Walsall Reserves 0 Port Vale Reserves 1

Tuesday 19th August 2008
Walsall Reserves 0 Port Vale Reserves 1
Central League Central Division
At: Banks's Stadium
Kick-off: 7-00 pm
Attendance: 188
Weather: drizzle

I've been to watch reserve-team games at a number of League grounds – Crystal Palace, Queens Park Rangers and Fulham spring to mind – but I must say this reserve-team game came closest to the real first-team experience.

All the other clubs I recall produced some kind of teamsheet – Walsall's was a single A4 sheet with line-ups and match officials – but here the tannoy was in full operation and the electronic scoreboard at the M6 end was put to good use. Refreshments were also available for fans and a hospitality suite was open as well.

After been asked to provide a match report for the local press, I checked Walsall's website for the kick-off time – 7 pm at the Banks's Stadium. I know that quite a few League clubs make use of non-league grounds for their reserves but it turned out that the Banks's Stadium is indeed the new sponsored name for the Bescot Stadium. The ground is easy to find and signed from M6 Junction 9. This route goes past the site of Walsall’s old Fellows Park ground which is now home to a well-known supermarket. For users of public transport, Bescot Stadium station is very short walk away.

Despite having driven on the M6 past the ground literally hundreds or even thousands of time, I've only ever seen one previous game there – on a Friday night in December 1990 for Walsall v Wrexham. The noticeable difference between now and then is the Floors-2-Go Stand.

Before kick-off, I opted for a coffee from the refreshments kiosk next to the Floors-2-Go Stand. The tannoy told of a car (silvery blue Volvo) that needed to be moved.

I decided to take a seat in the press box, located in the TXT 64446 Health Stand block M, rows J, K, L. The press box plan from the previous home game with Scunthorpe United was still visible and the seat I chose was previously occupied by a report following the visitors at that last League One game.

Walsall kicked the game off attacking the M6 end of the ground and did most of the early attacking. They should have taken the lead in the 15th minute when Ishmel Demontagnac missed the target from a few yards out. Netan Sansara's left-wing cross was partially cleared and Richard Davies sent a dipping volley just over from 20 yards.

Looking around the people in the crowd, I noticed a cross-section of people – keen fans who attend every home game they can, parents, girlfriends, scouts – all in the TXT 64446 Health Stand. By the 25th minute, the aforementioned Volvo hadn’t been moved as another tannoy announcement told the crowd.

A handful of chances were created at both ends before Vale scored what proved to be the winner in the 41st minute. Simon Richman exchanged passes with Danny Glover as he got into the Walsall area and fired a powerful low shot which Rene Gilmartin could only help into the net.

The goal lifted Vale and Walsall defender Tom Schwartz was forced to concede a corner as Rodgers challenged. In stoppage time, Luke Rodgers chased a long clearance but Mark Cartwright's tight marking prevented the striker getting a shooting chance.

Port Vale were the first team to emerge for the second half, quickly followed by Walsall. The two assistant referees checked the nets just in case they had been disturbed by the substitutes warming up during the interval.

Troy Deeney got forward down the right at the start of the second half and fired just over the Vale bar. But Luke Prosser headed wide and Grover drove low across goal as Vale looked for a second. Just before the hour mark, substitute Sam Morsey denied Deeney a clear shot on goal with a vital saving tackle.

Walsall almost equalised in the 77th minute. Chris Martin left his line and failed to collect Darryl Westlake's cross but was relieved to see Luke Chadwick’s header rebound off the bar. In the next attack, Martin tipped over a dipping shot from Josh Craddock.

The home side threw men forward in a bid to grab an equaliser in the closing stages, without success.

Just before full time, the scoreboard displayed the attendance and advertised the next two home games – "WE LOOK FORWARD TO YOUR SUPPORT" said the board – against Southend and Leyton Orient.

Judging by the gap between my first two visits to the Banks's (Bescot) Stadium, I recon 2026 will be the year of my third visit. Somehow I think it will be much sooner than that!