Walsall won their fourth game in a row as they continued the best start in the club’s history. But once again the Saddlers made the fans sweat with another flowing attacking performance mixed with defensive uncertainty.
The league leaders found themselves behind after three minutes when Oxford first goal of the season gave them the lead when Joey Beauchamp hit a low volley past Jim Walker into the bottom right hand corner, after skipping past Ian Roper.
Walsall were unlucky as they had all the early play, with the team unchanged from the 4 – 1 victory over Swindon, and with Bukran and Keates running the midfield. Walsall’s pressure came off after 15 minutes when Darren Byfield’s header hit the post and was cleared for
Darren Wrack to cross deep to Paul Hall. Hall’s first shot cannoned back off a defender before his second attempt from a tight angle flew into the roof of the net.
Walsall continued to attack with Bukran and Keates going close, and Jorge Leitao hitting the post after a deep Brightwell cross. But Oxford regained the lead when a smartly taken free-kick set up Beauchamp to drill the ball past Walker despite his best efforts to parry the drive. The home side still looked the better team but went in at half time 2 – 1 down.
Tony Barras replaced Ian Roper at half time and Oxford failed to register a shot in the second-half as the Saddlers strived to level the match. Darren Byfield came close with a header, Wrack hit a low drive at the keeper and Bukran shot over as Walsall dominated the first 20 minutes of the second-half with Paul Hall and Leitao causing trouble down the right.
Walsall were becoming frustrated by a Oxford side who played well as a defensive unit and shouldn’t be where they are now. But the home side equalised when Leitao connected with a deep cross to head up and over ‘keeper Richard Knight into the net.
Walsall now went after the win, and Brett Angell came close after replacing Darren Byfield with a low shot being saved even tough he looked to have been tugged by his marker. The Saddlers nearly grabbed the lead on 80 minutes when a great long ball by Barras found Paul Hall who showed great control before crossing for Leitao to head narrowly wide. They even had a goal disallowed after 81 minutes when Leitao slotted home but was in an offside position.
But Walsall took the lead when a pin-point Paul Hall corner found Brett Angell’s head on 83 minutes, and the Bescot Stadium erupted. The Reds could have extended their lead, with the exciting Pedro Matias replacing Darren Wrack and setting up Leitao who saw his shot fantastically saved in the closing seconds.
Rapturous applause and relief accompanied the final whistle as Saddlers pulled off another great escape!