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Stevenage 3 Walsall FC 2 - match report

Walsall | Sport | Published:

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

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.

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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.

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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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