Date: 23rd July 2008 at 11:10am
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In a match that seemed built around want-way midfielder Gareth Barry, Walsall came away with a good workout as they prepare for the opening of their new season.

The Saddlers adopted a four,four,two system with Ince in goal and a back four of Palmer, Gerrard, Roberts and Sansara. A midfield of Nicholls, Bradley, Mattis and Zaroube and up front Ibhere and Ba. Villa fielded a young side with the fluttering of expensive prized players such as Harewood, Barry, Routledge and Maloney.

The Banks’ pitch was fantastic on the newly laid surface and both sides immediately made their intentions clear with every touch from Barry booed by his own faithful. The first half was lit by a fantastic fingertip save from Clayton Ince and a terrible miss by Harewood as he raced down on Ince’s goal.

Walsall were playing direct from the back with good distribrution particulary from Palmer at right back. The long balls were taken on by Ba and Ibere who both acted in a similair role as target man and neither seemed to gel together. The midfield worked tirelessly to get the ball to the flanks and Nicholls inparticulary put in some good crosses from the flanks.

It was a mistake that saw Walsall take the lead on the stroke of half time. A low pass into the path of Nicholls was poorly dealt with by the onrushing Villa goalkeeper and Nicholls took hold of the loose ball to roll the ball into the empty net from distance.

Walsall started the second half with a degree of control over the match, but this was disrupted by a poor foul given away by Palmer on the edge of the area. This was instantly punished by Malonely who floated the ball into the top left hand corner of the net to draw the sides level.

Walsall continued to press back for the lead and they were soon rewarded, a lovely move saw a deep cross to the back post placed back into the area by Demontagnac for trialist Suffo to slide the ball into the net. Suffo had come on for the tiring Ba and looked to have an assured touch but looked to be lacking match sharpness in certain patches of the match.

In the closing stages Mullen decided to take off the outstanding Ince and replace him with rookie Rene Gilmartin. Five minutes a fluffed dfelcted shot from Villa was split by the young Irish man and Malonely followed up to equlaise. With Villa now dominant after their gifted equaliser it was no surprise when they won the match with four minutes to go. A high cross to the back post was smashed into the roof of the net by the onrushing Wayne Routledge with full aplomb.

All in all a good work out for the Saddlers which was noted by the absences of Anthony Grant (injured), Richard Taundry (injured), Reich (?), Rhy Weston and Paul Boertian. In the latter stages of the match Mark Bradley was replaced by Keegan Ayre who showed some assured touches on the ball.


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