Magpies take Hart from drab stalemate
A MISSED opportunity was the view of both bosses after this relegation six-pointer – but each remains convinced they will avoid the drop.
This goalless draw ensured a status quo as both sides ended the day where they started it, County dicing with the drop zone and Walsall far from safe either in a congested bottom half.
Yet both sides could have won it – Walsall twice hitting the woodwork, while County were foiled by Saddlers keeper Richard O’Donnell and denied what seemed a blatant penalty.
Caretaker County boss Paul Hart, who faces another key clash at home to fellow strugglers Coventry on Monday, said: “I’m happy. It was a hardearned point.
“We dug in and if we had a little bit more quality in the last third, we might have just nicked it but overall we are delighted with a clean sheet and a point.
“It’s very tight down there and I think there will be a lot of changes in the next four or five weeks.
“We’ve got to think that we’re going to do it and we’ve got to fight like mad. Every point is vital.”
County almost handed Walsall the lead inside 30 seconds as Haydn Hollis’ terrible back-header put Jordan Cook in but his lob over Magpies keeper Roy Carroll drifted inches wide.
The Magpies improved as the break neared and it needed a superb finger- tip save from O’Donnell to foil Graham Burke’s 25yard rocket.
Walsall were similarly dominant after the break but must have known they were not going to score when, in a two-minute spell, Cook hit the bar, post and was denied by Carroll’s fingertips.
But County finished the stronger – Garry Thompson looked certain to nod home the winner only to be put off by a tug from Adam Chambers that went unpunished.
A bemused Hart added:“There’s no reason for him to dive because he’s going to head it in!”
And O’Donnell made a superb late near-post stop to deny Gary Jones the winner after the veteran sprang the Walsall offside trap. On this evidence, Walsall should do enough to stay clear of trouble, a view echoed by Saddlers boss Dean Smith.
He said:“The feeling is that we are in a better position than eight other teams below us. I would have thought 52 points is the aim, that probably makes you safe.
“We’ve got a game in hand over a few down below us and above us but it is very tight down there.
“The only thing missing was a bit of composure in front of goal and a little bit of luck as well.We’ve hit the bar and the post.”