Crawley Town 0-0 Walsall: First clean sheet in six for Barker’s Reds

Reds defending a Walsall corner. Below Billy Clarke made his first start after seven games out injured. Photos Jon Rigby
Reds defending a Walsall corner. Below Billy Clarke made his first start after seven games out injured. Photos Jon Rigby

There was a first goalless draw of the season for Crawley Town in a League One stalemate with Walsall at the Broadfield today (Saturday).

In a game of few real chances, Reds played some decent football without really threatening while the Saddlers came closest to scoring when Craig Westcarr struck the inside of the post in the second half.

Crawley Town V Wallsall 23-11-13 (Pic by Jon Rigby)

Crawley Town V Wallsall 23-11-13 (Pic by Jon Rigby)

It was Crawley’s second straight draw, a decent point against Dean Smith’s talented side and most importantly a first clean sheet in six matches.

However the side have now not won in six League One games and scoring goals remains a real concern having hit the target only once in that tough spell which included four straight defeats.

There were four changes to the Reds side which drew at Carlisle. In came Saturday’s goal-scorer Billy Clarke after his long injury lay-off along with Kyle McFadzean, having been dropped for the last two.

Jamie Proctor started up front while Nicky Adams returned after illness. Kyle Bennett returned to Doncaster on Thursday and dropping to the bench were Joe Walsh, Emile Sinclair and captain Josh Simpson, the armband going to Dannie Bulman.

Walsall meanwhile were unchanged from their fine win over Peterborough in the week.

After a quiet opening 12 minutes Reds striker Proctor went down in the box under Paul Downing’s tackle, but there was little appeal for a penalty.

Saddlers’ striker Westcarr did well to bring a high ball under his spell but from the left of the box he scuffed his shot and Paul Jones easily gathered.

The hosts were playing some good short passing football and working hard to regain possession, though they failed to really test Walsall keeper Richard O’Donnell, Andy Drury dragging one effort wide from range.

Walsall showed their threat with a good break which saw Westcarr’s flick play in James Baxendale, but Reds goalkeeper Paul Jones was out quickly to deny him from a tight angle.

The resulting corner was only half cleared and left back Andy Taylor curled towards goal from the right and the ball squirmed out of Paul Jones’s hands, the stopper though was able to gather at the second attempt.

A largely uneventful half ended with Proctor slipping Adams in on the right though his curled effort comfortably gathered by O’Donnell.

By far the best chance of the match so far arrived three minutes after the restart when Westcarr slammed a shot against the inside of the angle of Paul Jones’s goal, the ball flying to safety as Reds survived.

After that chance the hosts again enjoyed a decent spell of possession, though again decisions and final balls in attacking areas meant they didn’t threaten the visiting goal, and at the other end Paul Jones survived another slightly anxious moment when he at first dropped a cross from the right.

Just after Milan Lalkovic - man of the match for the Saddlers on Tuesday - for the first time showed his talent, the on-loan Chelsea attacker dribbling down the left and cutting back for Westcarr, who ballooned over when he should have scored. Perhaps the other side of Lalkovic then showed with two wayward efforts straight after.

Crawley’s first real opportunity, and it was a good one, arrived on 71 minutes when Mat Sadler stood up a cross and Proctor rose but headed over from six yards out.

Mike Jones then threaded a fine ball through for Adams, but he couldn’t shake off the last defender as he shot straight at O’Donnell.

With 12 minutes remaining Reds boss Richie Barker made a positive double change, strikers Gary Alexander and Emile Sinclair on for Clarke and Proctor.

Hoping for a similar effect to a week ago at Carlisle, the pair immediately combined and Alexander struck a rasping shot not far past the top corner with a diving O’Donnell beaten.

Reds stopper Jones was then forced into a double save to first deny Ashley Hemmings and then Westcarr following up in a moment of panic.

Saddlers defender Andy Butler just managed to cut out Andy Drury’s slid through ball with Sinclair waiting to pounce as neither side broke the deadlock to share a point.

REDS (4-2-3-1): P Jones; Hurst, Sadler, McFadzean, Connolly; M Jones, Bulman; Drury, Adams, Clarke (Sinclair 78); Proctor (Alexander 78).

Subs: Torres, Alexander, Simpson, Walsh, Sinclair, Smith, Jonny Maddison.

SADDLERS (4-2-3-1): O’Donnell; A Chambers, Taylor, Butler, Downing; Mantom, J Chambers; Lalkovic (Gray 88), Baxendale (Hemmings 75), Sawyers (Hewett 88); Westcarr.

Subs: Purkiss, Featherstone, Hemmings, Lewis, Benning, Hewitt, Gray.