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Analysis: Walsall starting to look at home on the road

Walsall boss Michael Flynn spoke last week about his team becoming more consistent away from home.


While that would ideally mean winning games, this one will be seen as a point won rather than two lost.

They are unbeaten away in three games, one of them an epic win in the FA Cup and two of them draws. But against a tough Carlisle team, who themselves have only been beaten at home once this season, the Walsall management and supporters would probably have been reasonably happy on the long journey back to the West Midlands.

Flynn felt neither team deserved to win and he was probably right in that assertion – listening in on Carlisle manager Paul Simpson’s post match press conference, he was of the same mind that there wasn’t enough quality up front in his team as well.

But there weren’t many chances for either goalkeeper to save, Walsall having the better of them in the second half , and Carlisle testing Owen Evans just once all game with an an awkward bouncing header from Fin Back which he managed to save.

Defences were on top throughout the game and Walsall’s look solid.

They have only conceded 16 goals all season despite being no higher than 13th place. If Walsall had won on Saturday they would have been within three points of the last play-off place now occupied by Mansfield, who leapfrogged Carlisle by winning 1-0 at Rochdale

If, as Flynn said, they can make better choices and show more judgment in the final third or in front of goal, then they might be able to turn a satisfactory point away from home into three and push right on into those cherished fourth to seventh spots.

The home side enjoyed more possession throughout the game and the statistics will show more corners, but it didn’t really look like translating into a winner.

Indeed, both goalkeepers didn’t have much to do in terms of shot-stopping, Owen Evans for Walsall nevertheless looking calm and assured behind a resolute defence.

Walsall were looking for their fourth undefeated game in all competitions and their third win in a row to gain ground on the Cumbrians, who were five points ahead of them in the last play-off position.

All thought’s of Flynn’s manager of the month award and the forthcoming rematch between these two teams in the FA Cup were left back at home as Walsall sought the points to push up the table.

Liam Kinsella was absent from the squad – it later transpired he had picked up a knock and wasn’t being risked. Liam Bennett started after missing the game last week.

The game started slowly, the bright Cumbrian sun affecting the view of some of the players and fans and it was Carlisle who reflected that brightness in the first 20 minutes.

They forced a series of corners, with Callum Guy looking dangerous, and though they came to nothing, this was a warning sign for the Saddlers.

Evans had to react well to deal with the header from Back but wasn’t really troubled by the set-pieces, with Walsall trying to hit Carlisle on the break but not making much progress up front.

In first-half injury-time, a low crossed pass by Jordan Gibson for Carlisle reached Taylor Charter just outside the box and he had time to shoot but it went over.

Carlisle continued to apply the pressure in the early part of the second half but Walsall looked comfortable and started to settle in.

A free-kick near to the right touchline was swung in by Tom Knowles and it evaded everyone but just went wide. Then, on 55 minutes, Danny Johnson saw a shot tipped over by goalkeeper Tomas Holy, only the second time either keeper had to make a save

Eight minutes later, Jacob Maddoox tried to get things going with a neat one-two with Knowles but his shot went well wide. Maddox was full of running all game but needs to add just a bit more poise to his final touch

Then Bennett shot just over the bar with a looping drive as Walsall looked for a dramatic winner in injury time.

Again, Evans wasn’t really troubled in the second half, though he did have to deal with another series of corners and free-kicks which he did quite comfortably.

He is looking increasingly dependable, perhaps as a result of the understanding with his defence in front of him.

Walsall fans did have something to cheer when Jack Earing made his first appearance from the bench since being seriously injured against Tranmere in September.

And with a chance to see their team at home next week where they have looked increasingly dependable in recent weeks, they will go into the World Cup period of the season with some optimism.

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