Proves his worth to Saddlers
TOM Bradshaw returned from injury to down Fleetwood and fire Walsall past the 50-point barrier – and if he stays fit, the Saddlers’ League One status is cast-iron.
Bradshaw’s hamstrings have been as fragile as Diego Costa’s this season – but Walsall do not have Chelsea-like resources to cope without their top scorer, now on 17 for the campaign.
In the 19 games he has missed, Walsall have netted just ten goals – and drawn a blank 12 times.
His latest absence coincided with the Saddlers failing to find the net in almost eight hours – but he found the bottom corner with four minutes to go on his comeback to ease their relegation fears.
Delighted boss Dean Smith said: “Tom was excellent. We’re not just a oneman team – but we are a better team when Tom’s in the team, no doubt.
“His injuries have been frustrating for all of us but we’re just glad we’ve got him here. He’s done the business in terms of goal return and workrate as well.”
Bradshaw’s winner handed Walsall a fourpoint cushion over the bottom four.
Smith added: “It’s tough to say we’re safe because there are still five games to go but the one advantage that we’ve got is our goal difference (-5).
“We’ve played some really good football at times and not had an end product – and I thought today was going to be the same but thankfully Tom popped up.”
Walsall were by far the better team but, either side of the break, Kieron Morris’ near-post effort was tipped away by Town keeper Chris Maxwell and Andy Taylor missed a close range header.
Fleetwood were poor but could have had a penalty when Saddlers keeper Richard O’Donnell clumsily collided with Jamie Proctor.
And just as it looked as if Walsall were set for a third consecutive goalless draw, Adam Chambers and Michael Cain combined to feed Bradshaw.
Defeat damaged Fleetwood’s slim play-off chances and boss Graham Alexander said: “We should have seen the game out to take a point but that’s been a bit of an Achilles heel for us this season.
“The penalty shout has been the story of our season. Jamie has nodded it past the goalkeeper, who has collided with him and taken him down.
“If it’s a centre-half’s challenge on a centreforward, it’s a free-kick outside the box all day long but I could show you a video of incidents like that, especially away from home.
“We’ve still got four games to go and we’re still in there with an outside chance if anyone slips up – as long as we do our job and finish strongly.”
STAR MAN ADAM CHAMB