On Tuesday evening Walsall Football Club played host to Yeovil Town in Sky Bet League One. Bescot Banter columnist Sam Wright was in attendance, and shares his Match Report below.
On Tuesday evening Walsall Football Club played host to Yeovil Town in Sky Bet League One. Bescot Banter columnist Sam Wright was in attendance, and shares his Match Report below.

The visit of newly relegated Yeovil Town to the Banks’s Stadium was a tricky one to judge. The last time the away side were contenders in this league they of course won promotion to the Championship and played some nice football on the way, but since then they have had a dreadful season, resulting in relegation, and then lost their opening three matches of this season, including two defeats to Gillingham last week in both league and cup. Walsall, of course, had made a reasonable start to the season drawing both league games and progressing in the cup, but this match sought to shape the look of the opening few games of our season. Win, and it’s a successful start, lose and we would come into some criticism. The Saddlers lined up unchanged apart from the forced removal of James Chambers due to injury, and he was replaced by veteran centre half Dean Holden to partner Paul Downing in the heart of defence.

The opening period of the game did little to assess who would be the dominant force in the game. The first ten or so minutes saw several decent half chances for both sides. First Yeovil almost capitalised on a weak Liam Kinsella back pass, and also fired into the side netting after Walsall’s claims of offside against James Hayter were waved away. Arguably the best chance of this period though did come for Walsall when Mal Benning whipped in a good cross from the Walsall right which found Tom Bradshaw unmarked 6 yards out but he could not find the target.

This chance did succeed in giving the Saddlers the momentum in the first half and went on to dominate possession and chances, the next good chance again produced by a Benning ball across the box to Bradshaw, but this time he couldn’t quite make a connection with the ball. Although Yeovil did have a similar chance moments later, shots first from Grimes inside the area, and then Clifford’s long range effort kept the momentum in the hosts favour. At this point some very stylish football was being player, a good balance of keeping the ball, and exploiting the space and creating chances whenever possible. This saw us go on and create another good chance first again for Grimes which Weale saved well and then Benning was also denied, this time by a good challenge.

However, the best chance of the half dropped to Romaine Sawyers after 44 minutes, a good ball through saw him one versus one against Weale, but a very casual effort went easily wide. An Andy Taylor freekick just narrowly wide was the only other action before the break which saw us go in level with no goals scored, a disappointing return on the back of a very creative and attacking half. I personally don’t think this was due to the lack of a striker, but just minor faults such as a poor final ball or a late shot being our downfall, very fine margins and we could have easily bagged a goal or two if these were cut out. Still though, good signs for the second half if we could continue in the same fashion.

H/T: Walsall 0 Yeovil Town 0

The second half go under way with some slight controversy, a quick attack from Walsall came just a minute after the restart which saw Bradshaw charge down the keeper, whose clearance went straight to Benning who fired home only to be denied by a foul as Bradshaw was adjudged to have fouled Chris Weale. This was greeting with anger from Benning and the fans, but Weale had clearly been caught by the sliding Bradshaw after the ball had gone and the decision was fair in my opinion.

From then in the visitors grew into the game slightly, 5 minutes into the half and a good run from Edwards created their first real chance which he blasted just over the goal of Richard O’Donnell. This should have been taken as a warning, but just a matter of minutes later Walsall gave the ball away cheaply again in midfield and the ball was worked easily to the right hand side with Kevin Dawson who had time and space to cross. Surely enough, he found James Hayter unmarked to put them into the lead. A tough one to take for Walsall, it was very good tempo football from Yeovil to work the ball out wide and create the space, but poor defending to allow the free header and such a simple attack to take place. Harsh on the home side, but Yeovil lead 1-0 after 55 minutes.

The frustration of this goal did show, and it was good to see Walsall hungry to hit back, although it did slightly boil over with Grimes being booked for a push whilst attempting to get the ball back. This fight continued in a more positive manner though, and the ball was worked forward well on a few occasions, but again resulted in no real chances, bar a half hearted penalty should for a tackle on Bradshaw which quite rightly the referee was not interested in. We were still finding some nice passes and playing some nice stuff, but that cutting edge in the opposition half was still not completely there. This did change though, after 70 minutes when some good attacking football saw us pin the visitors back in their own third and gain three corners in a matter of minutes. Finally, this led to the equaliser, the corner came in from Taylor but was easily headed away, only as far as Chambers who headed back in and Bradshaw did well to turn and shoot, and although there was very little power behind the shot the blind sighted keeper couldn’t claw it out to the dismay of his defenders. A deserved equaliser for Walsall and it was all square again after 71 minutes.

Then came by far the most frustrating moment of the match. With that goal going in with Walsall on top it seemed as if a draw was now the minimum we should be aiming for, so it’s fair to say that it was a little more than hard to swallow when straight from the restart Yeovil took the ball out to the left, got to the corner and got the ball across hard and low for Kevin Dawson who slammed in, Walsall’s lead lasting all of a minute.

From then on, Town did a good job of limiting our play more than they had previously done. New boy Forde was bought on, as was Morris and Bakoyoko, the latter of these substitutes seeing Sawyers depart to a ironic rousing ovation, very harsh from the fans as despite his poor performance it’s not going to help knocking his confidence just 3 games into a season in which he has already scored. The possession we did have seemed to be largely in our own half, and although we kept the ball well it didn’t produce anything. There was one more big moment in the tie though, as a ball came into the box towards Bakoyoko, Yeovil’s Smith seemed to clearly put two hands into the frontmans back and push him to the ground. It looked a clear penalty but no said the referee and that was that. As in the first half the second period finished with a Taylor free kick going narrowly wide and the final whistle was blown on Walsall’s unbeaten start.

F/T: Walsall 1 (Bradshaw 72’) Yeovil Town 2 (Hayter 56’, Dawson 73’)

So the end of our unbeaten start and on paper a poor defeat to a side that had played and lost 3 games prior to this one. However, we played very good football at times in the first half especially and were not missing much from being a good side. A few tweaks to our game and we look like we could be a force. This is perhaps the reasons why its most frustrating to her loud booing at the final whistle from many of our fans, there is no need for that at this stage of the season. Obviously were all frustrated at how the game has gone and we deserved more, but largely I don’t think we have one clear thing missing (Summed up by the fact that one ‘gentleman’ sitting near me claimed we needed to stop playing ‘hoof ball’ in sync with another complaining about ‘too much passing’) The “Striker Issue” though I feel is now resolved and we have a good one in Bradshaw, its more the number 10, Sawyers, role we need to improve.

As far as man of the match goes, I think the decision of Kinsella was fair (I’ll squeeze in here a reminder I tipped him to be a good first team player 2 preseasons back) but other strong contenders were Bradshaw who held the ball up well with a good touch and some good awareness, and of course got our goal, as well as Grimes who did his job well out on the wing. So not a bad performance, but a poor result. Onwards and upwards to Orient on Saturday let’s hope for a more positive outcome.

RESULT: Walsall 1 (Bradshaw 72') Yeovil Town 2 (Hayter 56', Dawson 73').
ATTENDANCE: 3,758 (186 Yeovil Town).
REFEREE: Mr. Jeremy Simpson, Lancashire.
MAN OF THE MATCH: Liam Kinsella (Walsall).

Walsall: O'Donnell; Kinsella, Downing, Holden, Taylor; A,Chambers, Clifford (Morris 77'); Grimes, Sawyers (Bakayoko 83'), Benning (Forde 63'); Bradshaw

Subs not used: MacGillivray; Rowley, Baxendale, Flanagan

Yeovil Town: Weale; Sokolik, Nugent, Martin, Smith; Dawson (Hoskins 81'), Edwards, Gillett, Foley (Ralph 93'); Hayter, Leitch-Smith

Subs not used: Krysiak; Moore, Moloney, Brooks.

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