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FA Cup: Walsall 3 Coventry 2 - Report and pictures

By Joe Edwards | Walsall FC | Published:

Nicky Devlin's screamer saw Walsall come out on the right end of a fiery five-goal encounter with Coventry City in the FA Cup first round.

On a day where there were more Sky Blues fans than Saddlers supporters at the Banks's, Dean Keates' charges took a two-goal lead in the first half an hour - Andy Cook and Josh Ginnelly scoring from close range.

But Mark Robins' men, buoyed by the raucous 2,665 who made the relatively short journey, with some of them even invading the pitch in the second half, would not go down without a fight.

Jonson Clarke-Harris and Luke Thomas found the net before Devlin emphatically picked out the top corner late on to win it.

Analysis

Walsall stuck with the 4-4-2 formation used as they slumped to a 2-0 defeat to Charlton on Tuesday – but made two changes in personnel.

Zeli Ismail and Liam Kinsella replaced Morgan Ferrier and Isaiah Osbourne, who were both left out of the squad. Youngsters Dylan Parker and Alfie Bates, from Coventry, were on the bench though.

The Sky Blues had two former Saddlers in their 18 – Jordy Hiwula in from the off and Amadou Bakyoko among the substitutes – and should have gone ahead in the opening 10 minutes. Jordan Shipley was afforded the time and space to wander into the area, but his strike was easily saved by Liam Roberts.

Then came a frantic spell. Firstly, Cook coolly broke the deadlock for Walsall, escaping his marker with some fancy footwork and coming up with a perfectly-placed finish.

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Ginnelly made it two against his hometown club as he punished a tame header from Jordon Thompson which was intended for Coventry goalkeeper Lee Burge. But while the Saddlers were causing problems on the front foot, they seemed unsure at the back.

And Clarke-Harris got on the score sheet prior to the interval. He did seem to control the ball with his hand before guiding it past Roberts though.

After the break, attacking midfielder Shipley continued to find space for the Sky Blues. Hiwula released him with a well-weighted pass but, in a similar style to his chance in the first period, he could not sort his feet out in front of goal.

Coventry were not deterred by that spurned opportunity though. They levelled just before the hour mark as Thomas's drive proved too hot to handle for Roberts.

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A section of away supporters got carried away with the goal as they flooded onto the pitch, with police then lining up on the perimeter to try to prevent it from happening again.

The Sky Blues followers were certainly making their voices heard, trying to will their team onto a winner.

It was Walsall who had the last laugh though as Devlin got his first goal for the club, rifling home to send them through. Third time lucky for the Saddlers, who fell at the first hurdle in the previous two campaigns.

Key Moments

8 - Coventry should be ahead. Walsall's defence parts like the Red Sea, allowing Shipley to dribble through the centre of the pitch and into the box. Fortunately for the hosts, he scuffs the shot straight at Roberts.

12 - GOAL! The Saddlers take the lead from a free-flowing counter-attack. Ginnelly bursts down the left and floats the ball to the far post. Ismail controls and cuts it back to Cook, who creates space with a clever Cruyff turn and prods past Burge.

28 - GOAL! Walsall capitalise on shoddy Sky Blues defending to double their advantage. Saddlers midfielder Dobson lifts the ball over the top. Thompson tries to head it back to Burge but does not get enough on it, allowing Ginnelly to poke under the onrushing keeper.

32 - Goal! Coventry pull one back. Clarke-Harris slots past Roberts after appearing to control the ball with his hand. Nevertheless, a soft goal for the home side to concede.

56 - Goal! The Sky Blues equalise. Thomas tries his luck from 20 yards and it creeps through Roberts. Dozens of visiting supporters behind the goal then run onto the pitch to celebrate and are reminded over the PA system that doing so is a criminal offence.

77 - GOAL! What a strike from Devlin! The Scot surges forward from right-back and smacks the ball into the top corner following a smart pass from Kinsella. Worthy of winning any game.

Teams

Walsall (4-4-2): Roberts; Devlin, Martin, Guthrie, Leahy; Ismail, Dobson (c), Kinsella, Ginnelly (Morris, 90); Gordon, Cook

Subs not used: Kouhyar, Johnson, Parker, Ronan, Bates, Dunn (gk)

Coventry (4-3-3): Burge; Thompson, Willis, Hyam, Mason; Shipley, Ogogo (Bayliss, 70), Doyle (c); Thomas (Jones, 70), Clarke-Harris, Hiwula (Chaplin, 80)

Subs not used: Grimmer, Brown, Bakayoko, O'Brien (gk)

Attendance: 4,760 (2,665 Coventry)

Referee: Thomas Bramall (Sheffield)

Joe Edwards

By Joe Edwards
Multi-Media Sports Journalist - @JoeEdwards_Star

Sports reporter for the Express & Star and Shropshire Star.

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