FA Cup: Walsall 2 Darlington 2 - Report and pictures
Walsall suffered heartbreak with the last kick of the game as a late equaliser earned Darlington an FA Cup replay.
Omar Holness put the hosts ahead in the first half and the visitors dominated much of the game.
But with just over 10 minutes remaining, Caolan Lavery pounced to equalise, before Alfie Bates’ corner was fumbled into the net by the Darlington goalkeeper.
The home fans thought they had won it before Josef Wheatley slid in at the back post to turn home a late goal.
Darrell Clarke made one change to the side that lost away to Swindon last weekend, sticking with the 5-3-2 formation.
Alfie Bates replaced the injured Danny Guthrie in a midfield three, with Wes McDonald returning to the squad to take the empty place on the bench.
Callum Cockerill-Mollett and Kory Roberts missed out on the squad, while Stuart Sinclair and James Clarke were still absent with injury.
Alun Armstrong’s Darlington side came into the game unbeaten in seven matches, with six of them wins.
The National League North side started in a 4-3-3 formation, making two changes.
Stephen Thompson and Jordan Watson came into the team.
Adam Campbell, who came through the ranks at Newcastle, started on the left of a front three for The Quakers, having scored seven goals this season.
Darlington were without 20-year-old striker Tyrone O’Neill, however, after parent club Middlesborough recalled him ahead of the game.
He had scored seven goals in 17 appearances for the North East side and was named as a substitute for Boro’s Championship game away to QPR.
Darlington only named five substitutes for the game.
Despite the cold and wet conditions, it was a lively start to the game as the visitors were spurred on by the loud travelling support.
Darlington’s enforcers in midfield were putting in strong challenges early on, with every kick, catch and tackle cheered on - but there were few chances in the opening minutes of the game.
The first shot on target came after 15 minutes when Holness raced through on goal from the right. His low shot was well saved by Jack Rose who pushed the ball into the air and caught it at the second attempt.
Within minutes, however, Holness made up for his miss by putting Darlington ahead. Rose did well to save several shots in a scramble in the box, but Holness eventually tucked it away to send the away fans wild.
After just 22 minutes, with his anxious side struggling to make any headway, Darrell Clarke made two substitutions, changing to a 4-4-2 formation.
McDonald and James Hardy came on to occupy both wings, replacing Zak Jules and Rory Holden.
Both replacements looked to make an impact early, with both having shots saved from inside the box - but after half an hour Walsall still struggled to create any meaningful chances.
Five minutes later, an excellent run by McDonald got him to the byline and after a block goalkeeper Liam Connell, Hardy had the chance to equalise but his tame shot was also saved from inside the box.
If the home fans weren’t already angry by the stroke of half-time, they were furious when Gaffney missed a golden opportunity to equalise.
McDonald had a shot from 30 yards which crashed off the bar, and with the goalkeeper out of position, Gaffney had a free shot from 10 yards from a rebound, which he pulled wide.
Second later, a Liam Kinsella corner is attacked by Mat Sadler but his header was just over the bar.
It marked the end of the first 45 minutes as Walsall went into the break losing 1-0 to a side two divisions below them.
Within the first minute of the restart, Jarrett Rivers almost doubled Darlington’s lead but his audacious backheel at the front post was held by Rose.
If it wasn’t for a phenomenal save from Rose just minutes later, then Walsall would have fallen further behind. Wheatley tried his luck from distance but Rose tipped it onto the bar.
After enduring a spell of pressure from Darlington, Walsall began to take control of the ball and fashion some chances.
Just after an hour Elijah Adebayo, who had a quiet game until this point, should have equalised. Pring did well to get to the byline and play it inside to the striker, who, 10 yards out, lashed his shot over the bar.
Dan Scarr was fortunate not to receive a straight red card after 70 minutes when a mix-up at the back allowed William Hatfield to race clear on goal. Scarr bundled him to the ground but with Saddlers defenders nearby, the referee deemed it a yellow card and not a clear goalscoring opportunity.
In the 77th minute Adebayo missed another clear chance to score. Caolan Lavery crossed from the right and Adebayo, no more than five yards out, puts his effort over the bar as he slides in.
With 10 minutes remaining, Scarr received a red card after his second yellow for a poor challenge as Darlington looked to break forward.
But with five minutes of normal time left, Walsall finally got their equaliser. Bates’ strong shot from distance was saved but Lavery reacted quickest to tap home the rebound.
And one minute later, Walsall took the lead. A fantastic inswinging corner from Bates was dropped into his own net by Connell.
The men were then levelled after the two goals when Ben Hedley was sent off for a second yellow card after a foul on Adebayo.
The home fans thought they had won it but a free-kick right at the death was turned home by Wheatley who slid in at the back post.
Walsall will now travel to the North East for a FA Cup replay.
Walsall: Rose, Facey, Scarr, Sadler, Jules (Hardy 22), Pring, Kinsella, Bates, Holden (McDonald 22), Adebayo, Gaffney (Lavery 61).
Subs not used: L.Roberts, Norman, Liddle, Gordon.
Darlington: Connell, Hedley, Watson, Wheatley, Storey, Galbraith, Rivers, Hatfield, Campbell (Laing 74), Holness (Bascome 77), Thompson (Donawa 67).
Subs not used: Elliott, Armstrong.
Attendance: 2,882 (1,229 away)