Saturday, 6 August 2016

MATCH REPORT | Walsall 3 AFC Wimbledon 1

MATCH REPORT | Walsall 3 AFC Wimbledon 1

On Saturday afternoon Jon Whitney's Walsall played host to AFC Wimbledon in the opening game of the 2016/17 Sky Bet League One campaign. You can read our match report below.
On Saturday afternoon Jon Whitney's Walsall played host to AFC Wimbledon in the opening game of the 2016/17 Sky Bet League One campaign. You can read our match report below.

Summer signing, Erhun Oztumer got the Saddlers first game of the season underway. It took a couple of minutes for the match to really get going as the players found their feet, but just six minutes in, Walsall were awarded a free-kick as Simeon Jackson was felled by Chris Whelpdale.

This was all the invitation Oztumer needed to open his competitive goal tally for the Saddlers, as he whipped in a lovely curling ball from twenty yards out, which found first the post, then the back of the net. A wonderful start to the campaign for the men in red (and black).

The home side continued to press as they sought to extend their lead, and Jackson almost set Florent Cuvelier away with a lovely knock-down pass in the eleventh minute, but Dons 'keeper, Ryan Clarke was quick off his line and smothered the ball before Flo could get a shot in.

Joe Edwards almost set up Oztumer, moments later, as the Saddlers continued to break forward. Some lovely skill on display as Edwards cut inside to feed the ball to the Saddlers opening goal-scorer, who sent the ball wide of goal on this occasion.

With twenty minutes played, Wimbledon finally began to get involved in the game, as Whelpdale sent a lovely cross in. The Saddlers defence were alert to the danger and cleared well.

As we reached the twenty first minute, a rousing round of applause rang round the ground, in memory of Joel Richard's, who would have celebrated his 21st birthday on the 3rd of August.

The visitors showed a little more attacking threat, as Lyle Taylor got forward and fired a shot goal-wards. Neil Etheridge was alert and gathered easily. Taylor was again involved, shortly after, as he went down in the box. The Dons fans appealed for a penalty, though the players didn't and the match continued.

With twenty seven minutes on the clock, Wimbledon had their first real effort on goal, and they should have equalised. A lofted pass from Jake Reeves, set up Whelpdale, who found his way into the box before firing a shot wide of the near post. A let off for the Saddlers.

As we reached the half-hour mark, Etheridge was called into action. A wonderful save to deny Taylor from point blank range was followed by another to deny Andy Barcham.

With thirty eight minutes on the clock, Walsall were awarded another free-kick, which much like the early one, was taken by Oztumer. The visitors were unable to deal with the danger, and Jackson was on hand to bundle the ball over the line from close range after a goalmouth scramble.

As we headed into four minutes of added time, Whelpdale almost created something for the visitors, as he beat Henry and found his way into the area. James O'Connor got across to put in a good tackle, sending the ball out for a corner, which was headed harmlessly wide at the far post by Tom Elliott.

The teams headed down the tunnel, with the Saddlers two goal lead intact at the break.


The teams remained unchanged as they took to the field for the second half. The visitors started the half brightly and enjoyed the first chance of the half as they were awarded a free-kick. Reeves whipped the ball in towards Elliott, who glanced his headed effort wide.

With five minutes of the half played, the Dons were awarded another free-kick, just outside the box, as Elliott was brought down by Saddler's captain, Adam Chambers. Sean Kelly sent a left-footed effort in, curling the ball beautifully over the wall, but unable to trouble Etheridge in the Saddlers goal.

As we reached the hour mark, Walsall made their first change of the afternoon as O'Connor, who appeared to be suffering with vision issues following a knock to the head, was replaced by Matt Preston.

The visitors continued to press as they sought a route back into the game. A low drive from Elliott in the sixty third minute, went close, but was just wide of the bar. It did result in Etheridge requiring treatment, though thankfully nothing serious for the Saddlers shot-stopper who was soon ready to continue.

With sixty seven minutes on the clock, the visitors made their first changes of the afternoon, as Elliott and Barcham made way for Dominic Poleon and Tyrone Barnett.

Walsall made a change of their own just two minutes later, as Oztumer made way for Amadou Bakayoko, and two minutes after the Saddlers switch, the Dons made their final change, replacing Whelpdale with Dean Parrett.

With seventy two minutes on the clock, the Saddlers got something of a surprise third, as they caught the Dons on the break. Some wonderful build up play from Bakayoko, setting up Jackson, who turned the ball home from close range.

With fifteen minutes still to play, Walsall made their final change of the afternoon, Franck Moussa introduced in place of Cuverlier.

Walsall had a wonderful chance for a fourth in the seventy seventh minute, as Kieron Morris let fly with a fierce right-footed shot. Clarke got his fingertips to it and tipped the ball over the bar to prevent a further extension to the Saddlers lead.

With little over five minutes of the game remaining, the Dons almost found a consolation, as Taylor headed just wide following a lovely cross from Poleon.

As we neared full time, the visitors had one last chance, as Henry pulled down Taylor inside the box. Taylor stepped up himself and converted the penalty.

Six minutes were added by the officials, but neither team made much use of them and the match ended with the Saddlers winning three-one. A great win for the Saddlers as they begin another long campaign.

GOALS | Oztumer (7'), Jackson (38' & 72') - Taylor PEN (90')
ATTENDANCE | 5,845 (1,049 AFC Wimbledon)
REFEREE | Charles Breakspear (Surrey)

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