Walsall Rock The Nationwide

Last updated : 09 August 2003 By Rob Cooper
Paul Merson
Merson was the star as the Saddlers ran riot
Walsall, complete with Paul Merson in their midfield, shocked the Nationwide League with a dramatic 4-1 win over pre-season title favourites West Brom. The former Arsenal midfielder scored his side's first two goals as they raced into a three nil lead at half time.

The Saddlers find themselves top of the Division tonight having completed such a comprehensive victory. Jorge Leitao and Steve Corcia were the other Walsall players to netted in the rout. Jason Koumas scored a late consolation.

Corcia's strike will battle it out with the two from Merson for this months goal of the month, such was the quality of finishing on show at the Bescot Stadium.

At Vicarage Road no football was played as the Hornets game against Coventry was postponed. Jimmy Davis, who was set to make his Watford debut after joining the club on a season long loan from Manchester United, was killed in a car crash on the M40 at 5am this morning.

Jimmy Davis
Jimmy Davis RIP
The tragic incident once more underlines the fact that life and death is much more important than football. Our condolences go out to the family and team mates of Jimmy Davis.

Crystal Palace, now ably managed by Steve Kember, secured a dramatic 3-2 win at Burnley. The Eagles have striker Dougie Freedman to thank for getting them out of jail. Wayne Routledge and Shaun Derry saw red for the visitors, but Freedman scored three times to give nine-man Palace a 3-2 win.

Goals from Robert Blake and Lee Roche had given Stan Ternent's side a 2-1 lead before Freedman ran riot.

At lunchtime today West Ham got their Nationwide League campaign underway with a win at Preston. American Eddie Lewis gave the Hammers a scare when he gave the Lilywhites a shock second minute lead.

However, Jermain Defoe, who could be on his way to Man Utd very soon, leveled things when he poked a shot past Jonathan Gould with just five minutes on the clock. Glenn Roeder's side pressed for the win throughout and were rewarded when David Connolly brilliantly finished off a slalom run, placing his ball into the net.

Crewe endured a difficult start to life in Division One, going down 3-1 at Wimbledon. The cash-strapped Dons came from behind to win, enabling directors for a short time at least to forget about the club's long-term ill-health.

Patrick Agyemang and Alex Tapp scored before young captain Nigel Reo-Coker curled a rasping shot past Clayton Ince at Selhurst Park. Dario Gradi certainly has his work cut out if he is to keep Crewe in the division this year.

Millwall, who endured a difficult year last year, got their season underway with an impressive 2-0 win over Division One newboys Wigan Athletic. The Latics were disappointed with the result at the New Den, they went down to goals from Dennis Wise and Tim Cahill.

Wise, the veteran, reacted quickest to poke home from close range after Neil Harris' penalty was saved. Cahill headed home a late header as the Lions overpowered their opponents. In the first half Paul Ifill was guilty of missing an open goal.

At the other end of the field Millwall 'keeper Tony Warner had to be alert on a number of occasions to stifle the attacking threat of Paul Jewell's side.

Cardiff, also promoted from Division Two last year fared a little better, securing a point at Millmoor. In truth the Bluebirds will be delighted with the result having had to keep out attack after attack. Striker Alan Lee was the star of the show as Ronnie Moore's side hinted that they could be in for another good year.

The game at Valley Parade also ended all square. Bradford City, fought back dramatically to secure a point having been two down against Norwich City. Michael Branch, a former Reading loanee, sealed the comeback as he lashed in an equaliser in the second minute of stoppage time.

Mark Rivers and Clint Easton thought their goals had given the Canaries victory. The Man Utd-esque fightback was catalysed in the eighty-fourth minute when ex-Old Trafford man Ben Muirhead pulled one back for the home side.

There was to be no late come-backs at Pride Park however, as Derby County were soundly beaten by Stoke City. George Burley has much soul-searching to do tonight after seeing his side collapse on the season's opening day.

Gifton Noel-Williams, a summer signing from Watford, opened the scoring in the fifteenth minute when he side footed home from close range. Stoke, who gave a whopping seven players debuts, found themselves two up before twenty minutes were on the clock, Chris Greenacre sliding home a simple finish after good work from Carl Asaba.

An air of superiority was added to the scoreline when Lucas Neale made it three in the ninetieth minute.

Finally, last season's Play-Off finalists Sheffield United could only manage a 0-0 draw at home to strikerless Gillingham.

Neil Warnock's side, who have gone through a major summer overhaul, couldn't make the breakthrough in a fiercely contested game.

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