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MATCH REPORT | Walsall 2 Oldham Athletic 1

Jon Whitney's Saddlers continued their League One campaign as they played host to Oldham Athletic at Banks's Stadium.
The Saddlers returned to league action on Saturday afternoon as they welcomed Oldham Athletic to Banks's Stadium. We were in attendance, and you can read our match report below.

Jon Whitney's side arrived at the match on the back of a midweek Carabao Cup - Round One defeat to Sheffield United, a result that sees the Saddlers exit this season's running of the competition at the first time of asking.

Walsall got their first home game of the season underway. The match got off to a fairly slow start, with both teams taking a little time to settle in, until, five minutes in, the Saddlers worked their way into a good position, but Oldham Athletic's 'keeper, Ben Wilson was alert and claimed a right-footed cross from Kieron Morris' at the near post.

The hosts looked the likeliest to open the scoring as the match progressed, with another good move in the eighth minute seeing Nicky Devlin pass both Rob Hunt and Mason Fawks before cutting the ball back to Morris, who scuffed his shot, allowing Ollie Banks to head the ball behind. The resulting corner found the head of the recently arrived loanee, Shaun Donnellan whose headed effort cleared the crossbar.

Twelve minutes in, the visitors saw their first half-chance claimed by Walsall 'keeper, Mark Gillespie after a good looking cross in from Ryan McLaughlin was met by the head of James Wilson, allowing his teammate time to come for the ball. There was a brief stoppage in play a few moments later, whilst Wilson received treatment for a head injury, but he was soon up and able to continue and the action got back underway.

As we reached the twentieth minute, the Latics were awarded a free-kick close to the corner, which Banks played in. The Saddlers defences dealt with the set-piece well and the hosts broke forward with the ball, Amadou Bakayoko setting up Joe Edwards, who fired a low shot in, which Wilson was equal to and held.

The visitors began to see more of the ball, winning a couple of corners, which were easily dealt with by the Saddlers defences. Walsall continued to look good going forward when they had the ball though. Oldham had a chance to open the scoring in the twenty sixth minute after a Banks shot was blocked, allowing McLaughlin to pick up the ball and pick out Davies with a cross to the back post, but the Latics forwards shot sailed high over the crossbar without troubling the man between the sticks.

Twenty nine minutes in, the Saddlers almost opened the scoring, as a lovely ball in from Erhun Oztumer was flicked towards goal, but Hunt was well placed and cleared the ball off the line to deny the hosts. Three minutes later, the Latics were more fortunate, when Wilson claimed the ball under pressure following a Saddlers corner and set his side away. McLaughlin whipped the ball into the box from the left in the thirty second minute and it evaded everyone as it sailed straight through the converging players and nestled in the back of the net. A disappointing goal to concede, which the home faithful made clear to the Saddlers on the pitch.

The hosts looked for a goal back before the break, and in the fortieth minute, Walsall captain Adam Chambers was a little unlucky not to find one, seeing two long-range efforts blocked.

As two additional minutes were announced, Gillespie was called into action, pulling off a one-handed save to ensure his side continued to trail by just the one goal at the break. Some decent play from both sides during the opening forty five, with an unusual goal enough to separate them as the referee called time on the first half.

LEAGUE ONE | HT
WALSALL 0 OLDHAM 1

Oldham got the second half underway, with both sides lining up as they had in the first half. The second half got off to a quiet start, with the only real action in the opening five minutes, a break from James Wilson who fired a speculative effort in from distance, which sailed over the crossbar without troubling the Latics 'keeper.

The hosts continued to press as they settled into the half, winning a corner in the fifty first minute, which Edwards took. The ball fell to Bakayoko who headed over from close range. Just two minutes later, Edwards picked up the ball on the edge of the box and fired a low, right footed shot into the back of the net to level the scores.

Both sides seemed to struggle to get forwards following the equaliser as the game became something of a midfield battle, but sixty two minutes in, the hosts won a corner, which Oztumer played in, causing the Latics defences a few issues before they eventually cleared the danger. Oztumer was again involved a minute later, as the Saddlers got forward though Wilson, who crossed the ball in to Leahy, who headed the ball across the face of goal for the Turkish midfielder who steered a header inches wide of the post.

In the sixty seventh minute, Ollie Banks became the first player to receive a caution, moments before the Latics bench made the first changes to their line-up, introducing Tope Obadeyi and Brian Wilson in place of Craig Davies and Mason Fawns, as they shifted into a 3-5-2 formation as they sought a second goal.

With twenty minutes still to play, Leahy forced a save from Ben Wilson in the Latics goal, meeting an inch perfect cross from Devlin before turning the ball goal-wards. A lovely move from the Saddlers as they sought to take the lead for the first time in the game. Moments later, they came even closer, when Oztumer curled a left footed effort onto the post. The ball then came back out to Leahy whose follow-up was blocked, before Bakayoko put an effort wide.

In the seventy third minute, Ben Wison joined Banks in the referee's notebook as he picked up a yellow card for time wasting. He was joined moments later by Adam Chambers who was cautioned for a late challenge on McLaughlin.

The visitors rode their luck as the Saddlers continued to pepper their goal with shots, a seventy sixth minute effort from Morris almost finding the target, but finding a defender in his path who blocked at the back post, sending the ball back at the midfielder who it hit, deflecting over the bar.

Oldham had a chance of their own in the seventy ninth minute, a McLaughlin twenty five yarder being tipped behind by Gillespie. Banks took the resulting corner, playing the ball into the box, but the Walsall defences were alert and cleared the danger.

In the eighty fourth minute, Anthony Gerrard picked up a yellow card for time wasting, just moments before the visitors made their final change of the game, introducing Courtney Duffus in place of Aaron Amadi-Holloway.

In the ninetieth minute, all of the second-half pressure from the Saddlers paid off as a long throw into the box from Jon Guthrie is missed by the Latics defences and picked up by Oztumer who coolly side-footed the ball home from close range to gift his side the lead heading into four additional minutes.

With ninety four minutes on the clock, the Saddlers made their first change of the afternoon, replacing goal-scoring Erhun Oztumer with Simeon Jackson for the final few moments.

The Latics had one final chance in the ninety-sixth minute, as they won a free-kick in a dangerous position, but Gillespie was equal to it and pulled off a superb save to keep his sides lead intact as the final whistle blew. A great start to the Saddlers home campaign, and a result which should ease some of the pressure on their under fire manager.

LEAGUE ONE | FT
WALSALL 2 OLDHAM 1
HT | 0-1
GOALS | Edwards (53') Oztumer (90') - McLaughlin (32')
MAN of the MATCH | Nicky Devlin (Walsall)
ATTENDANCE | Not Yet Given
REFEREE | Dean Whitestone
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POSTED AT 5:10 pm ON Saturday, 12 August 2017

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