Walsall 2 Coventry 1 - Report and pictures
Coventry fan Luke Leahy netted in the 91st and 94th minute to earn Walsall the most dramatic of victories against his boyhood side.
In a pulsating derby at the Banks’s Stadium, a Luke Thomas goal gave the Sky Blues a half-time lead.
Both teams created a number of decent opportunities after the break with the game appearing to have drifted away from the Saddlers.
But their was incredible drama in the closing minutes with Leahy first pulling his side level when he headed in after getting to a long Liam Roberts ball ahead of keeper Lee Burge.
Then just three minutes later, Nicky Devlin was tumbled to the floor in the box by Junior Brown.
Leahy then had the courage to take the spot-kick with the defender finding the bottom corner to complete and magnificent comeback and seal a famous victory for his side.
With George Dobson ruled out through injury, Keates decided to move Russell Martin into midfield when naming his starting line-up with the boss opting for a 4-3-3 system.
Martin was joined in the middle of the park by Liam Kinsella and Isaiah Osbourne with Jack Fitzwater returning at the heart of the defence.
Up front, Morgan Ferrier and Josh Gordon operated either side of Andy Cook.
Coventry, under the guidance of Mark Robins, lined up in a traditional 4-4-2 formation with ex-Saddler Amadou Bakayoko partnering Conor Chaplin in attack.
In what was a lively opening 15 minutes, both teams moved the ball around with conviction albeit without creating any clear cut-chances.
But it was Coventry - from the game’s first real opening - who managed to break the deadlock.
After a cross from the right sailed over the head of Bakayoko, Junior Brown retrieved the ball from on the other side of the pitch.
And he then whipped in a delivery which worked its way to Thomas - with the Derby loanee taking a touch before firing past Liam Roberts from 12-yards.
The goal took some of the early tempo out the game.
And with the heavens opening and rain lashing down, both teams struggled to get a foothold on the game as the clock ticked past the half-hour mark.
Walsall were struggling to create with the midfield three working hard but lacking imagination on the ball.
But just before half-time, the Saddlers were denied what looked to be a stonewall penalty.
After Kinella had done brilliantly to win the ball, Cook was played through on goal.
But just as the striker was about to pull the trigger, he seemed to be pushed to the floor by Jordan Willis.
A spot-kick seemed inevitable but referee David Coote waved play on much to the anger and disbelief of Keates, Cook and the Banks’s crowd.
Walsall began the second-half in a midfield diamond system with Martin at the base ,Kinsella and Osbourne central and Gordon at the tip.
And the change proved a positive one with the Saddlers having a glorious chance to pull level in the 54th minute.
Cook did really well to squeeze a Luke Leahy cross through to Osbourne who then brilliantly side-stepped his marker.
But just six-yards out and with the entire goal to aim at, the former Villa man then fired wildly over the bar when he should have scored.
Walsall were now the team on the front foot and they threatened again just before the hour mark when Martin saw a shot from 25-yards spilled by Lee Burge.
Ferrier raced in to try and stab the ball home but the keeper just managed to get their first.
While they had improved vastly on their first-half display, Walsall were in need of something different with Keates swapping Zeli Ismail and Josh Ginnelly for Fitzwater and Gordon with 20 minutes still to play.
It meant, the Saddlers had now matched Coventry’s 4-4-2 formation.
And the home side threatened to pull level just minute later with Cook meeting a Ginnelly corner only to see the ball hacked from just in front of the goalline by Jordan Shipley.
Coventry responded with Shipley racing into the box only to see a low drive saved by the legs of Liam Roberts.
Keates’ men continued to threaten with both Nicky Devlin and Cook a whisker away from meeting two dangerous Ginnelly corners.
Coventry then had a glorious chance to put the game to bed when Jonson Clarke-Harris’ cross was missed by Bakayoko but found its way to Thomas.
The Derby loanne was inside the six-yard box and looked destined to score. But while he got his shot away, Roberts flung himself brilliantly at his feet to block.
The Sky Blues then came close again when a Walsall corner was hoofed clear with Clarke-Harris racing past everyone to be through on goal.
But with Roberts coming out to meet him, the substitute fired wide when he should have scored.
The game appeared to have drifted away from Walsall. But in stoppage time the unthinkable happened.
In the 91st minute, after Roberts had pumped the ball forward, Burge came miles out of his goal to punch the ball away.
But Leahy got to it first with the full-back expertly nodding the ball into an empty net to pull his side level.
Incredibly tough the drama wasn’t over with the Saddlers winning a penalty in the 94th minute when Devlin was tumbled to the floor on the box by Junior Brown.
Leahy showed bundles of character to pick up the ball. And he fired into the bottom corner to completely turn the tie on its head.
Coventry had one chance to pull level in the closing stages with Kelly flicking a cross towards goal only for Roberts to tip the ball away.
And the whistle blew just seconds later to give Walsall a famous victory over their Midlands rivals.
Walsall: Roberts, Leahy, Guthrie, Martin, Fitzwater (Ismail 69), Devlin, Kinsella, Osbourne, Gordon (Ginnelly 69), Ferrier, Cook.
Subs not used: Dunn, Johnson Wilson, Ronan, Morris.
Coventry: Burge, Willis, Davies, Kelly, Brown, Sterling, Bayliss (Ogogo 81), Thomas, Shipley, Chaplin (Clake-Harris 63), Bakayoko.
Subs not used: Addai, Grimmer, Doyle, Hiwula, Hyam.