Walsall rise to the occasion on ominous night for Law

Walsall 2 Bradford City 0
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The Independent Online

Nicky Law endured a torrid start in charge of Bradford City last night. The former Chesterfield manager saw a side of his knocked out of the FA Cup for the second time this season, Walsall winning this meeting of First Division stragglers through goals by Tom Bennett and Brett Angell early in the second half.

Walsall can now look forward to a fourth-round trip to Charlton Athletic, doubtless encouraged by the way the Premiership team toiled to beat Blackpool at The Valley on Saturday. Bradford, whose small knot of followers chanted "What a load of rubbish" after the second goal, look as if Law will do well to pull them clear of a second successive relegation.

Law, who has replaced Jim Jefferies at the cash-strapped Yorkshire club, was not helped by having to substitute two injured players with barely half an hour played. But he declared himself "very disappointed" with his players. "I didn't feel we competed or looked sharp or fit enough," he said. "If we'd sneaked a win, it wouldn't have masked the defensive deficiencies throughout the team. It smacks you in the face."

Charlton's dug-out duo, Alan Curbishley and Mervyn Day, were interested spectators, joining Graham Rix, Steve Bruce, Brian Talbot, David Moyes and John Rudge among a posse of managers and scouts. They saw Lee Sharpe, a Wembley winner in this competition with Manchester United in 1994, come close to putting Bradford in front after five minutes with a shot from 18 yards.

The promise of that moment proved illusory for the visitors. Walsall, with Ray Graydon playing three up front rather than his usual two in an attempt to catch Law out, made better use of the flanks. Within minutes of Sharpe's near-miss, they responded with a left-wing cross by Zigor Aranalde which Darren Byfield steered wide with Carl Muggleton at his mercy.

Carlos Andre, the latest recruit to Walsall's foreign legion, could have marked his home debut by scoring on the quarter-hour. From the inside-right channel, the Portuguese midfielder struck the ball sweetly enough, only to see the diving Wayne Jacobs bravely put his head in its path.

After losing Robert Molenaar (ribs) and Robbie Blake (groin), Bradford regrouped around another former finalist, Stuart McCall of Everton '89 fame, and Muggleton did not make his first saves until shortly before the break.

The goalkeeper, on loan from Cheltenham, then tipped aside Byfield's angled shot after Darren Wrack's pass breached the offside trap. He promptly pushed over a booming free-kick by Aranalde, although the referee awarded a goal-kick.

Walsall made the breakthrough 75 seconds into the second half after Bradford struggled to clear a long throw by Aranalde outside their 18-yard area. Bennett dispatched it between Muggleton and his left-hand upright for his first goal of the season.

Ten minutes later Walsall doubled their advantage with a splendidly worked goal. Darren Wrack feinted to cross with his left foot, throwing Andy Tod off balance before delivering with his right for Angell to convert a diving header.

Ashley Ward forced a fine save from James Walker, yet it was token retaliation. Bradford betrayed all the signs of a side who had lost four consecutive League games, and Law will today try to sign at least one new player on loan. Graydon, meanwhile, acknowledged that Charlton would be formidable opponents, but added: "We've just seen what Cardiff and Bristol Rovers have done. That's the beauty of this competition."

Walsall (4-3-3): Walker; Brightwell, Roper, Tillson, Aranalde; Andre (Leitao, 80), Bennett (Keates, 88), Biancalani; Byfield (Matias, 72), Angell, Wrack. Substitutes not used: Barras, Harper (gk).

Bradford City (4-4-2): Muggleton; Locke, Tod, Molenaar (Bower, 17), Jacobs; Juanjo (Emanuel, 72), Jess, McCall, Sharpe; Ward, Blake (Grant, 34). Substitutes not used: Jorgensen, Worsnop (gk).

Referee: A Bates (Burslem).

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