Notts County and Walsall played out a goalless draw at the Banks’s Stadium despite both sides going close to stealing all three points.
The first half went by without many significant chances, Jordan Cook going closest for the home side, lobbing the ball wide in the opening minute, whilst Graham Burke’s long range effort was the closest Notts came to taking the lead.
It was after the break when both sides went closest. Walsall hit the woodwork twice in a minute midway through the second half. Down the other end, efforts from Gary Jones and Liam Noble tested Richard O’Donnell in the Walsall net as the game ended without a goal.
Magpies’ Caretaker manager Paul Hart made three changes to the side that played in the 2-2 draw with Scunthorpe United at Meadow Lane on Saturday. Both Roy Carroll and Paddy McCourt were restored to the starting eleven, after both players were away on international duty with Northern Ireland at the weekend. They replaced Kevin Pilkington and Liam Noble, who dropped to the bench.
Aston Villa loanee Graham Burke made his debut for Notts after joining last week. The forward was on the bench against the Iron, but didn’t feature. He replaced Alan Smith, who was on the bench for the fixture.
Notts got the game underway, but it was the home side who had the first chance just 40 seconds into the game. A long ball over the top wasn’t dealt with by Haydn Hollis, allowing Jordan Cook to ghost in behind. He went to lob Roy Carroll, his shot had the right power and height, but it just missed the far post. It was Cook again minutes later, but his shot curved away from goal, giving Carroll no concerns.
Following the early pressure, Notts did work their way back into the game. First, Jimmy Spencer got ahead of his marker to head a Sean Newton cross wide of the target. It was the front man again after 12 minutes. He received a ball on the edge of the area from Mustapha Dumbuya, before turning a hitting a shot into the hands of Richard O’Donnell.
Walsall had enjoyed the better of the opening 20 minutes. Haydn Hollis did excellently to clear a dangerous Kieron Morris cross. Morris again troubled Notts, cutting inside and stinging the hands of Roy Carroll, who did well to keep hold of the ball on a slippy surface.
Cook, who had been the danger man for the home side so far, came close to opening the scoring. He received the ball on the left, cut inside and hit a shot from the edge of the box. His effort curled wide of the Notts goal despite having plenty of space.
The Magpies started to get on the ball more and started to retain some possession. Paddy McCourt skipped past three players, but failed to get a shot on goal after being swamped by the Walsall defence. Down the other end, a ball over the top nearly played Jordy Hiwula through on goal, but the slippy surface played in the visitors favour as it zipped into the hands of Carroll.
Graham Burke had a quiet start to the game, but went incredibly close to opening the scoring with ten minutes remaining of the half. A Gary Jones shot was blocked into the path of the Aston Villa loanee, who unleashed a powerful effort at goal, but O’Donnell got across fantastically to tip the effort over for a corner.
HT: Walsall 0 – 0 Notts County
Playing on the right today, it was Garry Thompson who had the first strike on goal in the second half. Good pressure from the Magpies boxed Walsall in a corner of the pitch, the Saddlers failed to clear as the ball fell to Thompson on the edge of the box. He volleyed first time, but his effort sliced just wide of the near post.
It was a similar situation for Romaine Sawyers down the other end. He latched onto a loose ball for slicing it wide of Carroll’s goal.
Brilliant defending from Notts denied the home side from taking the lead with an hour gone. A quick interchange between the Walsall forward line played Adam Chambers in on goal. He was one on one with Roy Carroll. Before Chambers could even test the keeper, Hayden Mullins came rushing across the box and made a magnificent sliding block to keep the scores level.
It was James Chambers who had an opportunity moments later. A corner was whipped into the box and the Walsall defender’s glancing header nicked off a Notts player before going wide.
The Saddlers had the best chance of the game with 25 minutes remaining and they should have taken the lead on more than one occasion during the phase of play. A cross came in from a corner into a crowd of players before rattling the crossbar. It wasn’t cleared as Carroll was forced into an excellent save with the ball flying into the top corner. From the resulting set-piece, Walsall hit the woodwork yet again, this time through Cook as he shot from close range with Carroll rooted. A real let off for the Magpies.
Notts made changes to try and encourage some attacking play, and it certainly made a difference. Liam Noble and Balint Bajner were the two to come on and they were both involved in the move. First, Liam Noble hit an effort from the edge of the box, forcing O’Donnell to get down low and make a save. Jones latched onto the rebound and put the ball back across goal, which was just out of reach for Thompson. The ball eventually fell to Jordan Williams on the edge of the area, who thumped an effort towards goal, but it was deflected wide for a corner.
With ten minutes remaining, Notts were very close to taking the lead. Gary Jones was played through on the right and he was in on goal. With no support, he had to go for goal himself despite the tight angle. His effort had power and forced O’Donnell to the tip the ball over.
The Magpies were the better side going to the final minutes as they continued to search for the later winner. Garry Thompson tried his luck from distance but he couldn’t keep the
ball down as it flew high over the bar.
FT: Walsall 0 – 0 Notts County
MAGPIE PLAYER MAN OF THE MATCH | Hayden Mullins
The defender had a solid game for the Magpies this afternoon. With Walsall trying to play through the Notts defence, Mullins had a tough job, but remained solid and dealt with everything thrown at him.
The defender was constantly throwing his body on the line to ensure the home side didn’t score. The last ditch block to deny Adam Chambers was excellent and showed the determination he had all game. A very significant part of the well deserved clean-sheet.