Walsall 2 Crawley Town 1 - Report and pictures
Walsall came back from a goal down to secure a 2-1 win over Crawley Town after a wonder strike from Wes McDonald.
The Red Devils led at half-time through Panutche Camara, despite a positive half for the Saddlers.
Josh Gordon netted his ninth goal of the season to equalise in the second half before McDonald put the icing on the cake with an incredible winner.
The winger was twisting and turning on the edge of the box before he unleashed a ferocious curling effort that nestled into the top corner.
Darrell Clarke made two changes to the starting XI that lost 3-1 at Cheltenham, starting in a 4-4-2 formation.
Alfie Bates and Zak Jules both missed out and were left out of the squad altogether.
Rory Gaffney also missed out on the squad with academy striker Mitch Candlin taking his place on the bench.
Danny Guthrie made his return to the bench after injury while new signing Jack Nolan, who signed for the club on Thursday, was also named among the substitutes.
John Yems’ Crawley Town kept the same starting XI as the 2-1 win over Bradford last week, starting in a 4-3-1-2 formation.
They only named six substitutes.
As the game approached kick-off, Crawley were forced into a change to their starting XI as Tarryn Allarakhia started, replacing Nathan Ferguson.
This meant the visitor’s bench was reduced even further to just five players.
Both sides started the game relatively brightly with wingers for either team causing the defenders issues.
Saddlers’ McDonald was a threat down the left flank while Bez Lubala whipped in several dangerous crosses from the left for Crawley.
Late addition Allarakhia went very close with an effort after 16 minutes. His shot from the edge of the box flashed just wide of the post.
Elijah Adebayo did well shortly after and almost set up Gordon. The striker skipped past one defender in the box and crossed low with the goalkeeper out of position. But with Gordon ready to tap home into an empty net, the cross was picked out ahead of him.
Despite the Saddlers arguably being on top, the Red Devils took the lead after 27 minutes. A cross was cleared just ahead of Ashley Nadesan but fell kindly to Camara who smashed home on the half turn in front of the travelling fans for his first goal of the season.
Minutes later Adebayo had the ball in the back of the net after a flowing Walsall move but the linesman adjudged him to be offside.
Some resolute Crawley defending kept them in the lead after a McDonald cross was destined for Adebayo, who was sliding in, but the ball was cleared just in time.
With Walsall on top, Caolan Lavery should have scored. The striker met Dan Scarr’s header and shot on the turn from point blank range but Glenn Morris did well to save.
The sides went into the break with Crawley leading 1-0.
At the start of the second half, Crawley should have been two goals to the good.
Nadesan did all the hard work by running with the ball past several Walsall players but when one-on-one with Liam Roberts his shot was tame and saved by the goalkeeper.
After 62 minutes Nolan was brought on for Adebayo to make his Saddlers debut.
Despite looking second best for most of the second half, Walsall equalised after 72 mins. Gordon latched onto a Lavery flick on and ran through the centre. He turned one defender and finished low past Morris.
The Saddlers continued their momentum into the closing stages of the game and James Clarke went close but he directed his header over the bar from a Danny Guthrie free-kick.
Minutes later Nolan did superbly to reach the byline and cross for McDonald who was arriving late from the opposite flank. His shot from inside the box was blocked.
Almost instantly from that chance, Lavery was then found and raced towards goal but his effort was also blocked.
Their dominance was rewarded in the 88th minute when McDonald scored arguably the best goal of his career. The winger was twisting and turning on the left flank and unleashed a delicious curling shot from the edge of the box that looped over the goalkeeper and into the top corner.
And the Saddlers hung onto their lead to bounce back from defeat last week, with a 2-1 comeback win over Crawley.
Walsall: Roberts, Norman, Scarr, Sadler, Clarke, Gordon (K.Roberts 92), Kinsella, Holden (Guthrie 66), McDonald, Lavery, Adebayo (Nolan 62).
Subs not used: Rose, Willis, Perry, Candlin.
Crawley: Morris, Dacres-Cogley, Sendles-White, Tunnicliffe, Doherty, Camara, Bulman, Allarakhia (Francomb 60), Lubala, Palmer, Nadesan (Dallison 60).
Subs: Jones, German, Sesay.
Attendance: 4,011 (154 away).