Walsall Web Fans looks back at a Nationwide Football League Division One fixture between Portsmouth and Walsall on Tuesday October 19th, 1999 at Fratton Park. The Saddlers went into this game on something of a high following back-to-back wins over West Midlands rivals Birmingham City and West Bromwich Albion, both by 1-0 scorelines.
Any hopes of Walsall recording a third successive win were dashed when, despite taking the lead midway through the first half, were crushed by five goals to one on a dismal night where the home side ran riot in the second half scoring four times in a twenty minute spell which was described as one of the worst performances under manager Ray Graydon.
Portsmouth had bombarded the Walsall goal in the early exchanges before Darren Wrack gave The Saddlers a lead with a 25 yard curling free kick which struck a post before hitting the back of Pompey keeper Andy Petterson. Steve Claridge was Walsall’s tormentor in that first half, twice going close following his runs. Lee Bradbury and Thomas Thorgersen also fired within a whisker of the goal as Jimmy Walker was kept busy. Just when it looked like somehow Saddlers would hold on to the lead to go into half time Portsmouth’s luck finally changed seconds before the whistle when a Thorgersen header was ruled to have gone over the line despite the efforts of Andy Rammell.
The second half saw wave after wave of Portsmouth attacks with Jimmy Walker making several fine saves to keep his side in the contest and it was a major surprise that the Saddlers defence held out until the 70th minute when Bradbury fired home. Six minutes later Ian Roper brought down Bradbury in the box. Alan Mc Loughlin sent Walker the wrong way and there was worse for the Walsall keeper-he had been booked for protesting too loudly- and was promptly substituted by Graydon as punishment, with Carl Emberson taking his place.
Four minutes later Roper gave away another penalty, this time for handball, with Mc Loughlin again converting. Thorgerson added to Walsall’s woes four minutes before time to rub salt into the wounds. Walsall’s defence, which looked so assured in their previous two games, simply buckled during those Portsmouth attacks and this heavy defeat was the start of a seven match spell without a win.
The starting line ups that evening were….
PORTSMOUTH- Petterson, Whitbread, Awford, Viachos, Crowe, Igoe, Mc Loughlin,Thorgersen, Simpson, Bradbury, Claridge.
WALSALL- Walker, Marsh, Pointon, Roper, Viveash, Wrack, Larusson, Keates, Matias, Rammell, Abou.