April 2016: CITY 4 (Morais 54, Hanson 58, 72, 73) WALSALL 0

THEY are looking odds on to become relegation companions.

It’s been a week since City’s drop to League Two was confirmed – and Walsall seem poised to follow them through the trapdoor.

Three years ago, they were vying with each other at the right end of the table on the way to securing play-off spots.

This week’s nostalgia match turns the clock back to Phil Parkinson’s final season in the Valley Parade hot-seat – and an afternoon that James Hanson will never forget.

He had not started the previous nine games but came back to the City attack with a bang.

Parkinson had gambled with his frontline against the in-form Saddlers by pairing Hanson with Morais.

If Hanson had waited a while for his chance, it must have felt like an eternity before Morais was going to play again after eight months out with a serious knee injury.

Parkinson confused the visitors by playing the Portuguese winger down the middle as a second striker – a tactic that would pay off handsomely.

But the biggest home crowd of the season up to that point had to bide their time for the breakthrough.

City peppered the Walsall goal but found keeper Neil Etheridge in defiant mood.

He pulled off a fantastic block from point-blank range to deny Lee Evans and showed his reflexes again to keep out Rory McArdle’s header.

Walsall posed a sporadic threat with their pace on the break. Future City loanee Jordy Hiwula hinted at his present knack of making his mark against the Bantams by smacking the crossbar.

The half-time stalemate was finally broken just before the hour in scrambled fashion.

Tony McMahon’s cross was nodded across goal by McArdle, Reece Burke’s shot was blocked, looping up to Hanson and his header was flicked in by Morais.

The jubilant scorer broke off from his team-mates' celebrations and raced to the dug-out to share the moment with physios Matt Barrass and Chris Royston as his emotion spilled over.

A second City goal soon followed as the pressure eased. Burke was the provider with a long pass to Hanson, who barged through centre half Paul Downing’s challenge and slid his shot beyond Etheridge.

Hiwula drew a smart finger-tip save from Ben Williams to preserve a 20th clean sheet of the campaign but that was the last Walsall response. Nothing was seen of star man Romaine Sawyers.

And City made the margin of victory emphatic with two further goals in as many minutes to earn Hanson the match ball with the only hat-trick of his pro career.

The first came from a tried and tested route as he nodded home McMahon’s corner after Walsall failed to pick him up.

Then Hanson flicked into the path of Morais who shaped to shoot in the box, checked, swivelled and stood up a perfect ball to the back post for his strike partner to convert.

Parkinson beamed: “You’re not going to get too many better centre-forward displays than that.

“It wasn’t just his goals but his hold-up play as well – he never gave the ball away. His possession was almost 100 per cent.”

CITY: Williams, Darby, McArdle, Burke (N Clarke 83), Meredith, McMahon, Evans, Cullen, Reid, Morais (Proctor 78), Hanson (B Clarke 87).

WALSALL: Etheridge, Henry (Bradshaw 59), O’Connor, Downing, Taylor, Chambers, Mantom (Morris 70), Kinsella, Forde, Sawyers, Hiwula (Cook 82).

REFEREE: Darren Drysdale