WALSALL ENSURED they held on to the second automatic promotion place in the Nationwide Second Division last night by recording their 12th away win after Darren Wrack, whose goal beat Bournemouth in November, struck a marvellous winner at Dean Court. Defeat left Bournemouth sixth and all but resigned to seeking a play-off place.
Bournemouth's impressive surge this season has been threatening to come unstuck recently, following two successive away defeats and a nervy win over lowly Macclesfield Town the previous Tuesday. But they held happy memories of beating Walsall to a Wembley place last spring, in the Auto Windscreens Shield. The prize at stake from this ongoing League contest however is much, much higher.
Mel Machin's sixth-placed team barely looked on their toes in an unsteady opening period and Walsall was the more assured side. They went ahead after a quarter of an hour. Bournemouth's normally composed captain, Ian Cox, summed up his team's early diffidence by conceding possession too cheaply and inviting Darren Wrack to run unhindered at goal from near half-way. From 25 yards, he let fly and his right-footed shot found the top corner.
Walsall appeared content to sit back and invite the home team on to them. More urgent after the break, Bournemouth came close when Neil Young passed up into the inside-right channel allowed O'Neill to run on to the ball and he nimbly rounded Walker but from a wide angle could only shoot into the side netting. Richard Hughes came even closer, but his 74th-minute volley from a right-wing cross was deflected wide.
Bournemouth (4-4-2): Ovendale; Young, Howe (Rawlinson, 83), Cox, Warren (Lovell, 71); Hayter, Hughes, Robinson, O'Neill (Griffin, 71); Stein, Fletcher.
Walsall (4-4-2): Walker; Marsh, Viveash, Roper, Pointon; Wrack, Henry, Keates, Brissett; Steiner, Rammell. Substitutes not used: Larusson, Eyjoltsson, Evans.
Referee: A Butler (Sutton-in-Ashfield).