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Saturday 28th January 2023 ko 12:30

FA Cup 4th Round


LEICESTER CITY 1 (Iheanacho 68)

Tielemans missed penalty 48

Entry £20

Programme £4

It certainly wasn’t the plan to have the next instalment of Robyn’s completion of the 92 EFL and Premier League clubs to be at a club who would regard our previous visit as their great rivals. Walsall fans regard Wolverhampton Wanderers as public enemy number 1, referring to them as “The Dingles” a comment on the “Emmerdale” family- the archetypal neighbours from hell!

The idea was simple to spend the day with our friends Ben and Nikki and watch Walsall play Bradford City in League 2 then head for the pubs; what could be easier right? Well it turned out a lot of things; Walsall made it through to the 4th Round of the FA Cup, drew Premier League Leicester City, and suddenly tickets became like gold dust. Robyn and I are grateful that firstly that Ben and Nikki managed to get us two tickets, and secondly to miss arguably Walsall’s most important game in a while. 

To understand the Bescot Stadium a fair start is to compare it with Scunthorpe United’s Glanford Park, the two stadia opened within 2 years of each other, Glanford in 1988 and the Bescot in 1990. They are of similar design, and mark the start of the modern era of new stadia, and yes you do see how stadium architecture has moved on since, particularly of the smaller, budget builds. 

Of course the big difference between Bescot and Glanford is the extra tier that was added to the North Stand in 2003. I say added, the whole edifice seems rebuilt, this is the one stand that doesn’t have pillars after all. The impact is massive, even to the extent that the access is now through a tunnel. There’s now a bar area and although the access to the seats is still narrow, a “feature” of this style of ground, it is a marked improvement from my experiences in the away end a few years ago. The club did plan to do the same type of development with the South Stand, but with the club’s slip into League 2, those ideas are in abeyance. 

But this was a day where the FA Cup proved its magic. A full Bescot roared the Saddlers on against a Leicester side struggling in the Premier League, but who chose to put out a fringe side plus contract rebels Youri Tielemans and James Maddison. As you’d expect Leicester had most of the possession despite Maddison giving everyone the impression that he really didn’t want to be there. Walsall fought hard, defended manfully with captain Donervon Daniels showing the kind of commitment that every single football fan loves. 

The penalty just after half time looked soft, but Tielemans penalty miss was cheered as much as any Saddlers’ goal. There was to be heartbreak, Walsall may well have thought they could force a replay so Kerechi Iheanacho’s deflected shot was a cruel way to exit the competition. That said, Walsall huffed and puffed as the clock wound down and could easily have equalised as a free kick fizzed over the bar in stoppage time.

It was by anyone’s standard a superb way to visit Walsall FC and as we left, in a weird way I reflected that perhaps both sides got something out of the tie. Leicester got a winnable tie at home to Blackburn in the 5th Round while Walsall got a morale-boosting performance and pay-out in front of a full house. Who says the FA Cup has lost its lustre? 

Dedicated to Ben and Nikki, thanks for a wonderful day.