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REPORT | WALSALL 1-1 CRAWLEY

Honours even in the West Midlands.

7 December 2021

Tom Nichols' strike late in the first half ensured Crawley got a well-deserved point away at Walsall on a very cold Tuesday night.

The home side opened the scoring in the 40th minute thanks to midfielder Brendan Kiernan who slotted the ball past Morris for his fourth league goal of the season.

Crawley were level before halftime after George Francomb caught Jack Earing napping inside his own half before picking the perfect pass to find Nichols who finished off the quick move.

Crawley Town manager John Yems made two changes to the starting 11 that lined up against Mansfield Town ten days ago, replacing Tyler Frost and Kwesi Appiah with Mark Marshall – making his first start for Crawley in League Two – and Tom Nichols.

The game took a while to get going as both teams worked each other out, but no chances were carved from play until the 11th minute when Conor Wilkinson got the wrong side of Tony Craig and went down on the edge of the penalty area. The Crawley defender received a yellow card and his side organised themselves to defend what turned out to be a poor free-kick as Wilkinson fired the ball against the knees of the jumping Ludwig Francillette.

It was the Reds’ turn to try and make something of a dangerous free-kick just seven minutes later. James Tilley was tripped and delivered the resulting set-piece which beat the wall but not the next defender who headed the ball clear.

Marshall was putting in his best showing in a Reds shirt so far, looking exciting and energetic all over the pitch. After a couple of darting runs and blocked shots, the 35-year-old burst into the Walsall penalty box, knocking the ball past his marker before being bowled over but referee James Bell wasn’t interested.

The best chance of the game so far fell to Nichols just five minutes before the interval. He collected Craig’s backheel and fired a shot inches wide of Carl Rushworth’s right-hand post from 12 yards out.

It wasn’t the best chance of the game for long however as, from the goal kick, the Saddlers broke and Kiernan found himself one-on-one with Morris and slotted the ball into the bottom left-hand corner with impressive composure.

Their lead didn’t last long as Francomb nicked the ball off Earing and took his time to find the perfect pass across the penalty box to the onrushing Nichols, leaving the striker with a simple finish past the young Saddlers’ goalkeeper.

The second half began in a similar vein to the first: both sides worked each other out for the first ten minutes. Tilley, high on confidence, was the first player to have a crack at the target in the second period, dribbling past a couple of Saddlers defenders and unleashing an effort that was well caught by the man on-loan from Brighton and Hove Albion, Rushworth.

Walsall were now looking dangerous and really should’ve taken the lead on the hour mark after Rollin Menayese scuffed his shot from six yards out and Archie Davies hoofed the ball off the line and away from danger.

The Saddlers were in complete control, throwing everything at Crawley over the next five minutes and it was nothing more than defensive heroics from the Reds that kept the scores level as dangerous shots and crosses peppered their goalmouth.

There was little to report over the next 25 minutes, Amrit Bansal-McNulty had a penalty shout turned down in the 84th minute but there weren’t many protests from his teammates.

While both sides attacked and looked for that all-important winner, neither was able to properly trouble the opposition defence and Crawley took a point back to Sussex.

REDS XI: Morris, Davies, Francomb, Craig, Powell, Nichols, Nadesan, Tilley (Bansal-McNulty 74’), Francillette, Hessenthaler (Ferry 33’), Marshall (Frost 60’)

UNUSED SUBS: Noukeu, Grego-Cox, Kowalczyk, Lynch

ATTENDANCE: 3609 (73 away)


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