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Checkatrade Trophy

Walsall take first leg advantage in Northern Area Final

7 January 2015

Two Walsall goals in the final six minutes meant a first Wembley trip inched ever closer after they beat Preston North End 2-0 in the first leg of the Johnstone's Paint Trophy Northern Area final.

The Saddlers have never been to the national stadium in their history, yet they may be about to end that 127-year wait thanks to Anthony Forde's free-kick and Tom Bradshaw's 15th goal of the season at Deepdale.

Both sides had chances during an entertaining first period and Preston's best opening came inside the first 10 minutes.
Paul Gallagher's cross was met by Jermaine Beckford inside the six-yard box, yet Saddlers goalkeeper Richard O'Donnell produced a phenomenal stop to somehow deny his header down low.
Chris Humphrey blazed over after cutting inside and Beckford again forced O'Donnell into a save before the visitors responded with Michael Cain's drilled effort wide and an Andy Taylor free-kick which came back off the foot of the post.

Cain's rising drive went just over after the interval while the Gallagher-Beckford connection churned out another chance which the latter was just unable to divert past O'Donnell.

Gallagher then landed a free-kick onto the roof of the net before Walsall were convinced they should have been given a penalty when Bradshaw got the wrong side of Tom Clarke and hit the deck, but referee Simon Hooper remained unmoved.

The Saddlers shaded the second period, though, and they were rewarded with a late four-minute double salvo.

First, Forde dispatched a 25-yard free-kick into the far corner of the net and then Bradshaw cashed in on a poor back-pass to expertly slide through Thorsten Stuckmann's legs with two minutes remaining to leave the Lilywhites stunned.

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