REPORT | Walsall 1-0 Southend UnitedSouthend fell to a cruel late defeat at Banks’s Stadium as Jordy Hiwula gave the Saddlers all three points with an 88th minute winner.
Blues denied Walsall superbly for large parts of the game, and had chances to win it themselves though they ended up going home empty handed.
Phil Brown named an unchanged starting eleven for this one, with Ted Smith back on the subs bench after recovering from a thumb injury.
There was no place on the bench for Blues Captain, John White who missed out through illness and Myles Weston who was out with a calf injury.
Walsall nearly crept into a first minute lead as a Sawyers cross almost looped in at the back post. Thankfully though, it just missed the frame of the goal.
Blues first half chance arrived in the third minute as Leonard’s ball was glanced wide by the head of Atkinson.
The opening exchanges were evenly contested; Walsall enjoying most of the possession, but Blues pressing well and looking dangerous on the counter.
The Saddlers came close to the opening the scoring on 12’ as Henry tried his luck from 30-yards, flying just over with Bentley at full stretch.
Payne was next to have a go from long range, cutting in before shooting wide from 20-yards out on 17 minutes.
Bentley did really well to deny Mantom on the 25-minute mark. The midfielder drove a low shot from just outside the area which the Blues keeper did well to tip past the left-hand post.
Under some intense pressure from the hosts, Blues had Deegan to thank that the scores remained goalless on 27’; clearing off the line from Sawyers.
Sawyers then went close minutes later, firing just over the top.
It was then Bentley’s turn to come to the rescue with an inspired triple save to deny Lalkovic and Sawyers twice – incredible stuff from Blues Number One.
Blues grew in confidence as the half drew on, seeing more of the ball and looking to get it forward. Payne looked dangerous in the hole trying to pull the strings to a Southend opener.
But goalless it was at the break.
Half Time: Walsall 0-0 Southend United
Walsall were quickest out the traps again in the second period, Hiwula was played through by Sawyers who was denied by the feet of Bentley. The ball then fell to Forde who struck the post.
Bentley showing top class credentials between the sticks, was again called upon on 47 minute; denying Mantom from just inside the area.
Blues showed their steel despite continued Saddlers pressure; Coker with a perfectly timed tackle in the area to deny Hiwula on 52’.
The Blues continued to throw their bodies on the line for the cause. Thompson with a vital block on the hour mark.
Tyrone Barnett was pulled to ground in the box as Worrall crossed in on 67’. No wrong doing said referee, Keith Hill despite the appeals of Blues fans behind the goal.
That seemed to drive the Blues on as they imposed themselves on the game. Deegan testing the gloves of Etheridge on 71’ as the keeper tipped his shot over from outside the box.
Into the last ten minutes with both sides still probing for that elusive opener.
Southend next to come closest to breaking the deadlock - Payne wriggled his way to the by-line, looping a cross to sub Hurst at the back post. The midfielder took a touch before blasting the ball into the grasp of Etheridge.
Walsall fans thought they had found a late winner on 83’; Bentley punched the corner away only to find Morris who then in turn could only find the side netting.
Sub Jamar Loza was the first player to find the net in the game with five minutes to play, sadly though it was ruled out for a foul committed by the Jamaican in the build-up.
Back came Walsall but strong remained Bentley, stretching to save superbly to deny Morris.
Sadly the Blues couldn’t hold out any longer, Hiwula the scorer as his effort evaded the Blues defence and Bentley. 1-0 on 88.
That left little time for Blues to make the fightback and they headed towards a cruel defeat after defending valiantly for large parts of the game.
Barrett looked like he’d got the leveller in stoppage time though Etheridge got up well to acrobatically tip over.
Southend United | Bentley, Coker, Thompson, Barrett, Worrall, Deegan, Leonard, Atkinson, McLaughlin, Payne, Barnett.
Subs | Smith, Hurst, McQueen, Loza, O'Neill, Malarczyk, Moussa.
Walsall | Etheridge, Demetriou, Pennington, Downing, Chambers, Mantom, Sawyers, Forde, Henry, Lalkovic, Hiwula.
Subs | Macgillivray, Taylor, O’Connor, Preston, Morris, Cook, Kinsella
Attendance: 5,732 (428 Southend)