A selection of photos from the day:
Reading 2 Walsall 3 (aet)
Steve Roy – Back in the promised land
A sensational day in Cardiff yesterday for everyone connected with Walsall Football Club and their 17,000+ supporters at the Millennium Stadium. The most dramatic and fantastic minute ever experienced by Saddlers fans saw Sir Ray Graydon’s team turn the match from 2-1 defeat to a glorious 3-2 victory. And so Walsall are back in Division 1 after just one season away. Superb. The day started for this London Saddlers just before 7am. Thanks to great advice from the message board on this site, I was in Cardiff for 11am having parked in Newport and got the train in. A few pre-match beers in the massive Wetherspoons packed with Walsall fans added to the atmosphere, and by 2.30 we were in our seats, right on the goal-line high in the stands.
First half the Saddlers gradually came into the game, but it was the Royals who opened the scoring when a Cureton volley was mis-handled by Jim Walker and the ball trickled agonisingly over the line. Sir Ray’s men came straight back at Reading, but it was the Berkshire side who should have doubled the lead when Mcintyre’s header thundered against the crossbar with Walker well beaten. Just before half-time the Saddlers were unlucky when Leitao’s shot hit Pedro Matias on the Reading goal-line. After half-time it was clear Sir Ray had given the lads some wise words – and within 2 minutes of the restart we were level. Dean Keates had a free-kick tipped round the post, and when the ball came back in to the box a knock-down fell to Don Goodman who acrobatically steered the ball into the net. For the rest of normal time it was Walsall who looked more likely – twice Jorge Leitao looked to be clear on goal only to lack power in the shot.
Nerve-jangling time then as we entered extra time – and immediately Reading stole in front, thanks to a deft header from ex-Saddler Martin Butler. It looked grim for us – with both sets of players tiring on the slippy surface, the game being marked by players losing their footing on a regular basis. Then, three minutes into the last period of extra time, came 60 seconds Saddlers fans will dream about for the next hundred years. First the freakish goal you’ll probably not see for some time – a Reading defender attempting to clear the ball in his own box smashed it against a diving Tony Rougier, and the hapless Reading substitute could only watch in horror as the ball looped over their keeper to send the Saddlers level. From the restart Walsall won possession, the ball was played into Byfield on the edge of area with his back to goal. Turning on a sixpence he immediately fired a fizzing shot which stung past the keeper and nestled joyously inside the Reading net.
Saddlers fans with dodgy tickers then spent 10 minutes on the phone to the chemist ordering more beta-blockers – before the ref ended the contest, the music started thumping, and the heroic Walsall players formed a human chain as Sir Ray thrust his hands to the heavens and spoke of how he was looking forward to seeing his daughter, currently on a world tour. Meanwhile for this Saddler it was on to Yates’ wine lodge for more refreshments and Saddlers songs, before the enjoyable journey home to a London bedecked with Walsall colours just after 1am.
A day that will live long in the memory – thanks to all those who made it possible – the players, Sir Ray, the Walsall board, and the army of Walsall fans who made the trip to Cardiff.
BBC – Walsall break Reading hearts
Walsall staged an amazing comeback in extra-time to steal promotion from Reading at Cardiff’s Millennium Stadium. The game finished 1-1 in normal time after Don Goodman had cancelled out Jamie Cureton’s opener. Former Walsall player Martin Butler then seemed to have won the match for Reading. But Darren Byfield broke Royals’ hearts with the winner after a bizarre own-goal by Reading substitute Tony Rougier had brought Walsall back into the game. And Alan Pardew’s side must now pick up the pieces after another play-off defeat which sees them stay in Divison Two next season. Reading got off to an electrifying start, with top scorer Cureton sending a clear warning to the Walsall defence that he intended to continue his excellent form.
31 mins: James Walker spills Jamie Cureton’s volley into his net
33 mins: Jim McIntrye heads against Walsall crossbar
44 mins: Don Goodman almost scrambles in equaliser
47 mins: Goodman is on target to pull Walsall level
91 mins: Martin Butler puts Reading back in lead in extra-time
109 mins: Reading’s Tony Rougier scores a bizarre own-goal
110 mins: Darren Byfield gives Walsall the lead with an excellent 20-yard shot
The Royals’ striker could have given his side a dream start but slipped in the area just as he prepared to have a shot on goal. Moments later Reading had a penalty appeal waved away after Sammy Igoe appeared to be pulled back by Walsall’s Spanish defender Zigor Aranalde. After soaking up the early pressure, Walsall gradually got themselves back into the game with Jorge Leitao proving a threat to the Reading defence. A period of scrappy play reflected both teams’ edginess as neither made the early breakthrough needed to settle any lingering nerves. It was fitting therefore that Pardew’s team should decide to add a touch of class to proceedings as they so often have during this season. Cureton produced a stunning finish that owed as much to his Michael Owen-like skill as to Walsall keeper James Walker’s calamitous error. The Saddlers defence failed to deal with a long throw into the area which landed at Cureton’s feet.
The Reading striker span and volleyed at Walker who somehow managed to spill the ball into his own net on 31 minutes. Jim McIntyre nearly doubled Reading’s lead but his header struck the post and Butler failed to direct the rebound goalwards. Walsall – clearly rattled by the goal – made an immediate attempt to get back into the game. Aranalde fired a powerful shot fractionally wide of Reading’s post, while Adrian Viveash made an excellent block to stop Paul Hall’s strike. Veteran striker Goodman nearly got the equaliser on the stroke of half-time following a frantic penalty box scramble. Walsall maintained the momentum gathered towards the end of the first half and came out with all guns blazing after the interval. Whitehead did well to keep out a Dean Keates free-kick but his save proved just the prelude to Walsall’s equaliser. The Reading keeper could do nothing to keep out Goodman’s strike on 47 minutes after some good build-up play by Graydon’s side.
The former Wolves striker, buoyed by his goal, was at the heart of Walsall’s best moves. A clever ball through to Leitao almost set up his strike partner but the Portuguese striker was adjudged to be offside. Reading’s best chance of the half came courtesy of an Igoe 20-yard strike that went just wide of the Walsall post. Pardew’s side simply failed to stamp any authority on the second half and spent most of it trying to contain the Saddlers. The Reading boss brought on Nicky Forster and Rougier in an attempt to give his side a greater attacking edge. But their impact on the game was limited as Walsall went in search of the winner. Reading fans nervously watched Andy Tilson’s well-struck shot go just wide with 10 minutes to go.
Neither team could grab a second, so the Play-Off final went into extra-time. And it was again Reading who took the lead despite being on the backfoot for most of the second half. To add to the irony, it was former Walsall player Butler who rose above the defence to head past Walker on 91 minutes. At the other end Viveash made crucial block to preserve the Royals’ lead, while the first half of extra time ended with another frantic scramble in the Reading penalty area. Events were then turned on their head at the start of the second period. Reading substitute Rougier put Walsall back on level terms with a bizarre headed own-goal. And within a minute, the Saddlers took the lead for the first time in the match. Byfield unleashed a low 20-yard shot which beat Whitehead in the Reading goal. Walsall were forced to play with 10 men soon after going 3-2 up. Defender Tony Barras was injured in a collision and was taken off as a precaution. But Reading could not make their numerical advantage count and lost to a valiant Walsall side.
Reading: Whitehead, Viveash, Williams, Murty, Harper, Robinson, Igoe, Parkinson, Butler, Cureton, McIntyre. Subs: Howie, Hunter, Caskey, Forster, Rougier.
Walsall: Walker, Aranalde, Barras, Tillson, Brightwell, Keates, Bennett, Matias, Goodman, Leitao, Hall. Subs: Emberson, Gadsby, Bukran, Angell, Byfield.
Referee: E Wolstenholme (Blackburn)
Two goals in a minute during extra-time took Ray Graydon’s Walsall side into Nationwide Division One with a 3-2 win over Reading just 12 months after being relegated. Jamie Cureton had given Reading the lead in the 31st minute but it was courtesy of a dreadful error from Walsall keeper James Walker. The former Norwich striker’s 10-yard effort squirmed out of the Saddlers’ keeper’s grasp and crept agonisingly under his body to give the Royals a narrow 1-0 lead at the break. However, it took the Saddlers just three minutes after the break to equalise and it was their veteran striker Don Goodman who scored from close range, following a ball in from the left that was headed on by defender Andy Tillson.
Although the match never reached fever pitch during normal time that was soon to alter in 30 minutes of extra-time. And it was first blood to the Royals that caught Walsall cold in the 91st minute. The other half of the deadly striking duo Martin Butler headed home following a long throw that had been flicked towards the powerful striker. Between them Butler and Cureton had now notched 53 league goals for the 2000-2001 season – but there was to be a sting in the tail. With Alan Pardew’s side seemingly cruising to victory with just 12 minutes of extra-time left substitute Tony Rougier couldn’t get out of the way of a clearance and the ball ricocheted off the former Port Vale man and into the net.
If there was an element of luck about the equaliser there was nothing fortunate about the winner just a minute later. One of three Walsall substitutes Darren Byfield turned on a sixpence from around 25 yards to fire beyond the helpless Phil Whitehead in the Royals goal. Although Tony Barras had to leave the field five minutes from the end of extra-time the Saddlers hung on with 10 men and deservedly reclaimed their place in the first division.
Instant reflections on the events were posted on the Saddlers Message Board on this site….
Uri Gellar, Sir Andrew LLoyd Webber, Kate Winslett, Auto Trader, Gillette Shaving foam. Can you hear me, Can you hear me. Your boys took one hell of a beating. .
Absolutely brilliant result. Sounded like a great game when I was listening on the internet. Congratulations to Ray and the team. BRILLIANT!!.
Andrew Perrett, Australia
Fantastic stadium – much better than Wembley. Fantastic atmosphere, fantastic view (I was in upper tier, but am sure everyone had a great veiw) CRAP pitch, but would have made a wonderful excuse had we needed it! Brilliant battling performance from the Saddlers, my MOM was Barras, he had a great game. Still can’t beleive it. The trophy is also better than the one we got for coming second too! We now need to double the size of our cabinet (have we got one?). WOW .
WHAT A DAY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Well done lads!!!! Bring on the Wolves, Albion, Blues, Coventry, Forest!!!!!! Great peformance, great atmosphere and most importantly great result!!! SUPER SUPER DON, SUPER SUPER DON, SUPER DONNIE GOODMAN!!! ARISE SIR RAY .
That was just the best game I have ever seen. The stadium was brilliant, the team were brilliant, the fans were brilliant….. Yeah the pitch was a bit dodgy, but who cares. My MOM was Don. He was just everywhere and his goal was great. He could easily have put is over the bar. I had some Barnsley and Charlton supporting fans with me at the match and they couldn’t believe it either. Â£34 well spent. And I am so glad that we beat Reading and Stoke. Nothing gets me more than people saying that they deserve to go up because they have lots of fans and a big stadium. Up the Saddlers. 1st division here we come! .
worth all the money spent just to see the look on my youngest lad’s face as the third goal went in. .
What a day, what a night, what a team, what a manager, what support, what a stadium, what beer. It was great to share it with my best mate with whom I’ve watched the saddlers home & away for over twenty years, my dad and his mates who have been going since the mid fifties and are still as keen as ever. I’m not at all ashamed to say a few of us shed tears at the final whistle……the pride of the midlands…….too right we are. . .
What a day.Cardiff have everything right for such a match, no probs parking the car, stadium ace.Don Goodman superb, also Keates and Pedro who never stops trying.Also Gabby must stay, he is the first to clap the fans and always does it at the end of the match.You can,t BUY pride like that.WE ARE GOING UP!! .
I would like to add my congratulations to the Super Saddlers. What a magnificent day, and although it’s scant consolation, well done to Reading and their fans. Sorry, but someone had to lose, good luck next season. .
Just got back – what an absolutely brilliant weekend!! Well done to all the players and Graydon (apart from Hall who put about as much effort in as usual). My head dropped a bit at 2-1 down but Graydon wouldn’t let that happen to the players – Trevor Francis take note, that’s what a manager is for!! No-one else seems to have mentioned that our second was a “fluke” goal but Keates was fouled by Rougier anyway so it should have been a penalty. .
Still on Cloud 9 after the weekend…..so proud to be a Saddler. It even becomes worth enduring the low notes during the season (Oxford & Swansea away……Bury & Wrexham at home for example). .
We paid 39 quid and I got to stand up the whole match as there were only empty boxes behind us what a game booked into the manor this week to have my vital organs put back where they belong, I thought Bury away and oldham at home were special but nothing compares to this . My MOM was Dean Keates his turn in the box for the second goal was real roy of the rovers coming a closs second Goodman and a special mention for Tony Barras the best game I’ve seen him play as for the x saddlers Butler took his goal well and Ada looked like I’ve said all along ordinary should have been sent off for his elbow on Barras. .
FANTASTIC!!!! Even though the Royal Mail tried their hardest to lose my tickets, nothing was gonna stop me going to Cardiff. Superb day out!! Hope we can build a stadium like that – loads better than Wembley. Oh yeah and I’d like to say thanx to Reading fans for not kicking the â€¢â€¢â€¢â€¢ out of me on the train home. .
What a FANtastic day. Only my third game this year after Stoke away and Brentford at home. I am surrounded by Man Utd/Liverpool/Celtic/Rangers fans who THINK they are loyal supporters. They cannot understand the concept of someone supporting their home town. Well they are all gonna get the run down of Sunday minute by minute. I think someone had too much to drink though. A man behind me said that Jorge should be shot because he’s a carthorse!!!!! The beer wasn’t that strong was it?? .
I am still on a high never experienced anything like it in my life. Still got tears in my eyes just remembering …what a day .
What a weekend; what a day; what euphoria in a magnificent victory; what a compelling match; what a truly great manager leading his ‘family’ to a phenominal success. Don Goodman’s contribution was immense – still going strong after 120+ minutes! Brilliant turn on a sixpence which left Viveash, (who should have been banished by then – and certainly for the synical challenge on Byfield), for dead to crash a superb shot into the net from 25 yards. Ade is no longer a Saddler – he reminded us of the worst side of him. How fitting the ball should cannon off Rougier to make it 2-2. I have witnessed a never-to-be-forgotten occasion along with my mates and members of the family, who between us have supported Walsall FC for many, many years. Even my wife and one of my mates wife, neither of whom were in the Millennium stadium but from their graphic descriptions could have been, enjoyed their journey into paradise. Congratulations to Lord Ray of Bescot, the players and all concerned at Walsall Football Club. Watch out Division One. .
what can you say? we played like heroes down to the last man. goodman and keates must have covered every blade of grass. talk about never say die!!! sir ray deserves enormous credit for the spirit and performance. congratulations to everyone at the club and to all loyal saddlers everywhere, we deserve it. bring on the dingles!!! .
We are so proud of you, and so happy that we did it. i’m still numb from the experience of the game that all I want to say is a massive THANK YOU to the team and club for making everyones day. HAIL SIR RAY ……… cheers! .
This section celebrates Walsall FC’s finest hour – beating Reading 3-2 in the 2nd division play-off final on Sunday May 27th 2001. Look back on the action, read the fans recollections, and just enjoy.
Walsall’s largest following since the war take to the roads, trains, planes and the internet on Sunday for the play-off final against Reading. This message board has been buzzing all week – and it seems Saddlers from all around the country are descending on Cardiff. Let’s look ahead to the game.
Sir Ray has only one injury worry – Fitzroy Simpson, who has impressed since his arrival in March. Dean Keates will come in if Fitz fails to make it. I predict his starting line-up will be the traditional 4-4-2 that’s served him so well in his 3 years in charge at Bescot – and that team will be: Walker, Brightwell, Tillson, Barras, Aranalde, Hall, Bennett, Simpson/Keates, Matias, Leitao, Goodman.
Reading are likely to line up: Whitehead, Murty, Williams, Viveash, Newman, Igoe, Parkinson, Caskey, McIntyre, Cureton, Butler.
The match will centre on how the respective defences handle the strike power both sides enjoy. In Cureton and Butler Reading have more than 50 goals between them – but in both games against Saddlers this season Butler was strangely subdued. Conversely Don Goodman gave the Royals pairing a shaky time in the 2-2 draw at Reading last month – although Reading veteran Adie Williams missed that game and knows Goodman from old during their time at Wolves together.
My money is on a cracking game – with an early goal. The man in the Evening Standard betting column reckons Walsall are great value at 7-4 as “they play it into feet” which Reading don’t like. Let’s hope he’s right – if so they’ll be one helluva party from Cardiff to Bescot come Sunday night.
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