Alfreton Town hardly threatened in a first half dominated by Walsall, yet some solid defending paved the way for a deserved 2-0 win at the lmpact Arena on Tuesday night.
Both goals were scored by unnamed trialists following accurate free-kicks from Bradley Wood (58th minute) and Tom Shaw (84th minute), the first a neat glancing header from virtually in front of goal and the second a powerful header from eight yards.
Good defensive cover by Jordan Keane had prevented Mal Benning from scoring in the 15th minute, then three minutes later Jon Stewart saved from Tom Bradshaw after being played through by James O’Connor.
Andy Taylor and Benning went close for Walsall before returning midfielder Dan Bradley engineered Alfreton’s first opening to win a 43rd minute corner, but then blazed over in receipt of the flag-kick.
Ten minutes after the break Bradshaw curled a shot against the angle of crossbar and upright, then three minutes after the opening goal Jake Sheridan was hacked down in the area only for penalty appeals to be waved aside.
Amadou Bakayoko headed over from close range from Benning’s 63rd minute corner as the Saddlers pressed for an equaliser, then Stewart saved positively from Keiran Morris three minutes later.
Sheridan was only inches away from adding a third goal for the Reds five minutes from time as the hosts cemented their win, which heralded a vast improvement on the corresponding fixture 12 months earlier that had seen Walsall record a facile 6-0 victory.
ALFRETON: Stewart; Wood (trialist 79), Courtney (trialist HT). Graham, Stevenson (Sheridan HT). Keane (Rowe-Turner HT), Gray (Shaw HT). Smith, Bradley (Hicks 68), trialist [Clayton 58], trialist [trialist 73].
WALSALL: O’Donnell; O’Connor (Heath 74), Taylor, J.Chambers, Holden (Downing HT), A.Chambers, trialist, Bradshaw, Webber (Morris 62), Benning, Baxendale (Bakayoko 62).
Referee: Paul Thompson (Chesterfield).