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Walsall 3-3 Newport County - Report

Walsall began the new year in breathtaking fashion as a rollercoaster second half filled with goals saw them claim a remarkable point against Newport County.

A fan invades the pitch as Walsall's Conor Wilkinson (centre left) celebrates scoring their side's third goal of the game during the Sky Bet League Two match at Banks's Stadium, Walsall. Picture date: Saturday January 1, 2022. PA Photo. See PA story SOCCER Walsall. Photo credit should read: Bradley Collyer/PA Wire...RESTRICTIONS: EDITORIAL USE ONLY No use with unauthorised audio, video, data, fixture lists, club/league logos or "live" services. Online in-match use limited to 120 images, no video emulation. No use in betting, games or single club/league/player publications..
A fan invades the pitch as Walsall's Conor Wilkinson (centre left) celebrates scoring their side's third goal of the game during the Sky Bet League Two match at Banks's Stadium, Walsall. Picture date: Saturday January 1, 2022. PA Photo. See PA story SOCCER Walsall. Photo credit should read: Bradley Collyer/PA Wire...RESTRICTIONS: EDITORIAL USE ONLY No use with unauthorised audio, video, data, fixture lists, club/league logos or "live" services. Online in-match use limited to 120 images, no video emulation. No use in betting, games or single club/league/player publications..

Saddlers fans had not seen their side play for almost a month, but the long-awaited return threw up one of the most extraordinary matches you could ever ask for.

An utterly crazy second period at the Banks's Stadium offered up five goals – including two own goals, a first-touch strike and a last-gasp equaliser.

Without doubt, this was the most action-packed and topsy-turvy affair of Matt Taylor's Walsall reign so far.

Walsall started poorly as League Two's top scorer Dominic Telford added to his impressive tally.

The first 45 minutes were well-contested, but the second completely blew them out of the water.

Conor Wilkinson netted with his first touch as a substitute but would soon score an own goal to make it 2-1 to Newport.

Another own goal saw the Saddlers level, with Matty Dolan fluffing his lines, before County immediately went in the lead again through Telford.

To cap off all the drama, in the final seconds of the six additional minutes, Wilkinson took centre stage with an outrageous volley to see this exhilarating encounter end 3-3.

Some Walsall fans invaded the pitch and a fine may now be in the offing, but it was almost impossible not to get swept up by it all. Games like this do not come around all too often.

The Saddlers made mistakes in this game and will feel they had enough chances to win. The character they showed, however, was superb.

Walsall supporters will not be forgetting this encounter any time soon.

Report

There was one change from the last game, the 3-0 triumph over Colchester way back on December 11. Kieran Phillips came in for Brendan Kiernan, who was not in the squad.

The Saddlers welcomed Joss Labadie, Tyrese Shade and Wilkinson back to the bench – the extended break allowing the trio to recover from injury issues.

Newport, meanwhile, had former Walsall duo Cameron Norman and James Clarke in their starting XI, along with the division's leading light in Telford.

Rebecca Welch was in charge – marking the first game where the Saddlers have had a female referee.

Walsall, it is fair to say, got off to a nightmare start.

They found themselves behind after just four minutes as the lively Telford grabbed his 15th of the campaign.

A free-kick was worked to Ollie Cooper, and his clever reverse pass found the 5ft 5in forward, who duly did the rest.

The Saddlers may argue they only switched off for a split second – but that was all Telford needed to emphatically pick out the bottom corner.

From there, the hosts did manage to have a few moments going forward.

Walsall v Newport County. Pictured, Conor Wilkinson celebrates his goal..

Jack Earing saw a well-struck effort from long range gathered by Nick Townsend, while Emmanuel Osadebe narrowly missed the target with a nice shot on the turn.

A couple of half-chances then saw Phillips curl the ball over and George Miller head off target as well.

However, County looked more dangerous. Telford, especially, was proving difficult to keep track of with intelligent runs and touches.

He headed into the arms of Carl Rushworth before a deft flick found Finn Azaz, whose through-ball intended for Courtney Baker-Richardson was stopped by Stephen Ward.

Walsall appealed for a penalty as Ash Taylor looked to be wrestled to the ground by ex-Saddler Clarke, but those calls were ignored – in what was a sign of things to come.

Rushworth had to be on his toes just before the interval, too, as he kept out Cooper and Azaz in quick succession.

It was not a free-flowing first half from the Saddlers, and Phillips had struggled to make much of an impact on the left flank.

They have certainly performed worse this term, though, and it was still all to play for.

The second period – it cannot be understated – was bonkers. You could not have made it up.

Kicking off the craziness, Wilkinson scored with his first touch after coming on for Phillips.

Walsall's No.9 met Otis Khan's corner with aplomb, volleying past Townsend having only been on the pitch for a matter of seconds.

He struck again just a few moments later as well, but at the wrong end this time around.

Telford was played onside, and his floated cross to the far post saw Wilkinson – trying to help out defensively – inadvertently head past the helpless Rushworth.

Then came another own goal. Khan's inswinging delivery saw Newport skipper Dolan, at the far post, get his feet all mixed up and direct the ball into his own net.

But the visitors would retake the lead straight away. County raced forward and had Aaron Lewis rattle the crossbar, with Telford gobbling up the rebound.

All of that, remarkably, came in the space of just 13 minutes.

A fan invades the pitch as Walsall's Conor Wilkinson (centre left) celebrates scoring their side's third goal of the game during the Sky Bet League Two match at Banks's Stadium, Walsall. Picture date: Saturday January 1, 2022. PA Photo. See PA story SOCCER Walsall. Photo credit should read: Bradley Collyer/PA Wire...RESTRICTIONS: EDITORIAL USE ONLY No use with unauthorised audio, video, data, fixture lists, club/league logos or "live" services. Online in-match use limited to 120 images, no video emulation. No use in betting, games or single club/league/player publications..

But there was one more massive goal to come.

The away side had Baker-Richardson kept out by Rushworth while Robbie Willmott – after the keeper had rushed off his line to make a header – narrowly missed an open goal from around 40 yards out.

Walsall, having thrown the kitchen sink at it and seen several valid penalty appeals come to nothing, found a third equaliser in the fifth minute of stoppage time.

Wilkinson beautifully worked the ball onto his weaker right foot and volleyed into the top corner from the edge of the box.

Some fans ran onto the pitch in celebration and, of course, that is not what you want to see, but what an unbelievable, magical goal it was.

Miller had an overhead kick attempt kept out just before the final whistle was blown.

Wilkinson's wonder goal, though, was a fitting way to end an utterly ridiculous game of football. The most thrilling start to 2022 that you could have possibly imagined.

Teams

Walsall (4-2-3-1): Rushworth; White, Taylor, Menayese, Ward (c); Kinsella, Earing (Shade, 80); Khan, Osadebe (Labadie, 63), Phillips (Wilkinson, 52); Miller

Subs not used: Rose (gk), Mills, Leak, Perry

Goals: Wilkinson (53, 90+5), Dolan OG (65)

Newport (3-5-2): Townsend; Clarke, Dolan, Bennett; Norman (Haynes, 75), Willmott, Azaz, Cooper, Lewis; Telford (Farquharson, 86), Baker-Richardson (Fisher, 81)

Subs not used: Ovendale (gk), Collins, Cain, Livermore

Goals: Telford (4, 66), Wilkinson OG (56)

Attendance: 4,946 (722 Newport fans)

Referee: Rebecca Welch

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