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Analysis: Subs on song for last-gasp Walsall in FA Cup victory

Douglas James-Taylor picked a fine time to produce his first goal in senior football as he booked Walsall’s place in the third round of the FA Cup.

Andy Williams celebrates
Andy Williams celebrates

James-Taylor hit just the right note with a cool finish in the 93rd minute after picking up an Isaac Hutchinson through ball to send Saddlers’ fans home dreaming of who they might draw in the third round.

Although Walsall had the better of the second half, time was running out when another substitute – Andy Williams – capitalised on a goalkeeping error to bundle the ball home and give them hope of at least a replay.

The two goals came just five minutes apart but on 88 and 93 minutes and Walsall fans are now getting used to late comebacks after last week’s drama against Crawley.

The excitement and uncertainty, right until deep into injury time proved a potent argument against anyone who claims the magic of the FA Cup has been eroded.

James-Taylor has been used sparingly by boss Michael Flynn since joining Walsall on a season long loan from Stoke, but his strike earned them £64,000 in prize money on Saturday and who knows how much from a potentially money spinning third round tie, with the draw being made this evening

The last time Walsall reached this stage was three years ago when they went out 5-2 at Bolton Wanderers but they will be hoping for better this season and if they can get a home draw, few would bet against them the form they are in at the moment at Bescot.

Williams and James Taylor were two of five substitutes used by Flynn who had to deal with some slight knocks in the squad and a Carlisle side who were on the crest of a wave after a 4-1 win at Salford City last weekend to go sixth.

The early exchanges were scrappy but Carlisle managed to find their feet first and Owen Evans produced a great save from Taylor Charter’s shot after the striker had been set up by Jordan Gibson.

Then, on 28 minutes, Jack Armer crossed low from the left and Ryan Edmondson applied a neat finish to put Carlisle one up

But Walsall had their chance in the half, even when not firing on full cylinders, Danny Johnson having a shot somehow cleared off the line after good work from Donervon Daniels, and Isaac Hutchinson heading just wide from a free kick.

Hutchinson was the creative spark throughout the game for Walsall and looked one of their best chances of getting something out of it.

Flynn took two players off at half time to try to turn things around and one of the substitutes – Taylor Allen – almost made an impact on 57 minutes with a shot in the box from close range which was instinctively saved by Tomas Holy.

The Saddlers certainly looked much the better side in the second half and the more likely to score, with the Cumbrians seemingly content to soak up the pressure and look for a break which might increase their lead.

But that didn’t seem to come and as much as Walsall attacked the Carlisle defence, Danny Johnson being denied again and Liam Gordon producing a good cross which wasn’t finished off, it looked like it may not be the Saddlers’ day.

They got the little bit of luck they deserved for their efforts though two minutes from time when a long clearance up field from Manny Monthe was not controlled by Holy outside his box.

Williams found himself bearing down on goal with an empty net in front of him and only the attention of one defender which he shrugged off to score. It was only what Walsall’s efforts deserved as they coped with the substitutions and the associated change of personnel and formations to dominate most of the second half.

If people were looking forward to a replay and a return journey north up the M6, James-Taylor produced a goal that wiped those thoughts out on 93 minutes with a neat finish after a great through ball from Hutchinson to send the home fans into raptures.

There were ugly scenes after the final whistle when players from both teams had to be separated by stewards after coming together just in front of the away fans.

Accusations and counter accusations followed, with Carlisle boss Paul Simpson claiming substitute Jamie Devitt was punched and left with a black eye.

Walsall boss Michael Flynn also accused a Carlisle player of throwing punches – but said he had apologised to Simpson for a separate incident in which two of the Walsall squad had banged on the visitors’ dressing room door in celebration of the win. He said: “I have a lot of time for Paul and know a few others at Carlisle. And whilst football is a passionate game and everyone wants to win, there are ways to do it so I did apologise to him for that on the club’s behalf.”

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