calling for his head, shame on you! Yes we have blown our season in the last 15 games or so but let's remember from were Smith has taken us. And I ask the question, with who would you like to see replace Smith? What other manager has given his youth players opportunities like Smith has done. I can understand frustration, but sheer stupid comments like Smith must go is borderline lunacy. Let's get behind the boys one last time and get ready for another season, UTS!!!

Sandy Sadler

The season, has just died on we. Feeling frustrated, of what could have been. Yesterdays result, was a forgone conclusion that we would lose.

Just hoping we can win our last game, and have some smiles back on our faces again.

Need to address the home form next season, nothing short of crap at home. If we are to make a another top 6 challenge, we at least need to win 15 home games. this year we achieved half that amount. We have hardly ever been world beaters at the Bescot, have we.

Norton Rob

Norton Rob

I totally agree that at the present time, with the club having minimal sponsorship and income, we wouldn't be able to afford a better manager and coaching staff than we currently have, and I for one, don't have a problem with that. As I see it, the issue is with players failing to concentrate on their jobs and at this stage of the season some of them seem to lack the levels of fitness to see them through. Coaches and managers can only do so much, and as Deano has said, some of them need to take a look at themselves, as they have let themselves down in recent weeks. Do players care as much these days, and do they still play for pride when there is nothing to strive for? I have my doubts.


I can understand why some would call for Dean to be sacked with the poor run we are on but I can also see the other views too, it is harsh and if more of the same is served up next year yes the calls will grow but there is also much in the comments of Kevin, Sadler in Sweden, red andy and Sandy too. I take the view we were in a right old mess until Dean took the reins and without a doubt he didn't just save us from what seemed certain relegation but has built upon it to the point where we are disappointed that we have not made the play offs and that to me shows real progress. It's true our home form has been poor all season it's true that lack of goals has cost us dearly but it's equally true that in Dean and co we have as good a managerial set up as your likely to find. We don't have millions to spend but are a well run club with a great set of supporters. Disappointed ? Too right I am but I will be there next week and next season and the one after that and the one after that because it's my club and as long as these old bones work I shall keep dragging em to see my beloved Walsall.

Sandy Sadler

The guys above,comments are all from die hard fans. But frustration has come at the end, of what could have been a better close finish, than just faded away. God that takes me back to the old days in the 60s. Great start, bigger crowds, then normality kicks in, and mid table finish.

One thing that has come home to me, is the stature of the current squad. How many times have the opposition players, over shadowed our team. Wolves, Preston, Rotherham, and Were have they finished. In the Wolves home game. Has the Walsall players passed them on the handshakes, for a few seconds we dissappeared from view. To many of our squad, are puny in size to compete over the season.

The days of finding, another Christie, Kelly, Rammell, Angel have all but gone.

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