Walsall FC 1 Harrogate Town 3: Sulphurites too good for the Saddlers
Harrogate Town delivered a near-faultless away performance to sink Walsall and record their first League Two victory in five attempts.
Starved of possession for long periods, the Sulphurites looked a different side to the one who have conceded a succession of soft goals in recent weeks, defending their box extremely effectively.
And at the other end, they were clinical in front of goal, converting their opportunities when they came to take the game out of the reach of a Saddlers side who came into Saturday's contest unbeaten in the league since September.
Following a fairly even, but rather uneventful start to the game, Simon Weaver's men took the lead on 20 minutes.
And their goal was almost a carbon copy of one scored seven days earlier when they came from behind to beat Wrexham 2-1 in the first round of the FA Cup.
Having been awarded a free-kick around 20 yards out just to the right of the Walsall goal, Jack Diamond once again touched the ball into the path of Simon Power, who rammed a low strike beyond Carl Rushworth at his near post.
The Saddlers began to see more and more of the ball as the half wore on, ending the opening period very much on top.
But they weren’t really able to cause Harrogate any serious problems despite engineering some decent situations.
Emmanuel Osadebe and Stephen Ward both cleared the cross-bar either side of Brendan Kiernan shooting straight down the throat of Mark Oxley, though that was as good as it for the home side before the interval.
The second half began in scrappy fashion, though it wasn’t long before the hosts began to monopolise possession again.
And with Town dropping deeper and deeper, Walsall were just starting to build up a head of steam when they were stung on the counter-attack and fell two behind.
Danilo Orsi helped the ball over the top and Diamond just managed to keep himself onside before racing clear down the left and forcing the ball past Rushworth in the 61st minute.
The home team laboured in their attempts to get back into the contest, though Oxley was required to make an excellent reaction save to deny Harry Phillips after Warren Burrell lost his bearings and the Saddlers substitute got in behind.
That moment aside, Harrogate managed the game extremely well, going on to wrap up the three points in the 82nd minute.
Diamond led a Town counter-attack and the visitors kept possession of the ball before a lovely bit of play by Alex Pattison took him away from his marker.
The ex-Wycombe midfielder then delivered an inviting low cross from right, which the predatory Luke Armstrong converted at the front stick.
Walsall did pull a goal back late on, Phillips smashing the ball into the top corner from close range after Oxley make a good initial save.
But the visitors never looked in any real danger of conceding again and could easily have restored their three-goal cushion as Jack Muldoon and Pattison went close before Diamond failed to beat Rushworth one-on-one a second time.
Saturday's win lifts Harrogate up to fifth in the League Two standings.