Posted by: Bescot Banter •


Following Saturday evening's Black Country Derby between Walsall and visitors Wolverhampton Wanderers, Bescot Banter columnist Calum Williams shares his Match Report.
Following Saturday evening's Black Country Derby between Walsall and visitors Wolverhampton Wanderers, Bescot Banter columnist Calum Williams shares his Match Report;

The Banks’s Stadium was packed for this eagerly awaited Black Country derby. A near sell-out crowd was ready to see two sides after points that could prove crucial for their drive towards football in the Championship next season. Walsall particularly needed them, sitting just 5 points off the play-offs, but coming into this game on the back of a 6 game winless run. In comparison, Wolves were sitting pretty at the top of the league, but even with a 7 game winning streak under their belts, they couldn’t afford to be complacent.

The first quarter of an hour saw very little to shout about, although both sets of fans were certainly in full voice! Both sides failed to show much composure on the ball, playing sloppy passes and creating few chances. A Wolves free kick and a Milan Lalkovic shot for the Saddlers were both sent into the stands early on.

However with just under 20 minutes on the clock, the game did spark into life. A Febian Brandy cross for Walsall was met with appeals for a handball by Wolves defender Batth, but the referee deemed him to have chested the ball, and the attack came to nothing. Wolves had more success with an attack just minutes later, a Bakary Sako cross found Jacobs in the box, who forced an impressive reaction stop by Saddlers keeper Richard O’Donnell.

The game, as many would have predicted, became very physical, and at times the Saddlers were caught being hesitant in possession, allowing Wolves chances on goal, albeit weak efforts that wouldn’t cause O’Donnell any problems.

Wolves were tight at the back, and whilst Saddlers attacks were quelled, their opposition were given too much freedom on the ball, epitomised by their first goal close to the half hour mark. A dinked ball by Jacobs found Henry in space on the right flank, and his cross found Dicko in the box, who got in front of his man to poke the ball into the bottom right hand corner.

GOAL Walsall 0 Wolves 1 (Dicko 31’)

The goal ignited disorder amongst both sets of fans, with a flare entering the field of play, halting proceedings as Walsall began to advance. The home side did increase the pressure on Wolves following the goal, a Milan Lalkovic free kick had power but not precision, going wide of Ikeme’s right hand post, whilst an optimistic curling effort from Troy Hewitt went just wide with the keeper at full stretch  soon after.

Despite the fact Walsall were beginning to prize open a sturdy Wolves defence, they had nothing to show for their efforts, and often found themselves passing across the Wolves 18-yard area to little avail. An opportunity was created by Febian Brandy, the Saddlers winger with a mazy run to get away from his marker, but with a tame effort that Ikeme gathered easily. In all, a frustrating half for Saddlers fans.

H/T: Walsall 0 Wolverhampton Wanderers 1

The second half began with an early attempt on goal by Walsall midfielder Nicky Featherstone, who had decided against shooting on several occasions in the first half, his effort fired straight at the keeper.

But Wolves wasted little time in doubling their advantage, just over 2 minutes after the restart, they had their second goal of the game. A cross from Henry on the left looped over the head of Saddlers keeper O’Donnell, and hit the inside of the post before being poked in by the same player that scored the first goal, Nouha Dicko.

GOAL: Walsall 0 Wolves 2 (Dicko 48’)

Dicko’s brace gave Walsall an uphill struggle from here on, against a side with a fantastic defensive record this season. The visitors defence did indeed continue to hold strong and put pressure on the Saddler’s strikers, preventing them from getting a clear shot on goal.

However the home side really should have pulled one back on the hour, a ball into the Wolves area found Febian Brandy in space after the defender in front of him had failed to make a connection, but his header was weak and straight at Ikeme. This would be a chance that really should have gone in, and certainly one the wingman would come to regret later on, as Wolves continued to pose a threat going forward.

Unsurprisingly perhaps, the visitors made it game set and match 7 minutes later. A free kick on the edge of the area was superbly taken by Bakary Sako, he made no mistake in placing the ball into the back of the net, leaving his opposing goalkeeper with no chance at all of keeping the effort out. That goal, marked the 60th goal of the season for his side.

GOAL: Walsall 0 Wolves 3 (Sako 67’)

Following this goal, the game turned into a rather bland spectacle, with Wolves sensibly adopting a more defensive strategy to hold their 3 goal lead. An opening did fall for Walsall substitute Michael Ngoo with around 5 minutes of normal time remaining, and despite being closed down relatively well, his shot did test Ikeme in the Wolves goal, but was held well by the Wolves keeper.

A string of Walsall corners were defended straightforwardly by the visitors, and that would be all the Saddlers could muster, much to the frustration of the home fans. The bumper crowd understandably had high hopes for this fixture, but were outclassed by a stubborn Wolves defence, and more creativity going forward from the away side.

Without wanting to sound too pessimistic, Walsall’s play-off prospects do seem to be quickly dwindling away. They now have 7 games without a win, and really did lack and creativity or inspiration. A win on Tuesday night against Crewe Alexandra would raise some morale, but the Saddlers have seemingly left themselves with a lot to do from now to the end of the season.

As far as their counterparts are concerned, Wolves’ promotion hopes are unmistakable, a club-record-equalling 8 game winning streak stand them in very good stead for an automatic promotion spot. They were the better side today, and Walsall need to bounce back swiftly if they are to take all 3 points from that all important home game against Crewe Alexandra on Tuesday.

F/T: Walsall 0 Wolverhampton Wanderers 3 (Dicko 31' & 48', Sako 67')
Man of the Match: Romaine Sawyers
Attendance: 10,139 (3,334 Wolves)
Referee: Paul Tierney, Lancashire.
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