JOHNSTONE'S PAINT TROPHY - 1st Round
Walsall 1 Swansea City 1 (Swansea win 4-3 on pens)
By Brian Dick
Bad name, poor crowd and desperate game but somehow a match that deserved to pass through the annals of history was blessed with two goals in the dying seconds and the drama of a penalty shoot-out as Walsall slipped out of the Johnstone's Paint Trophy in the first round.
Misses from the spot by Kris Taylor and James Constable meant the League One side went into the next round of the southern section but no-one at Bescot Stadium will be unduly concerned.
This was a far cry from the passion of last Saturday's 2-0 win over Wycombe Wanderers and, but for the return from injury of Darren Wrack, it was the most inauspicious of occasions.
The midfielder came on as a 53rd-minute substitute and, after struggling to make his mark, popped up two yards out to sweep home Anthony Gerrard's knock-down and equalise.
Less than a minute earlier Owain Tudor Jones had punished some sloppy defending to fire past Clayton Ince from the edge of the penalty area. The late flurry of incident was rather incongruous when set against what had gone before.
Walsall manufactured what little there was to commend a poor first half.
The first quarter-hour was the definition of forgettable.
Swansea forced a couple of corners, which they wasted, and Walsall tried to rediscover their weekend rhythm by stroking the ball around but to very little effect.
Former Walsall goalkeeper Andy Oakes was given an anxious moment after 20 minutes when Daniel Fox pounced on Kevin Amakwaah as he dallied on the edge of the area. Fox tried to play Tony Bedeau into the area but his pass was too heavy and the striker was driven wide. The forward pulled back for Hector Sam who skewed his effort across goal when he should have tested the ex-Saddler.
Amankwaah, in the 26th minute, threw himself at Mark Kinsella's powerful drive and deflected it away from goal in the last meaningful action of the period.
The second half started with a little more purpose than its predecessor, largely because Swansea looked a little more interested in committing players forward.
Within five minutes of the restart they had launched three shots - more than in the first half - though to suggest they rained in on Ince's goal is to overstate their direction and power.
Despite the pressure at the other end it was Walsall who created the best chance of the match when Kinsella's angled pass dropped at Fox's feet on the left touchline.
The full-back curled over a dangerous cross that Gerrard headed back towards the penalty spot where Bedeau arched his back and looped a header on to the bar. Oakes turned the dropping ball over for a corner as Hector Sam closed in.
It was perhaps a measure of the paucity of proceedings that the loudest cheer of the evening went not to a goal but to Wrack's substitution.
His 37-minute cameo was his first competitive football for 13 months after he broke his leg at Yeovil Town last season.
He was soon back in the groove.
Having been unable to latch on to a couple of looping balls forward, which had they dropped more kindly would have allowed him to announce his return sooner, the former Nottingham Forest man could not miss in the dying seconds.