Walsall 0 Bournemouth 1

Another home defeat left Walsall staring at the prospect of basement level football for the first time in 11 years.

A James Hayter goal after 17 minutes proved sufficient to hand Bournemouth all three points and drive another nail into Walsall's coffin.

Despite a prodigious second-half effort and a contentious goal-line clearance, they rarely looked like breaching the visitors' back line and looked like a side destined for relegation.

They are only three points adrift of safety but, such is their current vein of form and the negative atmosphere at Bescot, it is difficult to see where their next victory is coming from.

Kevan Broadhurst has shuffled his pack on a regular basis but felt the wrath of home supporters after replacing Steve Claridge with Ishmel Demontagnac nine minutes from full time.

The bullish Yorkshireman will have to produce a minor miracle to transform this side ahead of their home fixture with Port Vale on Saturday.

After a plethora of 'must-win' games, the sands of time are running out for Walsall and chairman Jeff Bonser must have felt the chill from his holiday home in Cyprus.

Walsall approached this fixture with a certain degree of trepidation after a winless run of six league games at the Bescot stretching back to 2005.

And a torrid opening quarter-of-an-hour, which saw them chasing shadows, culminated in a Bournemouth penalty following a reckless Ian Roper challenge.

A neat pass from Stephen Purches reached Stephen Cooke on the corner of the penalty area but there seemed no apparent danger.

Nevertheless, Roper suffered an aberration and lunged into an irresponsible foul that left referee Clive Oliver no option but to award a penalty.

Hayter sidefooted his spot kick low to Michael Oakes' left hand side, but the goalkeeper produced a stunning save to palm the ball away for a corner.

The sense of foreboding that was permeating the stadium suddenly evaporated and James Constable responded with a low drive that flew inches wide of Gareth Stewart's near post.

Yet more calamitous defending had Walsall were behind within two minutes. Stephen Foley's free-kick was headed goalwards by Steve Fletcher and with two Cherries players unmarked, it appeared that Hayter applied the final touch. It was the very least Bournemouth deserved.

Walsall could have restored parity within five minutes when Michael Leary struck a long-range volley that Stewart spilled. Claridge reacted quickest and seemed destined to score but only succeeded in scooping the ball over the crossbar under pressure from Neil Young.

The voices of discontent from home supporters were becoming increasingly audible and Pablo Mills was left floundering on the halfway line as Hayter raced clear on goal and bore down on Oakes. However, Craig Pead redeemed his team-mate with a brave interception.

From Foley's resulting corner Fletcher was denied a goal from a stunning point blank save from the overworked Oakes. The half-time whistle was music to Broadhurst's ears, as it enabled his weary troops the opportunity to regroup and launch a second half offensive.

Within a minute of the restart, Dean Keates was afforded a real chance after Young poleaxed Daniel Fox on the edge of the penalty area.

His stinging effort was parried away athletically by Stewart, but normal service was soon resumed as Foley's effort dribbled inches wide of the post after a swift wall pass with Cooke.

However, at least Walsall provided a degree of fight after the interval and succeeded in penning Bournemouth into their own half for long periods.

Yet they only created one opportunity of any note as James Constable met Keates' corner with a firm header which left Stewart helpless. Purches acrobatically cleared the ball amidst furious protests that the ball had crossed the line.

Walsall have now taken only six points from their last eight games.