Saturday, 12 November 2016

Saturday, 12 November 2016

MATCH REPORT | Milton Keynes Dons 1 Walsall 1

On Saturday afternoon Jon Whitney's Saddlers returned to league action as they took on managerless Milton Keynes Dons in the latest Sky Bet League One fixture of the season. We were in attendance, and our match report is below.
On Saturday afternoon Jon Whitney's Saddlers returned to league action as they took on managerless Milton Keynes Dons in the latest Sky Bet League One fixture of the season. We were in attendance, and our match report is below.

After an impeccably observed minutes silence, managerless MK Dons got the match underway, and it was the hosts who enjoyed the brighter start, seeing much more of the ball than the Saddlers in the opening ten minutes. With just four minutes on the clock, Walsall 'keeper, Neil Etheridge, saw his first action, beating Samir Carruthers to a ball played in by MK Dons captain, Dean Lewington. Moments later, the hosts almost found an early breakthrough as the ball fell to Ryan Colclough twenty five yards out, the attacker opting to shoot from distance, blazed the ball over the bar.

Erhun Oztumer looked to be closing in on goal, some eight minutes in, but Lewington and Ed Upson were on hand to close him down, causing his effort to deflect into the waiting arms of MK Dons 'keeper, David Martin. From the resulting throw, Martin almost created a scoring opportunity for Kieran Agard, but the Saddlers regained possession and launched another attack of their own, winning a corner, which came to nothing.

Twelve minutes in, the hosts won a corner, which was swung in by Ben Reeves, the ball in was cleared but came back to Reeves inside the box. Reeves shot from ten yards sailed just wide of Etheridge's goal. Moments later, Reeves was involved again as he played in Colclough who drove the ball in tot the area, where he promptly fouled Jason McCarthy, gifting possession back to the Saddlers.

The hosts continued to enjoy good spells of possession as the afternoon progressed, but were unable to create any further clear goal-scoring opportunities as the Saddlers defended well. With twenty minutes played, Oztumer almost created an opening for the visitors, as he dispossessed Upson and played in Simeon Jackson. Upson recovered well and was able to get back just in time to deny Jackson a shot on goal, with a sliding tackle. Moments later, the Saddlers almost created another chance as a decent looking cross came in from Scott Laird. Unfortunately, the ball was just behind the Saddlers attackers and Carruthers was able to clear the danger.

With twenty seven minutes on the clock, the Saddlers won a corner on the near side. Ginnelly swung the ball in, picking out Laird  with precision. Laird headed the ball goal-wards, but Upson was alert and threw himself in front of the ball to block the goal-bound effort, allowing his teammates to clear the danger. Moments later, the Saddlers regained possession and headed back towards Martin's goal. A superb cross from Ginnelly again picking out the head of Laird with precision. This time, there was nothing the home team could do to prevent Laird's headed effort finding the back of the net.

The Saddlers began to see more and more of the ball, and five minutes after the goal, Joe Edwards low shot deflected off Paul Downing to win another corner for his side. Kevin Toner got his head to the ball as it was swung in from the flag-kick, but his headed effort took a deflection off Jack Hendry, which was enough to send the effort wide of the post.

Their was a stoppage in play, ten minutes before the break, as Colclough stayed down. After a brief spell of treatment he was able to continue. The match continued with little attacking threat from either side, but five minutes before the interval, Carruthers became the first man added to the referee's notebook as he was booked for dissent for his reaction to a free-kick being awarded against him. Ginnelly took the free-kick, but Martin was on hand to gather. Two minutes later, Matt Preston joined Carruthers in the referee's notebook after a cynical foul on George Baldock in the centre circle.

Two additional minutes were awarded at the end of the forty five as Oztumer drilled an effort over from some twenty five yards out. That would the last real action of note, and the teams headed for their half-time refreshments with the Saddlers slender lead intact.


Both sides returned from the break unchanged and the Saddlers got the match back underway. The hosts were quick to launch an attack as they sought an equaliser, but Etheridge was alert to parry Colclough's eighteen yard effort and prevent Agard getting a chance at a rebounded effort. Moments later, the Walsall shot-stopper was again called into action, as Baldock's cross  deflected behind for a corner, which Etheridge was able to get out and gather.

The hosts were unlucky not to draw level seven minutes into the half, as Dean Bowditch got his head to a Colclough cross. His headed effort bounced into the ground and appeared to come back off the post, though Etheridge may have just done enough to get his fingertips to it. Moments later, back at the other end, a fabulous set-piece delivery from Ginnelly almost found it's way through, but a slight deflection off a Dons defender was just enough to allow Martin to get behind the ball to beat it away.

The Dons were quick to work the ball back towards Etheridge's goal; Bowditch sending a low cross in, which Laird stabbed behind. Reeves took the resulting corner, but overshot his teammates and the ball hit Toner before bouncing back out. Reeves again took the resulting corner, but Preston was first to it and headed the ball clear.

As we neared the hour mark, ex-Saddler, Paul Downing earned himself a yellow card for a poor sliding tackle on McCarthy. Moments later, as the match got back underway, Reeves ran the ball to the edge of the area, before attempting a pass to a teammate, which took a deflection en route, earning his side a corner. Reeves took the flag-kick himself, but the Saddlers defences were alert at the near post and cleared the danger.

The Saddlers regained possession courtesy of a poor pass from Carruthers worked the ball back to the other end, Oztumer racing into the box before firing a curling a left-footed effort in from ten yards. Sadly for the Saddlers, the effort flew narrowly wide of Martin's post. Moments later, the ball came back to Oztumer in a promising position, this time the Walsall midfielder opted to cross the ball in for Jackson, who attempted to side-foot the ball home, but his scuffed effort trickled wide.

With sixty six minutes on the clock, the Dons bench opted to make their first change of the afternoon, introducing Nicky Maynard in place of Carruthers. Maynard was quick to get involved as he connected with Upson's corner just seconds after coming on, but his effort was deflected over, winning a corner for his team. The Walsall 'keeper missed the ball as it came in from the corner, but his Saddlers teammates were able to chase it down to clear the danger.

With twenty minutes still to play, the Saddlers should have doubled their advantage, as Ginnelly and McCarthy linked up well to set up Oztumer, whose side-footed effort from twelve yards out sailed inches wide of the post. A huge let off for the home team who should have been facing a two-goal deficit. Moments later, up at the other end, the Saddlers were fortunate not to lose their slender lead, as the Dons won a corner, which Reeves took and Hendry rose to meet. Hendry's headed effort appeared to be heading into the back of the net, but Edwards was alert and cleared the ball off the line to keep his side in front.

Fifteen minutes from time, Edwards gifted the home team a free-kick in a dangerous position, as he pulled Maynard back. Reeves took the kick, but fired his effort into the wall. The ball came back to Reeves though moments later and he looped a cross towards the goalmouth, where Etheridge failed to deal with the danger, punching the  ball clear and allowing Colclough to pick it up and drive a shot in. Walsall captain, Adam Chambers, was alert and able blocked the effort well.

With seventy six minutes on the clock, the Saddlers bench opted to make their first change of the game, as in form Amadou Bakayoko took to the field in place of Simeon Jackson. Moments after the change, there was a stoppage in play as Dons defender, Downing received treatment. After a brief spell of on-field treatment, he headed to the sidelines and was replaced by George B Williams.

The hosts turned up the pressure on the Walsall goal as they sought a late equaliser, and with little under ten minutes of the game remaining, they almost found one Reeves turned in a shot which was blocked, before Colclough fired in a powerful effort from distance, which also took a deflection, but Etheridge was able to just do enough to tip the ball over, keeping his sides one-goal advantage.

With just six minutes of regulation time remaining, Walsall were forced into their second substitution of the day, as Ginnelly picked up an injury and was forced to take to the sidelines. Isaiah Osbourne came on in his place. The MK Dons bench also took the opportunity to make a change, as they replaced a busy Colclough with Kabongo Tshimanga.

In the final minute of normal time, the Dons finally found their breakthrough, as a poor defensive header from the Saddlers, gifted Bowditch the ball. The Dons midfielder controlled well and fired the ball into the far left corner with a fierce, left-footed shot.

Six additional minutes were added, enough time for either side to snatch a late winner, and the Dons set about trying to do just that. Half-way through the additional time, Maynard fired a low cross goal-wards, which Etheridge could only palm away. After a frantic few seconds, Chambers managed to hack the ball clear and keep his side level. As we neared the end of the additional time, Bowditch was pushed over and his side were awarded a free-kick. Upson took the kick, but the Saddlers defences cleared the danger.

The Saddlers tried to launch a late counter-attack in the ninety seventh minute, but Agard was able to quell the attack and the referee brought the match to an end, with the sides taking a point apiece. A disappointing final few minutes from the Saddlers who had held on to their lead well, but failure to take their earlier chances allowed the hosts to come back.

GOALS | Bowditch (90') - Laird (28')
REFEREE | Mr. Trevor Kettle

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