MATCH REPORT | Walsall 0 Rochdale 2

On Monday afternoon the Saddlers played host to Rochdale in the latest Sky Bet League One fixture of the season, and the first of 2017. We were in attendance, and our match report is below.
On Monday afternoon the Saddlers played host to Rochdale in the latest Sky Bet League One fixture of the season, and the first of 2017. We were in attendance, and our match report is below.

Rochdale's Ian Henderson got our first game of 2017 underway at the Banks's Stadium. Two minutes in, the visitors were awarded a free-kick in the Walsall half, for a foul on Oliver Rathbone. Joseph Bunney almost played in Calvin Andrew at the back post with the set-piece, but Neil Etheridge rose well to gather the ball.

Seven minutes in, Walsall were awarded a free-kick themselves, for a foul on Simeon Jackson as he chased a long ball from Joe Edwards. Kieron Morris played the ball into the area from the set-piece, but Joseph Rafferty was first to it and headed back out, as far as Edwards who fired an effort high over the crossbar from twenty yards.

The Saddlers continued to press, and moments after Edwards effort, Morris fired a left-footed shot goal-wards, but Rochdale 'keeper, Conrad Logan was alert to palm the deflected shot round the post. The resulting corner was taken by Morris, who played the ball short to Jason McCarthy whose cross hit Matthew Lund before finding it's way into the hands of Logan, who was well placed to prevent an own goal.

Fourteen minutes in, Amadou Bakayoko was presented with a fabulous chance to open the scoring, finding himself unmarked, ten yards from goal following some wonderful play from Jackson and Flo Cuvelier, but the up and coming striker blazed the ball over the bar. Two minutes later, the visitors created a chance of their own, Henderson crossing the ball towards the back post where it was headed wide by Andrew.

Seventeen minutes in, Rochdale were awarded another free-kick for a foul on Thompson, midway inside the Walsall half. Rafferty played the ball into the area, where a Thompson effort was hooked off the line. The resulting corner was cleared as far as Rochdale captain Callum Camps, who sent the ball back to Rafferty who won his side another corner. This time, the ball was played short to Rathbone who attempted a low cross across the face of goal, but the Saddlers defence was alert and intercepted, clearing the danger.

Twenty three minutes in, the visitors opened the scoring as Henderson got on the end of a powerful ball across the face of goal from Rafferty and turned the ball home from close range.

Two minutes after the goal, Kieron Morris became the first name added to the referee's notebook, although it wasn't entirely clear why referee Stockbridge felt a booking was necessary.

In the twenty seventh minute, the visitors looked likely to increase their lead, as a Rathbone volley took a deflection, leaving Etheridge floundering, but the ball fell wide of the post fortunately for the Saddlers. The resulting corner was taken by Rafferty who found the head of Thompson, but the home defence were able to partially clear before winning a free-kick as the ball was played back in.

With half an hour played, the Saddlers saw another decent chance missed, as Jackson played the ball to Bakayoko in a good position, but the young striker was adjudged to have been offside. The visitors were quick to get the ball up to the other end, where Lund picked out Thompson out wide, who cut the ball back to Henderson who was unmarked inside the box, but the Rochdale forwards twelve yard effort cleared the bar without testing Etheridge in the Walsall goal. Walsall launched a quick attack of their own from the goal-kick, with Bakayoko setting up Cuvelier, but Logan spread himself well in the Rochdale goal, managing to get an arm to the ball to push it away.

With ten minutes of the first half remaining, the visitors created another decent chance, but Scott Laird was alert to block Thompson's effort inside the six yard box, before the ball was put out for a corner, which came to nothing. The pace slowed a little as we headed towards the break, but forty three minutes in, the Saddlers were awarded a free-kick in a dangerous position, which Bunney cleared from Cuvelier's delivery. The hosts were awarded another corner moments later, some twenty five yards from goal, but the visiting defence were again able to clear the danger.

Two additional minutes were added, but the score remained one-goal-to-nil to the visitors as time was called on an eventful half, in which referee Stockbridge seemed intent on getting involved in.


The teams remained unchanged as the Saddlers got the second half underway. The visitors started the half brightly, with Rafferty winning them an early corner two minutes in, which Walsall cleared well. The hosts won a corner of their own on the break, moments later, but Rochdale defended well and cleared the danger with ease.

Rochdale broke well following the goal-kick, a move which culminated in Henderson firing an effort over from distance. The visitors continued to apply pressure in front of the Walsall goal, with Bunney whipping a powerful ball across goal, which Etheridge was able to gather in the air. Moments later, the visitors were awarded a free-kick in a central position, thirty five yards from goal as Thompson was fouled. Camps took the set-piece but was unable to pick out his teammates in the box, allowing Etheridge to punch the ball clear.

Rochdale thought they had doubled their advantage in the fifty third minute as Henderson turned home a cross, but after much deliberation, the officials ruled the goal out for handball, which also resulted in Henderson receiving a yellow card for the infringement. Moments later, Calvin Andrew joined him in the referee's notebook.

In the fifty seventh minute, Keith Keane also joined his team-mates in the referee's notebook for a foul, which also saw the Saddlers awarded a free-kick in a dangerous area, twenty five yards from goal. Laird curled a good looking ball in with his left foot, but it sailed narrowly wide of the far post without troubling the 'keeper.

With sixty two minutes on the clock, the Walsall bench opted to make their first change of the afternoon, replacing Simeon Jackson with Erhun Oztumer.

In the sixty fourth minute, Bunney went down requiring treatment. After a brief pause in proceedings the match got back underway without the Rochdale man who continued to receive treatment on the sidelines, before eventually returning to action. Bunney's return was short lived and in the sixty seventh minute he went down again, forcing a change in personnel from his bench, who opted to introduce Harrison McGhaey in his place.

With seventy minutes played, the Saddlers made their second change of the game, replacing Kieron Morris with Franck Moussa.

In the seventy fourth minute, the visitors doubled their advantage and effectively put the tie to bed, as poor defending from the Saddlers allowed McGahey to cross the ball in for Thompson, with the help of a deflection, before Thompson coolly slotted the ball home from close range.

The intensity decreased somewhat following the second goal, and the intervening ten minutes were a tame affair, but five minutes from time, Rochdale won a corner which was cleared away at the near post, falling to Henderson who saw a second goal disallowed, this time for an offside offense.

Two minutes from time, Rochdale made their second change of the afternoon, replacing a busy Thompson with Steven Davies.

Four additional minutes were awarded at the end of the ninety, and the visitors won a free-kick inside the Walsall half which looked dangerous. McGahey played the set-piece in, but Lund's deflected effort was punched away by Etheridge and the Saddlers broke. McCarthy played a low cross into the box, where it was picked up by Walsall captain, Adam Chambers, who fired an effort goal-wards, but Logan got his fingertips to the powerful shot, turning it over the bar. The resulting corner came to nothing and the final action of the game saw Rochdale make their final change of the day as they ran down the clock, bringing on Nathaniel Mendez-Laing for the final few seconds in place of Oliver Rathbone.

An entertaining start to the year for those at the Banks's Stadium, but a disappointing result against opposition who were better able to take their chances when they presented themselves.

GOALS | Henderson (23'), Thompson (74')
ATTENDANCE | 4,667 (472 Rochdale)
REFEREE | Seb Stockbridge (Tyne and Wear)

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