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Walsall dig in to prise out big win.

Byline: Brian Halford

WALSALL 2 TRANMERE 0 SECOND-half goals from Will Grigg and Craig Westcarr ensured that Walsall intensified their promotion challenge with a gritty victory over Tranmere. Dean Smith's side has produced plenty of football to please the purists this season.

Last night there was little of that but they showed their strength and character to seize three crucial points.

Grigg netted a 50th-minute penalty (his seventh goal in four games) and Westcarr fired home from the edge of the box seven minutes later to secure the points.

But, on a freezing night and stodgy pitch, it was a victory founded principally upon strength, nous and fighting spirit. Led by James Chambers, who hardly put a foot wrong, Andy Butler and Sam Mantom, the Saddlers showed those attributes in abundance.

With Walsall having lost only one of the previous 12 games and Tranmere pulling out of a blip, both sides had it all to play for and both started purposefully.

Jean-Louis Akpa Akpro soon tested Aaron McCarey with a low drive then Jamie Paterson hung up a dangerous cross but Butler's header lacked the pace to beat Owain Fon Williams.

Rovers often hoofed the ball long and, for a while, the Saddlers were sucked into a similar tactic in a first-half which did little to take spectators' minds off the bitter cold.

Walsall stirred as an attacking force on the halfhour mark. Paterson forced Fon Williams into a sharp save then Mantom's 25-yarder bounced back off a post.

Straight after the break, a superb double block from Chambers kept Walsall level before the breakthrough arrived at the other end.

Febian Brandy's pace took him past two tackles before a third, from Danny Holmes, brought him down. Grigg made no mistake from the spot, Seven minutes later, it was 2-0. The ubiquitous Chambers fed Westcarr who blasted a 20-yarder into the bottom corner.

Tranmere never threatened a comeback, lacking the guile to trouble a rocksolid Saddlers back-line Walsall (4-2-3-1): McCarey 7; J.CHAMBERS 8, Butler 8, Downing 7, Taylor 7; Mantom 8, A Chambers 7; Paterson 7, Brandy 7 (Feaherstone 83), Westcarr 6; Grigg 7. Subs: Holden, Baxendale, Bowerman, Hemmings, Roberts, Purkiss.

Tranmere (4-4-2): Fon Williams; Holmes, Goodison (Daniels 57), Taylor, Bakayogo; O'Halloran (Stockton 64), Power, Palmer, Bell-Baggie (Amoo 81); Sidibe, Akpa-Akpro. Subs: Black, Harrison, Corry, Mooney Referee: Graham Salisbury (Lancashire)
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Title Annotation:Sport
Publication:Birmingham Mail (England)
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Mar 13, 2013
Words:391
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