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MATCH REPORT | Sheffield United 0 Walsall 1

On Tuesday evening Jon Whitney's Saddlers travelled to Bramall Lane where they took on Sheffield United in the latest Sky Bet League One fixture of the season. We were in attendance, and our match report is below.
On Tuesday evening Jon Whitney's Saddlers travelled to Bramall Lane where they took on Sheffield United 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 in memory of the victims of the tragic accident in Columbia, which claimed the lives of many of the Chapecoense team, the match got underway. Sheffield United dominated possession in the opening few minutes, but five minutes in the Saddlers won a corner as a cross from Amadou Bakayoko was deflected behind. George Dobson played a decent ball in, but the home team were able to clear.

Ten minutes in, the first real chance of the game fell to the Saddlers, who won a free-kick in a dangerous position when Joe Edwards was brought down. Erhun Oztumer cleared the wall with a powerful shot from twenty five yards, but the ball came back off the crossbar. A few minutes later, back at the other end, the hosts created a decent chance of their own as Leon Clarke got his head to a Mark Duffy cross from the right, but pressure from the Saddlers defence ensured he couldn't direct his headed effort on target and the ball sailed wide without testing the man between the sticks.

Duffy and Clarke combined well again ten minutes later, with Duffy playing the ball through to Clarke, who fired into the side-netting from an acute angle. Moments later, the ball again came to Duffy, who opted to shoot himself and fired a long-range effort wide of goal. The match continued as an open affair, with neither side able to create any real chances of note.

With half an hour played, Neil Etheridge was unable to hold a cross into the box, allowing John Fleck a shot at goal, but James O'Connor was alert and blocked the shot on the line to deny the hosts an opening goal. The Blades won a corner moments later, which Fleck playeed into the box, picking out Jack O'Connell, whose headed effort was hacked off the line by Edwards. The hosts continued to pressure the Saddlers goal, and almost opened the scoring six minutes before the break, as Daniel Lafferty fired a firm shot in, but Etheridge was alert and able to get a hand to the ball at the near post.

Against the run of play, with forty two minutes on the clock, the Saddlers took the lead. A fabulous ball over the top from Oztumer split the defence, giving Bakayoko the simple task of poking the ball past United 'keeper, Simon Moore, to open the scoring, which he duly did. The final few minutes of the half, including the one additional minute added by the referee, were uneventful and the teams retired to the dressing rooms with the Saddlers a goal to the good.


The teams remained unchanged as the second half got underway. The Saddlers started the half brightly and less than a minute in, a powerful drive from Oztumer almost doubled their advantage. Moore able to just get enough on the ball to tip it over the bar.

The Blades almost drew level in the fifty fourth minute, as Kieron Freeman got in behind the Walsall defences, but his ball across the box evaded both Chris Basham and Leon Clarke, who failed to get anything onto it. Two minutes later, the home team had the ball in the net from a well placed corner, but the referee had already blown for a foul and the goal was disallowed. A huge let off for the Saddlers whose fragile one goal lead remained intact.

There were words exchanged between the two benches as we reached the hour mark, with Chris Wilder and Alan Knill exchanging words with Jon Whitney. On the pitch, a dangerous free-kick from Duffy, picked out Chris Basham who headed the ball wide as the Blades continued to seek an equaliser. The hosts continued to pile on the pressure, but the Saddlers defences stood firm.

With twenty minutes to play, both benches opted to make their first changes of the evening. The Saddlers introducing both Isaiah Osbourne and Josh Ginnelly in place of George Dobson and Erhun Oztumer, whilst the Blades replaced Chris Basham with Harry Chapman.

In the seventy fourth minute, the hosts felt a handball decision should have been given their way, but the referee waved play on. Two minutes later, the Saddlers made their third and final change of the evening, as Amadou Bakayoko was replaced by Simeon Jackson.

Thirteen minutes from time, Etheridge was almost caught out by Duffy at his near post, from a free-kick, but the Saddlers shot-stopper got across his goal and managed to get enough on the ball to push it around the post and out for a corner, which came to nothing.

In the eighty first minute, the home team opted to make their second change of the evening as they sought to overwhelm the Saddlers defences; Caolan Lavery replacing Daniel Lafferty. The Blades were awarded a penalty two minutes later, as a Sheffield shot was blocked by the hands of a defender. Billy Sharp stepped up to take the spot-kick, but his weak effort was comfortably saved by Etheridge who got down well to his left.

As we reached the end of the regulation ninety, and the officials announced that five additional minutes would be played, the hosts bundled the ball into the back of the net again, but again, the goal was disallowed, this time as Billy Sharp was adjudged to have handled.

The Saddlers held on, despite constant pressure from the hosts, and walked away with a one-goal victory. With two goals disallowed and a weak penalty saved, the Blades will surely have felt they should have taken something from the game.

HT | 0-1
GOAL | Bakayoko (42')
ATTENDANCE | 18,343 (178 Walsall)
REFEREE | Mr. Darren England (South Yorkshire)

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