Accrington Stanley 1 Walsall 2

If Walsall win automatic promotion next May it will be more thanks to their tough-as-old-boots defence than the quality or energy of their attacking play.

This match was yet another example of how they can soak up pressure for long spells and still leave the opposition scratching their heads and wondering how they lost.

Since taking over the relegated club in desperate decline at the end of last season, Richard Money has made massive improvements at Bescot but none more effective than the way he has drilled the defence into an almost military-style operation.

"We've got some good defenders, haven't we?" he said after the Saddlers extended their unbeaten league run to eight matches, retaining their Coca-Cola League Two leadership even though four of their main rivals also won.

"A lot of teams around us in the table would be hoping we dropped points today, and when they looked at this result it would have been a real kick in the teeth for them."

On the face of it Walsall went into this match in a sparse, unwelcoming stadium with a weakened team. Chris Westwood was not quite ready to return to the back four after injury and skipper Michael Dobson and top-scorer Martin Butler had to pull out through illness.

It meant Craig Pead continued at full-back, Anthony Gerrard switched from centre-back to a midfield role, and James Constable was given his first start of the season partnering Hector Sam up front.

Predictably Accrington took control from the start, peppering the penalty area with high and low crosses and playing with a commendable zeal which had hitherto been rewarded with a run of nine unbeaten matches.

There were chances and half chances for them to take the lead on a bumpy pitch that looked as if it had been laid by a tipsy golf course greenkeeper yet it was Walsall who almost scored in the 18th minute when a Dean Keates shot was deflected just over the bar.

More pressure followed from Stanley, and the 1,265 Saddlers' fans who had made the trip had their hearts in their mouths as Sean Doherty shot over the bar, Ian Craney hammered the ball straight at Clayton Ince, Romauld Boco hit the ball tamely into the big keeper's hands and peanlty claims by Andrew Procter when a Kris Taylor tackle put him flat on the grass.

So it was easy to understand Accrington's sense of injustice when Walsall suddenly took the lead with a flowing move in the 40th minute.

Gerrard released Mark Wright for a cross which Constable headed against the bar, and Sam poked home the rebound for his third goal of the season.

Almost immediately the enterprising Paul Mullin glanced a header just wide, enabling the Saddlers to lead at half-time.

Any plans Stanley had to turn things round were blocked when Money sent out a reshaped side. The visitors looked even more comfortable with Mark Kinsella on to strengthen the midfield only ten minutes after the break.

Wright might have added to the lead in 57 minutes but saw his cross-shot beaten away by Ian Dunbavin, Constable's header was tipped over the bar and Keates missed the target from a chance created by Constable.

Accrington's excellent workrate was, however, rewarded with an equaliser 12 minutes from the end, Craney sending a perfect free kick into the roof of the net from just outside the penalty area.

Instead of Stanley pushing on for the winner, however, it was the Saddlers who suddenly found extra wind to scare them in counter raids, and when the speedy Ishmel Demontagnac went on in the 84th minute his explosive speed and low cross set up Wright to clinch all three points within seconds of the switch.

Walsall remain top of the table with 34 points from 15 matches. A satisfied Money said: "Before a ball was kicked this season I expected us to be somewhere up there but it would have been very arrogant of me to think we would have been so well-placed after a third of the season.

"Their manager (John Coleman) will feel Accrington did enough to maybe get a result but we have a great resilience about us and we are very dangerous on the break."

The Saddlers have two home matches to build on this result and have yet to concede a goal in a league match at Bescot.