Reds held in goalless draw
Reds are now unbeaten in three after a hard-fought 0-0 draw in Sky Bet League One with a resilient Walsall side at The Checkatrade.com Stadium.
The Saddlers’ Craig Westcarr came closest to breaking the deadlock when he hit the bar early in the second half while for Reds Jamie Proctor, Billy Clarke and Gary Alexander all went close in a game which got better after the break.
Richie Barker made three changes for Reds’ first home game in three weeks. Kyle McFadzean, Clarke and Proctor all returned to the line-up with Josh Simpson, whose captain’s armband was passed to Dannie Bulman, Joe Walsh and Emile Sinclair dropping to the bench.
Walsall arrived with the best away record in League One and in the first half at least it wasn’t easy to see why as they got plenty of men behind the ball at every opportunity.
Both sides tried to play a passing game but with space limited chances in either penalty area were few and far between.
Westcarr got a sight of goal on 13 minutes when he controlled a pass ahead of James Hurst but his low shot failed to test Paul Jones.
At times Reds stitched together some neat passing moves without too much of an end product. Andy Drury and Proctor both fired over from distance while at the other end there was a moment of alarm for Jones who dropped a shot by Andy Taylor before grabbing it at the second attempt.
In stoppage time Reds created their best opening of the first half. Bulman won the ball on the edge of his own box and found Proctor whose perfectly-weighted pass allowed Clarke to break into the box but his drive was held at full stretch by Richard O’Donnell.
The best chance of the game so far came on 49 minutes as a good start to the second half by Walsall was nearly rewarded with a goal. The increasingly influential Romaine Sawyers slipped a pass to Westcarr from midfield but he fired against the bar with only Jones to beat.
Westcarr squandered an even better chance on 67 minutes when Mark Connolly was dispossessed by Milan Lalkovic, after Jones’ clearance had put him in trouble. Lalkovic teed up Westcarr ten yards out but he fired over the bar.
Reds responded with two good chances in the space of three minutes. Drury created both, firstly with a cross that Proctor headed agonisingly wide and then with a pass to Clarke who took the shot early and O’Donnell made the save.
With 12 minutes remaining Emile Sinclair and Gary Alexander were introducted and they combined when Sinclair teed up his team-mate for a right-footer from the edge of the box which flashed just wide.
Both sides clearly felt they could win it now and Connolly made a terrific block to deny Westcarr after Jones had shown his class with a great save to keep out Ashley Hemmings’ powerful angled drive.
But it finished goalless and both sides could have few complaints about that.