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Report and pictures of Notts County v Walsall

Walsall | Sport | Published:

A controversial Tom Bradshaw penalty earned Walsall their first away league win of the season at Notts County.

The Saddlers top scorer slotted home the second half spot-kick, which was awarded after home skipper Haydn Hollis handled though the County players claimed it was outside the box.

A Gary Jones own goal, after great work from Jordan Cook, had earlier put the visitors ahead.

Garry Thompson levelled for the hosts but the officials' decision, coupled with Bradshaw's coolness from the spot, earned the Saddlers a deserved win.

There might have been controversy over the winning goal but make no mistake, this was a thoroughly deserved victory for Dean Smith's men.

After living with the hosts in the first half, they took control of the game after the break to make it back-to-back wins for the first time this season, snapping County's 11-game unbeaten run in the process.

Manager Smith made just one change from the side which beat Chesterfield last week with Anthony Forde replacing James Baxendale. It was a bright start, with chances at both ends.

The Saddlers almost enjoyed a dream opening inside the first 20 seconds when Cook forced County keeper Roy Carroll into a smart stop low to his left with a drive after cutting in from the right wing.

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Walsall's keeper Richard O'Donnell was forced into a better save to push away Mike Petrasso's goalbound header after the visitors failed to adequately clear a long throw. Liam Noble also saw a shot blocked with County looking dangerous but it was the Saddlers who grabbed the lead on 16 minutes.

The goal might have officially been credited to Jones but that should not distract from the excellent build-up play. Bradshaw fed Cook who raced forward and into the box after a quick exchange with Sawyers and the finish, regardless of whose it was, trickled past a stationary Carroll and in off the post.

County looked to hit back and only good strength from Paul Downing denied Thompson a clean strike at goal from six yards out.

The forward also saw O'Donnell keep out an effort low to his left but was not to be denied a third time. McLaughlin crossed from the left wing and Thompson got in between Downing and James Chambers to finish right-footed first time past the keeper and bring County level.

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Seconds later he almost had them ahead after leaving Downing for dead but his finish curled wide of the post.

Walsall weathered the storm and might have re-taken the lead had Noble not been perfectly placed on the line after James Chambers header had beaten Carroll.

But it was the hosts and Petrasso who were really wondering what might have been, after the wideman was only denied a wonder goal by O'Donnell's sprawling save, after he had beaten four defenders in a breathtaking run into the box.

The second half began at a slower pace and the Saddlers, perhaps sensing their chance to take charge, pushed forward, with Forde stinging Carroll's palms with a vicious long range strike and Sawyers drilling another shot just over the bar.

And they were fully deserving of the goal which saw them re-take the lead, even if it arrived in controversial circumstances.

Bradshaw received the ball from Sawyers and tried to flick it over Hollis on the edge of the box. It clearly struck the defender's hand and referee Simon Hooper immediately gave the foul – only changing his mind from free-kick to penalty on the advice of his assistant.

Bradshaw ignored the protests of the County players to keep his cool and roll the spot-kick past Carroll for his seventh goal of the season.

Unlike the opening goal, there was no immediate rally from the hosts as the Saddlers continued to dominate possession.

But their inability to add a third always meant there would be nerves heading into the final ten minutes and O'Donnell did well to save from Mike Edwards, who was in any case adjudged offside.

Bradshaw shot over and headed straight at Carroll from a Forde cross as the Saddlers looked for the goal to kill their anxiety.

It didn't come and in stoppage time O'Donnell brilliantly saved Noble's free-kick to preserve the points.

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