Walsall moved themselves out of imminent relegation zone danger on Saturday as they cruised to a 2-1 win over midtable Cambridge United at the Bescot Stadium. The Saddlers now sit five points clear of Stevenage at the foot of the Football League.
The visitors looked second-best from the very first whistle, and it quickly became apparent that the hundreds who had made the trip up the M6 could be in for a total thrashing. They were in fine voice, but their spirits were soon dampened when Walsall’s Josh Gordon finished off a well-worked move with his right hand, which went unnoticed by the officials.
Just nine minutes later, centre-back Mat Sadler doubled the lead with a powerful header after being left unmarked at the front post. Kicking themselves over their dismal defending, the U’s set about trying to put their foot back in the door, but it never seemed to happen for them.
United hit the post shortly before the break but that was just about the only real chance they created, which was of great frustration to the travelling supporters. Down the other end, Walsall were unlucky to not have added several more to the tally. Chance creation was in full flow but, fortunately for Dimitar Mitov in the Cambridge goal, finishing was not.
The second half played out in a very similar fashion to the first for the most part, but Cambridge found their feet with five minutes left of the 90 and started to attack. Throwing everything they had forward, United were being valiantly kept out by the impenetrable Walsall defence. That was, until Harvey Knibbs lashed home a spectacular volley from twelve yards, bringing it back to a one-goal game.
Despite the late resurgence, it was too little, too late for Cambridge. Left ruing such a feeble display of defending, they now hold the 13th spot in League 2.
Walsall boss Darrell Clarke said: “We had umpteen opportunities on the counter-attack in the second half but I thought my players stood up to it, battled well and worked hard.”
He continued: “We got the initiative early in the game, which was pleasing to see and that gets your fans behind you.”