Five years on from Walsall at Wembley
It’s been five years since Walsall’s first, and only, visit to Wembley and while it may not have lived up to the billing on the pitch, the day still lives long in the memory.
In front of more than 72,000 fans packed into the iconic venue, Dean Smith’s Saddlers didn’t do the business on the pitch as they fell to a 2-0 defeat to Bristol City in the Football League Trophy final.
The lead-up to that day on March 22, 2015 has gone down in Walsall history – with the northern section final against Preston giving the club one of its greatest moments.
A late free-kick from Anthony Forde and a Tom Bradshaw strike handed Walsall a 2-0 win at Deepdale to take into a second leg in the Black Country.
That ended 0-0 and the final against City was set up.
It was Walsall’s first ever visit to Wembley and has remained their only trip in their 132-year history,and despite the historic moment but unfortunately things didn’t click on the pitch.
City ended that season as League One winners with 99 points, while Walsall finished 14th, and that gulf in class showed.
It took only 15 minutes for City to break the deadlock when towering centre-back Aden Flint leapt highest to meet Marlon Pack’s corner and head down past Richard O’Donnell.
Walsall fought back before half-time, but couldn’t add the finishing touch before City doubled their lead five minutes in the second-half.
Mark Little met a cross, and while his initial header was saved by O’Donnell, the ball rebounded off the defender and in.
Jordan Cook hit the woodwork late on for Walsall, but it wasn’t enough as City wrapped up the win.
After the match, Smith conceded that ‘nerves’ may have played their part in the result.
“I’m disappointed. We didn’t perform to our level. Our use of the ball wasn’t as good as theirs,” he said.
“I’m sure the lads will analyse their own performances. We always knew height would be a factor and they scored from a corner.
“Maybe there was a bit of nerves. They’re young lads and they wouldn’t have been in front of this crowd before.”
Looking back on that day, fans have concluded that while City’s quality was impressive, Walsall’s team selection left a lot to be desired.
Sam Mantom was coming back from a prolonged injury but started over Michael Cain, who helped the club to the final, while Bradshaw started at a time when he wasn’t at his sharpest.
In the end, the result left a bitter taste in the mouth, but the experience of seeing the Saddlers crest flying high at the national stadium remains a proud moment for everyone connected to the club.