Johnstone's Paint Trophy: Walsall move step closer to Wembley

Michael Cain and Anthony Forde
Loan man Michael Cain (left) and Anthony Forde were the two Walsall players on target at Prenton Park

Walsall are just two games away from a first-ever trip to Wembley after coming from behind to beat Tranmere Rovers on penalties in the Johnstone's Paint Trophy area semi-final at Prenton Park.

The Saddlers looked down and out when they trailed to two goals inside six minutes, late in the first half, from Max Power and Kayode Odejayi.

But Anthony Forde pulled one back prior to Michael Cain's 80th-minute leveller.

Paul Downing hit the deciding penalty as Walsall won 5-4 in the shootout.

Dean Smith's side will now face the winners of next Tuesday's other semi-final, between Notts County and Preston North End, in a two-legged regional final in January.

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Downing proud to hit winning penalty

"This is a massive opportunity for us to get into the history books," said centre-half Downing. "These are exciting times for the club. We fancy ourselves against anyone over two legs, but we know we have to keep working hard.

"We were in control early on, so to go in two down at the break was really disappointing, but the gaffer gave a good team talk, we addressed a few things and we came back out full of belief.

"We got back into it with two great goals then, thankfully, we were able to finish the job on penalties - I knew where I was going to put it as I'd practised penalties in training the day before, so I stuck to it."

Que sera, sera, Never been to Wembley...
Aside from Walsall, the other three current Football League sides never to have played at Wembley are Accrington Stanley, Hartlepool United and Crawley Town.

Saddlers boss Smith, who made it to Wembley as a player in his days with Leyton Orient, expressed his relief at squeezing through.

"It's fine margins," he said. "I was shell-shocked to go in two down at half-time. I just said to the lads we could either accept it or do something about it. It would have been so easy to go under, but they showed tremendous character.

"We were outstanding in the second half. There were some tired legs out there, but our two goals were fantastic finishes. We deserved the shoot-out win and now we find ourselves just two games from Wembley, which is fantastic for everyone connected to this club."

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