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Brentford 1 Walsall 2

Walsall | Sport | Published:

Walsall claimed their first win of the season at Brentford – thanks to Jonny Brain's goalkeeping masterclass.

Walsall claimed their first win of the season at Brentford – thanks to Jonny Brain's goalkeeping masterclass.

Goals from Alex Nicholls and Julian Gray – either side of Gary Alexander's equaliser – did the damage but Brain preserved the points.

Top draw saves to thwart Charlie MacDonald, Toumani Diagouraga and Craig Woodman's injury time free kick kept the Bees at bay, as the Saddlers got their season up and running.

Brain started early by saving Alexander's toe-poke, before the striker skimmed the side netting after Leon Legge's speculative effort fell kindly for him.

The Saddlers hadn't threatened early on but stunned Griffin Park by taking an opportunistic lead after 12 minutes.

Darren Byfield played in Nicholls on the right, debutant goalkeeper Alex McCarthy came rushing out only for the striker to expertly clip the ball over him from an acute angle.

It was vindication for Nicholls, who missed a guilt-edge chance in the Carling Cup exit to Tranmere in mid-week, as he looked to prove himself as Troy Deeney's successor.

But, despite trailing, the home side had plenty of possession and Sam Wood slashed wide after good work from the dangerous Alexander.

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Then Byfield just failed to out-run Pim Balkestein when clean through but, while Brentford were still dominating possession, the Saddlers were comfortable.

MacDonald gave them a scare when he broke down the right and cut inside but he was denied by the in-form Brain.

However, the goalkeeper was finally beaten a minute before the break as Brentford grabbed the goal their pressure merited.

Robbie Simpson's excellent cross found Alexander who stole in ahead of Manny Smith and his looping effort beat Brain, despite the goalkeeper's best efforts.

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The Bees should have built on their leveller but were instead carved apart on 54 minutes as the Saddlers regained the lead.

Richard Taundry's slide-rule pass found Byfield and the striker chipped in a cross for the on-rushing Gray to volley in at the far post.

Brentford almost levelled immediately when Brain spilled Wood's shot, before he palmed Diagouraga's follow up wide.

The impressive Brain then claimed MacDonald's deflected effort with 20 minutes remaining, as the Saddlers defended for their lives.

But they were still dangerous on the break and McCarthy – underworked in the second half – had to be at his best to stop Nicholls bagging his second with 12 minutes left, after Byfield sent his strike partner clear.

Alexander volleyed over as Brentford hunted a leveller and Brain was the hero at the death, when he blocked Craig Woodman's vicious free kick.

From the resulting corner Diagouraga headed wide, as the Saddlers held on for the win.

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