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Bescot lads put brakes on leaders.

WALSALL 1 CHARLTON 1 WALSALL produced a heart-warming performance to take a point from runaway League One leads Charlton in an actionpacked match which could have gone either way.

Veteran striker Jon Macken put the Saddlers ahead in the 36th minute but they were pegged back when the Addicks - looking for their ninth successive win in all competitions - levelled through big Yann Kermorgant just before half-time.

The Bescot lads, fighting a relegation battle for the second season in succession, have now managed only one win in their last 15 league games but at least have the slight consolation of being unbeaten in the last four league and cup matches.

Walsall even survived having reliable full-back Mat Saddler sent off in the last minute of normal time for a second bookable offence. He now misses Tuesday's home FA Cup second round replay with Dagenham and Redbridge.

Manager Dean Smith said: "The lads fought every inch of the way and I thought it was a good performance. We gave as good as we got, playing against a very good team.

"They had chances and we had chances. We have started an unbeaten run. We are organised and a hard team to beat. I was pleased with the goal we scored because it was from a setpiece we have been working on in training.

"We have put in performances against some of the bigger clubs in this league. The lads have been fantastic in training and really focused. Our fans will be disappointed with the position we are in and I agree with that, but they will have gone home satisfied with that performance against a team that's only been beaten once this season."

Charlton manager Chris Powell was happy with a point but felt his men should have had a penalty in stoppage time when the Addicks claimed Richard Taundry handled the ball.

He said: "Walsall started brightly and their performance belied their position. Their players gave an extra five or ten per cent. When we reflect on this match, it was a point gained."

Saddlers opened with some lively football and recalled youngster Jamie Paterson showed his confidence, cutting inside from the left and drifting a shot just past the angle with keeper Ben Hamer diving frantically to his left.

But in the third minute it needed a terrific point blank save by the ever-reliable Jimmy Walker to prevent Michael Morrison putting the Addicks in front.

Walsall were in front on 36 minutes, however, to the dismay of Charlton's 1,065 travelling fans. Taundry slid a corner low to Sadler, just outside the penalty box, and his left-foot cracker floored his own defender, Ollie Lancashire, but rebounded kindly for Macken to drive in his fifth goal of the season.

As expected, Charlton responded with some power play and home defenders Lancashire and Manny Smith had to work tigerishly to prevent 14-goal top-scorer Bradley Wright-Phillips adding to his tally.

But Walsall have a habit of conceding goals late on and just before half-time the visitors were level. Lively winger Ephraim drilled over the perfect cross for the dangerous Kermorgant to smash an unstoppable header into the roof of the net.

Charlton were looking determined at the start of the second half and the Saddlers had to graft to keep them out, and there was an improvement when Claude Gnakpa was sent on to replace Andrew Halliday.

With his strength in the air, Gnakpa helped put more pressure on the Addicks' defence, and in the 55th minute Adam Chambers headed a Taundry corner over the bar.

There was a real escape for Walsall in the 67th minute, though. Kermorgant nodded a cross straight into the path of Danny Hollands who, from ten yards, planted a free header straight into the hands of the grateful Walker.

Promising young striker George Bowerman was sent on for Paterson with 15 minutes left and the 20-year-old carved out a couple of half-chances, shooting just wide from one and well wide from another. He's a player to keep an eye on, that's for sure.

WALSALL: (4-4-2) Walker; Beevers, Smith, Butler, Sadler; Paterson (Bowerman 75), Taundry, Chambers, Halliday (Gnakpa 54); Nicholls, Macken (Peterlin 84). Subs: (not used) Grof, Butler. CHARLTON ATHLETIC: (4-4-2) Hamer; Solly, Taylor, Morrison, Wiggins; Green (Wagstaff 73), Russell, Hollands, Ephraim; Wright-Phillips, Kermorgant. Subs: (not used) Sullivan, Euell, Pritchard, Cort.

STAR MAN: Ollie Lancashire.

CAPTION(S):

GOAL: John Macken
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Title Annotation:Sport
Publication:Sunday Mercury (Birmingham, England)
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Dec 11, 2011
Words:732
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