Walsall Web Fans looks back at a seven-goal thriller in a Third Division game between Walsall and Brentford on Saturday October 25th 1986 in this Tommy Coakley’s first season in charge at Fellows Park. Walsall came into this game in 23rd position in the table following a terrible start to the season whereas the visitors were in 13th place. Also present at the ground that afternoon was new owner and charman Terry Ramsden who had flown in from America to check on his team and his manager and later met his players in the dressing room after the game.
Walsall kept faith with the starting eleven who beat Rotherham United in the midweek game leading up to this but there was a change of substitute with a welcome return for striker Nicky Cross on the bench who had been out for five weeks with a stress fracture of the foot. The game got off to a painful start for midfielder Gary Childs who was floored by Paul Maddy. Thankfully he was able to continue after some treatment. Despite a few half chances for Brentford it was Walsall who were looking the more sharper.
The Saddlers almost took the lead on 14 minutes when Peter Hart floated over a cross and a mistake by Jamie Bates who sliced the ball inches wide of his own post. However two minutes later Andy Sinton almost put the visitors ahead with a flick on which glanced off a post. Thankfully for the home side veteran Ray Train hooked clear. Trevor Christie headed just wide for Walsall as his team started going through the gears in search of a goal. The breakthrough came in the 30th minute direct from a Craig Shakespeare free kick from some 25 yards out. The midfielder fiercely drove home through the Brentford wall which surprised Bees keeper Gary Phillips who had no chance. Just four minutes later Walsall doubled their lead as Christie laid on a perfect pass to brilliant young striker David Kelly who lashed the ball into the top corner of the net.
The start of the second period belonged to Brentford who were looking to get back into this game in a positive frame of mind. Their efforts were rewarded on 59 minutes with a well taken goal from Robbie Cooke. It was a blow for the home side following their excellent end to the first half but within just four minues The Saddlers restored their two goal lead thanks to a penalty put away by Shakespeare after Bates had clearly handled in the box. Remarkably, in such an exciting period of play, Brentford reduced Walsall’s lead again just two minutes later. Helping out his defence, Christie turned the ball onto the post and there was Keith Millen to sweep it into the net.
Brentford were pulling out all the stops to get on level terms but had the stuffing knocked out of them nine minutes before the end with another sweetly taken goal from ‘Ned’ Kelly. Walsall beat the offside trap when Willie Naughton fed Kelly with a fine pass and he took the ball in his stride and curled it over Phillips to record his 11th goal of the season. The in-form striker had also now scored in eight of his last nine league games. A quite remarkable feat playing in a struggling side. In injury time Walsall completed their scoring for the day when the hard-working Trevor Christie scored with a cool finish. It was the third consecutive game he had scored in since his move from Manchester City. 4,495 had braved the elements and were rewarded with a good game well contested by both teams as Saddlers ran out 5-2 winners.
Manager Tommy Coakley beamed to the press after the game, “We really got to grips today in difficult conditions. We didn’t panic and we took our chances well. It was very encouraging.” Meanwhile the millionaire chairman Terry Ramsden enthused, “I flew 8,000 miles from America to be here and was delighted to see the lads win and score so many goals. I had my number nine jackboots on ready for manager Tommy Coakley if we had lost this one but it looks as though things are now beginning to fall into place.”
The starting line ups that afternoon were….
WALSALL – Barber, Dornan, Mower, Shakespeare, Forbes, Hart, Childs, Train, Kelly, Christie, Naughton.
BRENTFORD – Phillips, Joseph, Murray, Millen, Bates, Turner, Sinton, Bater, Stevens, Cooke, Maddy.