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Football: Saddlers missing key to the door; LEAGUE ONE: Frustrated Walsall unable to break through Vale barricades.

Byline: By Nick Pullen

WALSALL 0

PORT VALE 0

MOST Walsall supporters must have left this game wondering how on earth they failed to witness a goal.

The blank scoreline belies the fact that both sides carved out enough chances to have kept them supplied until Christmas.

Walsall will feel the most hard done by. They created a trio of clear-cut openings before half-time, but couldn't convert any of them.

With the natives already getting restless as Walsall still seek their first success of the season, manager Richard Money used his programme notes to call on everyone to calm down.

He wrote: "Football is full of negativity and if you're not careful, people can talk you into doing things you don't necessarily want to do.

"We're just four games into the season. My job is to keep faith in what we have."

However, Money would have admitted there was plenty to send the pulses racing against Port Vale.

In a full-bloodied Staffordshire derby, scoring situations simply went begging.

Danny Fox should have fired the Saddlers in front on 34 minutes when put in the clear by Darren Wrack.

Fox tried to take his time and pick his spot, but instead allowed Vale goalkeeper Joe Anyon to close him down and then produce a pointblank save.

Wrack was next to fall short after rounding Anyon in the 43rd minute, but he delayed with the goal at his mercy long enough for the keeper to recover and block.

The busy Anyon rescued Vale again a minute later when defender Scott Dann beat the offside trap.

But Anyon was off his line like lightning to force Dann into firing wide.

Walsall weren't the only guilty party as Justin Miller also got the jitters in front of goal on 56 minutes.

Presented with the ball he tried to finish it off in acrobatic style, but failed to connect properly and the chance was lost.

By the 74th minute the crowd were witness to the mother of all goalmouth scrambles.

Paul Hall got the ball rolling when he fired into a packed Vale goalmouth, Wrack followed up with another effort before Ian Roper came hurtling in.

It was more reminiscent of rugby union, with players pushing for the try-line.

The scramble finally came to a halt when the ball came out invitingly for Martin Butler, who promptly put it wide.

It had the crowd on the edge of their seats, but Walsall still had nothing to show for it. There lies the problem in a nutshell, the Saddlers simply aren't converting their chances.

It could have been worse, but Clayton Ince came to the Saddlers' rescue, diving full stretch to turn away Marc Richards' goalbound drive on 76 minutes.

But the real talking point was Wrack's 39th-minute ball into the Vale goalmouth, which George Pilkington appeared to stop with his arm.

Mike Russell refused to award a penalty - knowing Walsall's luck, they would probably have missed it!

WALSALL (4-4-2): Ince 6; WESTON 7, Roper 7, Dann 6, Boertien 6; Wrack 6, Gerrard 6 (Nicholls, 81), Sonner 6 (Mc-Dermott 69, 5), Fox 6 (Demontagnac 63, 7); Butler 7, Hall 6. Not used: Deeney, Bossu.

PORT VALE (4-4-2): Anyon; Miller (Talbot, 78), Westwood, Edwards, Pilkington; Tudor (Rodgers, 69), Harsley, Rocastle, Whittaker (Hulbert, 74) McGoldrick, Richards. Not used: Willock, Lowe.

Referee: M Russell (Hertfordshire).

CAPTION(S):

NOT TO BE... Walsall pile men into the box looking to break the deadlock but once again the Vale defence stand firm to deny them. Picture: Loretta Brennan; TIMING... Danny Sonner tackles Vale's Craig Rocastle.
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Title Annotation:Sport
Publication:Birmingham Mail (England)
Date:Sep 10, 2007
Words:593
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