Where to begin.
Well, the diamond formation we employed for the first 20 minutes or so was akin to asking Superman to remove a lump of Kryptonite from the City Ground centre circle. Rendered ineffective and woefully narrow, we invited our League 1 opponents to pummel us with a couple of simply created goals. The rock that is the best friend of "girls" sparkled and mesmerised those in the Garibaldi to a point where we just couldn't maintain possession or string any meaningful passes together.
I think it's fair to say that Michael Mancienne is now officially NOT a defensive midfielder. It seemed to me he had no confidence in playing any kind of forward pass and would rather get rid of the ball as quickly as possible, usually to a centre back or square to David Vaughan who would be no more than 10 yards away. As for Vaughan, well he's certainly not the player we got on loan two years ago. We've tasted better offerings now, so to most he's just a poor man's Gary Gardner. He looked better going forward last night, but those runs were few and far between.
I'm not sure where the real Eric Lichaj is at the moment either, for this imposter would be better employed in the second tier of American Soccer, rather than the second tier of English football. His plight was highlighted every time Walsall's 18-year-old left back - Rico Henry - ventured forward in tandem with Milan Lalkovic. Walsall had clearly been watching the Brighton game as their first goal was a carbon copy, albeit with Tom Bradshaw (we were warned about him) at the far stick waiting to poke home after the remaining three Forest defenders failed to clear the ball. We'd only been playing 11 minutes. Gulp!
Another break down the left three minutes later ended with Sam Mamtom's cross looping over to Bradshaw who collected his second. Dorus screamed in frustration while kicking the ball skywards towards the centre circle as we trudged back for another kick off. Words were spoken on the touch-line between Chris Burke and Dougie and for the next couple of minutes we didn't seem to know what we were supposed to do. Confusion reigned as the players dilly-dallied about looking like they didn't really want the ball. It was a spectacle to behold - and not the good kind.
We did, finally, work our way back into the game utilising this change in formation. A Chris Burke cross was deflected by a Walsall defender onto the crossbar, before Paterson's ball into the box from a short corner was seen home by Tyler Walker at the back post for his first senior home goal on 32 minutes. We were in the ascendancy and finished the half with Jamie Paterson hitting the upright just before half time.
But let's not fool ourselves. Parity was restored in the second half and our foothold in the game weakened. Call in the cavalry. And so it was. Blackstock replaced Paterson on 71 minutes to go up top with Tyler, but the crowd got what they really wanted 7 minutes later as Antonio, along with Oliver Burke, stepped into the breach. You've got to feel a bit sorry for Oliver, as on any other day his venture into the senior ranks would have been greeted with great ovation. Yet Antonio's shadow loomed large. But Walsall were in no mood to read the script. No sooner had Antonio stepped over the white line than Walsall were bagging their third courtesy of a rare Dorus mistake. He could only block Morris' shot, deflecting the ball back into the penalty area. Inevitably we were unable to hoof it up the pitch and Sawyers (Walsall's 54th minute substitute) stepped forward to claim his prize.
What happened in the next 15 minutes will live long in my memory. With no clearer indication than "Give me the sodding ball and I'll show you how to score a sodding goal!" Antonio received the ball after the kick off and proceeded to beat the world and his wife, before rifling a shot at the speed of sound into the back of the net. We leapt to our feet as the messianic Antonio took the game by the scruff of the neck and attempted to carry the other 10 in Garibaldi on his impressive shoulders to victory. The power of his first was equalled by the guile of his second. A goal line clearance from a Walker shot was driven back in by none other than Hobbs. It was Walsall's turn to fumble the clearance and with his back to goal, Antonio ripped a back heel into the net. 3-3!
Cue pandemonium. We were in the first minute of 5 that had been added on by a rubbish ref and looked for all the world like we'd score again or at least see another half hour. Yet it was Kelvin's turn to ignore the script as we pushed for a winner and Walsall weathered the storm. A final break into our box tempted him to over-commit and what looked like a very soft penalty was awarded to the visitors. Up stepped Bradshaw to send Dorus the wrong way and with virtually the last kick he accepted the match ball and helped Walsall into the second round draw.
15 minutes of pain inflicted by certain individuals at the start. 15 minutes of exhilaration perpetrated by an individual at the end. The 60 minutes in between were a lesson in toil. Who's looking forward to Rotherham?