Full-time: Walsall 3 PNE 1

Walsall v PNE
Walsall v PNE
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Preston North End lost their first league game of the season 3-1 to Walsall in a controversial game at the Bescot Stadium.

Joe Garner’s first-half thunderbolt was overshadowed by a few minutes of madness in the second 45.

Jordan Hugill was fouled by Andy Butler - who appeared to push his knee into Hugill whilst the striker was on the ground. Once on his feet the striker pushed his head into Butler.

Hugill was subsequently sent off for his reaction in the 69th minute but Walsall keeper Richard O’Donnell sprinted 25-yards off his line to confront the striker about the altercation.

The keeper raised his hands and pushed Hugill to the ground but referee Geoff Eltringham decided the keeper deserved a yellow card for sending the striker clattering to the ground.

Romaine Sawyers opened the scoring for the hosts in the seventh minute before Garner equalised with yet another stunning strike.

But Tom Bradshaw regained the advantage as his powerful header soared past PNE keeper Jamie Jones four minutes into the second half.

After Hugill’s was sent off Walsall increased their lead as Paul Downing nodded in the third.

Preston North End manager Simon Grayson made eight changes fromt he side that beat Shrewsbury 1-0 in the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy.

Only David Buchanan, Jack King and Calum Woods remained from the victorious starting XI.

Buchanan made his first league start of the season and King partnered Neil Kilkenny in the centre of midfield as Grayson opted for a 4-4-2 formation.

The hosts took the lead in the seventh minute as Romaine Sawyers pounced on Adam Chambers’ left wing cross and coolly fired the ball through a sea of bodies into the back of the net.

Wright - fresh from scoring on his international debut for Australia in midweek - nearly bagged his first PNE goal of the season as his header flew just over the Saddlers bar in the 34th minute.

But moments later Garner added yet another sensational strike to his

collection. As Hugill - who came off the bench to replace the injured Andy Little in the 20th minute - teed up his strike partner on the edge of the box and Garner unleashed a thunderous shot into the bottom left corner in the 35th minute.

And Garner attempted the spectacular minutes later as he spotted Walsall keeper O’Donnell off his line. The striker’s fierce, lofted shot from a few yards inside the Walsall half just curled agonisingly wide of O’Donnell’s left hand corner.

King pounced on the ball at the top of the box but his fizzing effort flew wide of the left post just before half-time.

But Walsall regained the lead in the 49th minute as Tom Bradshaw sprinted towards the near post and powerfully headed Anthony Forde’s fierce right-wing cross beyond Jones in the 49th minute.

Garner found space just outside the Walsall box in the 65th minute but the striker curled the ball wide of O’Donnell’s left hand post.

But the game descended into chaos as Hugill reacted badly to Andy Butler’s challenge. Butler appeared to knee Hugill when he was on the ground and the striker rose to his feet to confront the Walsall player.

But Hugill moved his head in towards the defender and was subsequently shown a red card.

In the melee goalkeeper O’Donnell sprinted 25 yards to the scene and pushed Hugill to the ground.

But instead of brandishing a red card referee Geoff Eltringham decided to book the goalkeeper for raising his hands and clattering Hugill.

The controversial keeper was in the action moments later as he collided with Humphrey at the far post. Gallagher fizzed a cross into the Walsall box, King headed it on and both Humphrey and O’Donnell went to ground as the Jamaican tried to touch the ball home.

Things went from bad to worse for PNE as Walsall doubled their goalscoring tally for the season by adding a third. The Saddlers had only scored three prior to today’s fixture and they bagged their third of the game as Paul Downing headed the ball beyond Jones.

PNE fought back and continued pressing in the latter stages.

Kevin Davies knocked the ball down to Wright in the Walsall box but the Australian’s shot was deflected wide in the 89th minute.

And Garner’s header from the subsequent corner flew inches over the bar.

Alan Browne nearly pulled a goal back late on but O’Donnell saved the young midfielder’s strike in stoppage time.

PNE: Jones, Woods, Wright, Clarke, Buchanan, Humphrey (K Davies, 76), King, Kilkenny, Gallagher (Browne, 76), Garner, Little (Hugill, 20). Subs not used: Stuckmann, K Davies, Wiseman, Hayhurst, Brownhill.

Walsall: O’Donnell, Taylor, O’Connor, Downing, Chambers (Clifford, 46), Bradshaw (Bradshaw, 59), Sawyers (Baxendale, 80), Benning, Flanagan, Forde, Butler. Subs not used:, Morris, Kinsella, Grimes, Manset, MacGillivray.

Referee: Geoff Eltringham (County Durham)

Attendance: 4776 (1122 PNE)