Walsall 2 AFC Wimbledon 3 - Report and pictures
Walsall threw away a two-goal half-time lead to lose 3-2 against AFC Wimbledon in a crunch relegation six-pointer at the Banks’s Stadium.
Dean Keates. side looked to be in control at the interval thanks to goals from Jack Fitzwater and Julien Ngoy.
But the Dons produced a second-half fight-back which started when Nicky Devlin recklessly fouled Andy Barcham in the box.
Lyle Taylor saw the resultant spot-kick saved by Joe Pigott fired in the rebound. Taylor then pulled his side level with a stunning volley following a route-one ball forward.
And then beyond the fifth minute of added on time, the Dons were given a second penalty when Kory Roberts was somewhat harshly deemed to have fouled Taylor.
Having missed one from the spot already, the forward allowed Dean Parett to step up and his emphatically found the top corner to complete and incredible come-back.
The result sees the Saddlers slip to 19th in League One, just three points above the relegation zone.
In naming his starting line-up, boss Keates made two changes to the team that battled to earn a point at a windswept Oldham on Tuesday.
Liam Kinsella and Kieron Morris both had to make do with places on the subs bench with Florent Cuvelier and Erhun Oztumer both recalled.
It meant the Saddlers lined up in a midfield diamond formation with Adam Chambers at the base, George Dobson and Cuvelier central and Oztumer at the tip.
Wimbledon, under the guidance of manager Neil Ardley, began in a 4-3-1-2 system with Liam Trotter operating behind a strike pairing of Lyle Taylor and Joe Pigott.
In what proved a frantic start, Walsall began the game like a steam train with Keates’ men twice coming close to opening the scoring before they took a sixth minute lead.
First Luke Leahy saw a rasping drive from 18-yards parried away by George Long. Then from the resultant corner, Dobson saw a goal-bound strike well blocked by Darius Charles.
But just seconds later, the home crowd were on their feet after Dean Parrett gave away a soft free-kick for a foul on Amadou Bakayoko.
Oztumer stood over the set-piece and whipped in a ball which Fitzwater glanced past Long for his second goal in as many games.
Despite growing into the game, the Dons first sight of goal didn’t arrive until just before the half-hour mark with Liam Trotter powering a strike wide from 25-yards.
The visitors then went on to enjoy a spell of pressure with Tom Soares firing off-target from distance after Oztumer and Cuvelier both failed to clear their lines.
But on the stroke of half-time, the Saddlers doubled their advantage following a wonderful goal from Ngoy.
After collecting Nicky Devlin’s pass down the line, the Belgian produced a lovely bit of skill to loft the ball over two defenders.
He then darted into the box and kept his composure to stroke the ball past Long for his third goal since moving to the Banks’s on loan from Stoke.
Walsall came out for the start of the second-half just needing to keep things tight.
But they gifted a visitors a route back into the game when Devlin recklessly brought down Andy Barcham in the box with referee Mark Heywood having no option but to point to the spot.
Taylor stood over the penalty but his effort was saved by the feet of Liam Roberts who then reacted first to push the ball away as the striker looked to follow-in.
But despite the keeper’s heroics, Pigott was then able to pounce with the former Maidstone man firing in from close range.
Incredibly, the Dons should have pulled level just minutes later when a throw was flicked onto Taylor who then acrobatically fired a volley against the base of the post.
Ardley’s men now had the wind in their sails and they twice came close to pulling level before the hour mark.
First, substitute Nadjim Abdou slipped in Taylor with the forward then seeing a fierce strike saved by Roberts. Barcham then curled wide from the edge of the box.
But in the 66th minute, the visitors did get back on terms with a goal that was both spectacular yet also dreadful defending.
A route one ball from keeper Long took out the entire Walsall defence. But Taylor then produced a magical finish to watch it all the way before firing in on the volley from just inside the box.
From that point on, the Dons remained the more lively of the two teams despite Ngoy turning well before seeing a low effort comfortably saved by Long.
But while the visitors got into some dangerous areas – and played a few games of pinball in the Saddlers box – it looked like Keates’ men would hold on for a point.
Yet in the fifth minute of added on time, Wimbledon were given a second penalty when Kory Roberts was harshly deemed to have fouled Taylor.
Parrett then stepped up to emphatically fire past Roberts from 12-yards to earn his side a victory which is likely to keep them in League One.
2 Luke Leahy’s drive from 18-yards is parried away by George Long.
3 From the corner, George Dobson's drive is blocked by Darius Charles.
6 Goal Walsall. Erhun Oztumer’s curling free-kick is touched home by Jack Fitzwater.
9 A Florent Cuvelier strike from inside the box is claimed by Long.
27 Liam Trotter hits a powerful effort wide from 25-yards.
35 The Dons enjoy a spell of pressure with Andy Barcham's shot is blocked by Flo Cuvelier. Tom Soares then fires wide.
37 Dobson fires well wide from distance.
41 Ama Bakayoko’s strike from 25-yards takes a deflection to go for a corner.
45 Goal Walsall. Julien Ngoy brilliantly lofts the ball over two defenders before racing into the box and firing past Long.
48 Goal Wimbledon. Taylor's powerful penalty is saved by the legs of Liam Roberts but Joe Pigott hammers home the rebound.
51 Taylor acrobatically fires a volley against the post.
62 Nadjim Abdou slips in Taylor but his strike is saved by Roberts.
64 Pigott finds Barcham, who curls just wide.
66 Goal Wimbledon. Long’s route-one pass is emphatically volleyed into the net by Taylor.
68 Ngoy turns on the edge of the box before seeing a shot claimed by Long.
81 Following a free-kick on the right, the ball almost falls for Darius Charles but Kory Roberts steps in put the ball behind.
95 Goal Wimbledon. Dean Parrett smashes in a penalty after Kory Roberts is deemed to have fouled Taylor.
Walsall: Roberts, Leahy, Guthrie, Fitzwater (K. Roberts 59), Devlin, Chambers, Cuvelier (Morris 79), Dobson, Oztumer (Shaibu 85), Ngoy, Bakayoko.
Subs not used: Gillespie, Kinsella, Flanagan, Kouhyar, S
Wimbledon: Long, Fuller (Francomb 81) , Meades, Oshilaja, Forrester (Barcham 33), Trotter, Parrett, Soares (Abdou 46), Charles, Taylor, Pigott.
Subs not used: McDonnell, Robinson, Sam, Kennedy.