Hard-fought point earned in the Black Country thanks to Nugent's fire-crackerWalsall 1-1 Crewe
Attendance: 4,229 (394)
Crewe: Garratt, Turton, Davis (c) (Ray, 44), Nugent, Kingsley, King, Fox, Atkinson (Haber, 80), Inman, Colclough, Dalla Valle (Wilson, 76)
Unused subs: Guthrie, Wintle, Cooper, Ainley
Goals: Nugent, 18
Crewe goalkeeper Ben Garratt produced a monumental last 20-minute performance at Walsall to preserve a point after both sides had netting in the first half.
Tom Bradshaw gave Walsall the lead inside five minutes, heading home unmarked from a corner before Ben Nugent equalised for The Railwaymen with a fine left-footed drive from outside the box not long after.
Steve Daivs kept faith with the same XI that picked up a first victory of the season at Shrewsbury last weekend, sticking to the 4-3-3 formation from the outset.
The Alex got off to the worst possible start. With barely a touch on the ball, The Saddlers went ahead on just four minutes when a routine inswinging corner found the head of an unmarked Bradshaw on the six-yard line to steer past Garratt.
The hosts continued on the front foot and Milan Lalkovic dragged a 20-yard effort wide after eight minutes after wriggling clear of David Fox.
After a blistering opening period for the hosts, Crewe began to gain a foothold and grabbed a leveller in spectacular fashion after 18 minutes. A long free-kick was knocked down by Dalla Valle & Inman touched on to Nugent from 20-yards, who smashed an unstoppable low drive into the corner.
Ryan Colclough almost gifted the lead back to Walsall, trying to turn out on the edge of his own box but slipping and presenting the ball to Bradshaw, but his fierce first-timer flew wide of the near post.
Lalkovic came close to restoring The Saddlers’ lead two minutes before the break, stepping inside and curling from the corner of the 18-yard box, but it flew a few yards wide.
Into added on time and Brad Inman knicked the ball to set up a counter, he ran through strongly and fed Dalla Valle but the Finn’s touch let him down and as the ball bounced into Neil Etheridge’s grateful gloves.
Walsall began the second period as they had the first, with Garratt having to scramble across his goal-line to claw away Bradshaw’s weak, but accurate header after a surge of pressure.
Crewe came on strong into the midway stages and were dangerous on the counter through Inman. Colclough had a shot deflected wide on the angle after Brad had found him with a pass on one of those counters on 63 minutes.
73 minutes on the clock and Anthony Forde missed an unbelievable chance for The Saddlers. Bradshaw’s flicked on a header to the onside midfielder who, centre of goal, miss-kicked his effort allowing Garratt to pounce on the loose ball.
Six minutes later and Walsall went even closer, right back Jason Demetriou letting fly from 20-yards only to see his piledriver bounce off the top of the crossbar and out for a goal-kick.
Walsall continued to flood forward and on 81 minutes forced Garratt into a magnificent save after Jordan Cook’s shot was deflected.
A quick break on 87 minutes gave Crewe a chance, Inman releasing sub Harry Wilson, but his effort was straight at Etheridge.
Into the final moments and Walsall piled on the pressure to find the winner with Garratt being called in to make a world-class save to deny Kieron Morris’ thunderbolt, and then relying on Jordan Cook deep into added on time smashing his effort high over the bar when he should’ve scored. But the Crewe defence held firm and ground out the point.