MATCH REPORT | Bristol Rovers 1 Walsall 1

On Tuesday evening Jon Whitney's Saddlers travelled to the Memorial Stadium where they took on Bristol Rovers in the latest fixture of the 2016/17 League One campaign. We were in attendance, and you can read our match report below.
On Tuesday evening Jon Whitney's Saddlers travelled to the Memorial Stadium where they took on Bristol Rovers in the latest fixture of the 2016/17 League One campaign. We were in attendance, and you can read our match report below.

There was a good intensity to the early play, as both teams started brightly, but little action in the final third. The first shot on goal came seven minutes in, as Billy Bodin picked out Ellis Harrison with a cross from the right-wing. Harrison beat Jason McCarthy in the air, but his headed effort made for an easy save for Walsall 'keeper, Neil Etheridge.

With nine minutes on the clock, the Saddlers had a chance of their own as they won a free-kick on the edge of the box. Erhun Oztumer fired the ball into the wall, but regained possession quickly and swung in a deep cross which found Franck Moussa at the back post. Kelle Roos was alert in the hosts goal, and prevented Moussa's low cross from reaching it's intended target of Simeon Jackson. Jackson did find himself with a chance on goal moments later, as a strong Kevin Toner challenge turned the ball his way. Roos was again alert to the danger and claimed Jackson's effort twenty yard effort with relative ease.

It took the visitors just sixteen minutes to open the scoring, securing the Saddlers first away goal of the season in the process. Peter Hartley cleared the ball to Hiram Boateng who sliced the ball into the path of Oztumer, who fired a curling left-footed effort past Roos, into the bottom corner from twenty yards out. The hosts looked to respond quickly as Tom Lockyer got forward, but his headed effort from a free-kick flew wide of the post without testing the man between the sticks.

The Saddlers felt they should have had an opportunity to double their advantage when, in the twentieth minute, Oztumer put Jackson through on goal. Jackson was tripped in the box by a Rovers defender, but the referee waved away their appeals for a spot-kick. Six minutes after Walsall were denied what looked to be a clear penalty, the hosts were awarded one themselves as Walsall captain, Adam Chambers, fouled Bodin. The penalty was taken by Matty Taylor, who sent the ball straight down the middle to level the scores.

The Saddlers sought to regain their lead, with Oztumer dancing his way into the box before firing the ball towards goal. Twice the Rovers defence stood firm to block his efforts, before he changed tactics and played the ball back to Kieron Morris, who drove forward and fired an effort high and wide from twenty five yards. A good spell of play from the Saddlers, but unable to convert their chances.

Ten minutes before the break, Walsall were forced to make their first change of the evening, as Andreas Makris picked up a knock and was unable to continue, he was replaced by youngster Maziar Kouhyar.

Shortly after the Saddlers change, the hosts won a corner, which was played in to Harrison who rose well and headed the ball towards goal, but it was deflected wide. The hosts contined to pressure the Saddlers goal, as Boateng again fed the ball to Harrison, who picked up a free-kick for his side as he was fouled. The shot continued to fly in, and Bodin looked to be in a good position on the line, but the ball was turned out for a corner before he could get to it. The cross from the corner picked out Taylor, who headed the ball goal-wards, where Etheridge pulled off a fine save to clear the ball off the line. A good spell of pressure from the home team, but the Saddlers defences stood firm.

As we reached the forty fifth minute, the Saddlers had one final chance to regain their lead, as Oztumer played a superb ball into the area for Jackson, who fired the ball towards goal, where Roos got off his line to keep his side level, which is how the first half finished, after three additional minutes had been played.


The second half got underway at the Memorial Stadium with the Saddlers first half substitution remaining the only change to the starting line-ups. The half began slowly, but five minutes in, Byron Moore was fouled inside his own half and his side were awarded a free-kick, which they were unable to turn into a chance at goal.

Shortly after, the Saddlers won a corner as a long range effort from Morris picked up a deflection on it's way out. The corner was swung in, but the Rovers defences were alert to clear the danger. Moments later, back at the other end, the hosts were denied by the crossbar, as Lee Brown picked out Taylor in the box. Taylor flicked the ball across goal to Harrison, whose headed effort looped up onto the bar. A let off for the Saddlers who looked to be in trouble.

The hosts continued to press, but Harrison was unable to trouble Etheridge as he headed an effort in from a Daniel Leadbitter cross from the right. Bodin was almost luckier moments later, but Joe Edwards was alert to his shot and blocked well to keep the scores level. As we reached the hour mark, with the home team continuing to apply pressure to the Walsall goal, Etheridge was tested by, first, Taylor, then Bodin. A powerful driven effort from Taylor was parried by the Walsall shot-stopper, before he pushed a twenty yard effort from Bodin over, keeping his side in the game.

After a spell of pressure from the hosts, the Saddlers finally regained possession in the sixty fifth minute and Morris put together a lovely move as he broke forward, before putting Jackson through on goal. Unfortunately for Walsall, the winger fired his effort high over the bar without troubling the Rovers defences. The hosts were quick to get the ball back to the other end, where they won a corner, which was taken short to Bodin who curled an effort goal-wards. Etheridge, at full-stretch, able to get a hand to the ball to turn the shot away.

With little over fifteen minutes still to play, the Rovers bench opted to introduce their first change of the game, as Hiram Boateng made way for Chris Lines. Lines quick to get invlolved following his introduction into the game, as he picked out Taylor on the left. Taylor's effort on goal took a deflection and trickled out for a throw-in. The hosts continued to press, once again, as Moore set up Bodin, whose effort was blocked by Chambers. The resulting corner was played in by Lines, but Harrison was unable to get anything onto the ball as it sailed across the six-yard box. That would be Harrison's final action of the evening, as the hosts made their second change of the evening, and Rory Gaffney took his place.

With just five minutes of the game remaining, the visitors had another chance to regain their early lead, as a lovely run from Oztumer got the ball forward, where he combined well with Kouhyar, before seeing a shot on goal blocked.

Seemingly content to take a point, after a dominant second half in which they just could not convert their chances, Rovers made their final substitution on the brink of full-time, replacing Bodin with Charlie Colkett.

As four minutes of additional time were added, Etheridge kept his team level once again, as he pushed a Lines effort from a free-kick over, before Taylor flashed a low drive just wide of the near post. The hosts continued to press as the minutes ticked away; Hartley doing well to get the ball forward from deep, but his shot was fired straight into the waiting arms of Etheridge. The hosts had one last chance in the ninety fifth minute as a flick on from Taylor fell into the path of Gaffney, but his shot was dragged wide and the match was brought to an end with the teams level.

GOALS | Taylor (PEN 27') - Oztumer (16')
ATTENDANCE | 7,805 (120 Walsall)
REFEREE | Brendan Malone | (Wiltshire)

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