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Report: Walsall 0-1 Bristol City

Recalled goalkeeper Simon Moore was the hero as City reached the 50-point mark with four games to spare courtesy of victory at Walsall.

Sam Baldock’s successful spot-kick on the stroke of half-time was enough for the Robins, who had Moore to thank for saving the second penalty of the day, 12 minutes into the second period, to deny Sam Mantom.

On-loan keeper Moore made his first start for two months only in the absence of the injured Frank Fielding, who strained a bicep muscle in training and failed a late fitness test.

Elsewhere there was a recall for Greg Cunningham at the expense of Adam El-Abd, who missed out on a place in the matchday squad altogether.

It was the hosts who shaded an uninspiring first quarter, with Mantom and Michael Ngoo both threatening but unable to hit the target, albeit from half-chances at best.

Slowly but surely City began to find their rhythm. Baldock’s low shot after cutting in from the left was scuffed wide, before Walsall’s Romaine Sawyers was only inches away from breaking the deadlock with a rising drive which only eluded the angle of post and bar by a matter of inches.

The visitors were enjoying an increased percentage of the ball but only had a couple of fruitless corners to show for their efforts.

At the other end, the Saddlers were getting closer. Romaine Sawyers’ rising drive was only a fraction beyond the angle of post and bar with Moore unmoved, before the City keeper reacted well to keep out Mantom’s deflected free kick – the first attempt on target in the 34th minute of the game.

The major talking point of a forgettable first half to date centred around the lanky frame of Ngoo, who must have feared the worst when Scott Wagstaff went down under his two-handed push in the chest seven minutes before the break.

But, unlike Swindon Town’s Alex Pritchard at Ashton Gate last month, the striker escaped with only a booking.

However, it would only prove the start of the drama as Baldock nipped in front of dawdling Walsall left-back Andy Taylor, who went to kick the ball and only succeeded in bringing down the City skipper who duly picked himself up to drill home the spot-kick in familiar fashion.

The second period was an equalling slow burning affair, which only came to life when referee Nigel Miller evened up the penalty count after deciding Greg Cunningham had held down Ngoo as the striker threatened to head home an equaliser.

But recalled stopper Moore was on hand to keep Mantom’s spot-kick at bay, diving low to his left to push the ball to safety.

Many home fans were pleading for more than just the yellow card Cunningham received for his part in the penalty award, but the Irishman was determined to rub their noses in it when he latched on to Wade Elliott’s through ball only to shoot against the legs of Walsall keeper Richard O’Donnell.

From then on City had plenty of defending to do without ever coming under undue pressure.

Substitute James McQuilkin twice tried his luck from distance, while Sawyers hit another sweet strike which Moore did well to help on its way over the top.

It was a fitting end to a memorable day for City’s stand-in stopper.