Mag­pies take Hart from drab stale­mate

The Football League Paper - - LEAGUE ONE - By Michael Beard­more

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.”

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