The Saddlers unbeaten start to pre-season came to an end following a narrow home defeat to Nottingham Forest.
We started the game well, but did appear to be ‘over-Arsenaling` our approach, by choosing to pass ten times on the edge of the box. Thankfully, this was quickly rectified by Sam Mantom, who curled home delightfully from just outside the area and out of the reach of former on-loan goalkeeper Karl Darlow.
The Saddlers continued to dominate the opening 25 minutes or so and, barring a few pot shots from the recently departed Jamie Paterson, we rarely looked threatened. A tactical switch from the visitors, which must be seen as a back handed compliment, saw them start pressing us higher up the pitch to try and force us into playing the ball longer, and the match became a lot more even as a result.
Forest equalised on the half hour when Matt Derbyshire got up above Andy Taylor to place a header into the far corner following a left wing cross.
Half Time – Walsall 1-1 Nottingham Forest
The match continued to ebb and flow up until half time and well into the second half, with neither side really dominating but it remained an entertaining game as the match continued to ebb and flow. That said, Forest were giving us a much sterner test than we had against Leeds at the weekend, and this was clearly another step up in class. The fact we were holding our own quite comfortably must be seen as a massive plus because make no mistake, our visitors were no mugs.
On balance they probably edged the second half, as their squad showed slightly greater depth than ours. The winning goal was an excellent intricate move which ended with Andy Reid firing low left footed into the bottom corner past trialist goalkeeper, Blackburn stopper Sebastian Usai.
Another new trialist was ex Feyenoord midfielder Shabir Isoufi, who earned a few childish giggles from the gathered Saddlers fans by virtue of the fact he`s from Afghanistan. No, I didn`t get that either. His arrival on the pitch for the last quarter of an hour saw Craig Westcarr moved out wide, seemingly against his will and he pretty much gave and drifted out of the game at that point.
We seemed to lack the urgency to get the equaliser you would see in a league match, but Baxendale still forced a decent stoppage time save from Darlow to ensure the game finished 1-2.
Full Time – Walsall 1-2 Nottingham Forest
So, on summary, another good work out, a decent performance and at no point in the match did we really look second best. However, we did seem to lack a plan B when Forest sussed us out and that will need working on.