Reds held after late goals
Reds were held to their fourth successive draw after two very late goals earned Walsall an unlikely point.
Jamie Proctor and Paul Hayes, with his first goal for the club, had given Reds a 2-0 lead going into the 90th minute but then James Paterson’s shot took a massive deflection off Matt Sparrow to make it 2-1.
Then in the second minute of stoppage time Connor Essam missed his clearance as the ball took a horrible bobble in the six-yard box and Will Grigg pounced for an unlikely equaliser.
It was harsh on Reds who had produced an excellent performance in the second half.
Richie Barker made two changes to the side that shared four goals with Yeovil as Jake Taylor and Nicky Adams returned with Sergio Torres and Dannie Bulman dropping to the bench.
Mat Sadler captained Reds against his old club and when Joe Walsh headed a first-minute corner from Adams straight at the keeper the away fans might have been expecting a game similar to the end-to-end thriller on Tuesday.
That certainly wasn’t the case in the first half. A pitch already soft and uneven after overnight rain soon began to cut up and when another deluge arrived midway through the first half it resembled the finishing straight at Cheltenham after Gold Cup day.
Reds stitched together some decent moves but failed to trouble Aaron McCarey in the opening 45 and it was a similar story at the other end. Paterson, cutting in from the left, was Walsall’s best threat and twice squandered decent shooting opportunities and when Essam, who was booked, brought down Grigg on the edge of the box Craig Westcarr blasted the free kick into the stand.
The conditions inhibited both sides’ passing style but Paul Jones was called into action just after the break to hold Grigg’s low drive and at the other end Jamie Proctor was off target with a right-foot effort from 15 yards.
On 53 minutes, though, Proctor was very much on target when he put Reds ahead with a superb 20 yard strike that flew into the top corner, giving McCarey no chance.
Walsall hadn’t been beaten at home since mid-November and Reds had to defend two successive corners but they nearly scored again on the hour when Hayes got on the end of Adams’ cross but his shot was instinctively saved by McCarey and Proctor’s follow-up was deflected over the bar.
Walsall upped the tempo in search of an equaliser and thought they’d got it midway through the half when Paterson ended a diagonal run with a firm shot which hit the inside of the post before Sadler hacked it clear.
But just as the home fans were sensing a goal Reds doubled their lead on 71 minutes. Adams was unlucky when his header from Clarke’s cross was pushed out at full stretch but Hayes was on hand to turn and fire home from close range.
Four minutes later Reds broke and Adams’ shot was cleared off the line and as the home side pressed for a goal the visitors carried increasing menace on the break.
The home side got one back in the last minute when Paterson’s drive took a big deflection off Sparrow as he tried to clear and totally wrong-footed Jones as it went into the bottom corner.
It looked like being a consolation but in stoppage time a horrible bounce deceived Essam as he went to clear and Grigg pounced from close range. Instead of the three points they deserved Reds had to settle for one.