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16:50 6th April 2013

Walsall 1-1 Blades - report

Substitute Chris Porter scrambled the ball home from close range to earn the Blades a point at Walsall on Saturday.

It put a dampener on Walsall's 125th birthday celebrations at the Banks's Stadium.

But it kept United's promotions aspirations alive, despite a poor first half showing.

Boss Wilson was forced into a couple of changes to his starting line-up due to McMahon's suspension and Poleon returning to Leeds. Higginbotham and Murphy were recalled, whilst Hill and Kitson, who suffered injuries in the previous game, were fit to continue. Westlake remained a substitute at his former club and on a predominantly young bench, he was joined by Whitehouse and Kennedy.

The starting positions of a number of players were interesting. Hill began at right full back, with Higginbotham on the left, whilst further forward Robson and Kitson were central and Forte was on the left.

It was quickly apparent that the pitch was bobbly and bouncy, with both sides taking time to adjust. Hill sniffed out Paterson and Higginbotham and Doyle both stopped crosses early on, at the expense of corners, from one of which Paterson fired over.

Robson's intelligent pass almost put Murphy clear but Taylor, a former Blades defender, sniffed out the danger, whilst for the home side there were a number of blocks and Chambers shot over.

Higginbotham's header from a Robson free-kick on 30 minutes was over but Walsall were creating the most problems. Hill had to deflect away Paterson's shot after a right-wing cross, whilst Baxendale and Mantom also had shots which failed to find the target.

It was difficult to argue against the home side being the more dominant force and they went close on 42 minutes when Brandy capitalised on Higginbotham's mis-placed pass and shot across goal and just wide - moments before the deadlock was broken. Walsall were patient in another build up and Baxendale found space on the right to cross, which saw WESTCARR hold off Maguire before shooting under Long on the turn.

Porter was introduced for Kitson at the start of the second period and was quickly in the action, involved in the build up from which McDonald fired over a minute after the restart. Walsall hit back with two good chances, which both fell to Brandy in a matter of minutes - he first shot wide after finding himself in the clear and then his half-volley missed the target.

United were showing more intent than in the first half and the home side were on the back foot following a number of chances. Porter took the ball down but his shot on the turn was wide, Murphy's effort was blocked and Hill was just wide with a long-ranger.

The Blades almost went two behind on the hour when McDonald gave away possession but Long was quickly off his line to snuff out Brandy, whilst the introduction of McFadzean seconds later was instrumental as he won a free-kick in a dangerous position with his first run.

Higginbotham's blast was blocked but in the aftermath Collins found McDonald, who cut in on to his left, saw his shot hit a post and the back of the goalkeeper before PORTER scrambled the ball over the line from a yard.

Long again saved from Brandy before the Blades went on the attack again, this time Porter's cross found Forte but his shot on the turn was inches wide.

Walsall weathered the Blades storm and there was nervousness from all sides of the Banks's Stadium as the game entered the final ten minutes. Porter's half-volley was pushed around a post by Johnstone and the Saddlers scrambled away a Murphy cross.

As three minutes of injury-time approached, Hill picked up United's only booking and another Porter effort was blocked before the final whistle signalled spoils shared.

Walsall: Johnstone, Butler, Chambers, Paterson, Brandy (Sawyers 90), Purkiss, Downing, Baxendale (Hemmings 84), Taylor (Benning 57), Mantom, Westcarr.
Unused: Holden, Featherstone, Bowerman, Roberts.

Blades: Long, Higginbotham, Maguire, Hill, Doyle, McDonald, Kitson (Porter 45), Collins, Forte, Robson (McFadzean 60), Murphy.
Unused: Westlake, Ironside, Whitehouse, Kennedy, Coyne.