Saturday, 14 January 2017

Saturday, 14 January 2017

MATCH REPORT | Walsall 4 Sheffield United 1

On Saturday afternoon the Saddlers played host to league-leaders Sheffield United in the latest Sky Bet League One fixture of the season. We were in attendance, and our match report is below.
On Saturday afternoon the Saddlers played host to league-leaders Sheffield United in the latest Sky Bet League One fixture of the season. We were in attendance, and our match report is below.

The match got off to a lively start, with visiting captain Billy Sharp finding the crossbar within minutes of kick-off, following a nice cross from Kieron Freeman to find him in the box. The Saddlers wasted no time in working the ball to the other end, where, with just five minutes on the clock, Joe Edwards played in Amadou Bakayoko who had no problem slotting the ball home with a left-footed shot across Blades 'keeper, Simon Moore, and into the far corner. A fabulous start to the game for the home team.

With eight minutes played, Matt Done won the first corner of the game for his Sheffield United side. Paul Coutts took the flag-kick, but the ball was collected easily by Neil Etheridge. Just six minutes after Walsall took the lead, the Blades equalised; a free-kick allowing Ethan Ebanks-Landell to head the ball across goal, where Jack O'Connoll was on hand to head home from close range.

Moments after the visitors levelled the scores, the Saddlers created a chance to re-take the lead, but Flo Cuvelier's powerful, right-footed twenty five yard effort sailed inches over the bar. It wasn't long before the Blades had the ball back at the other end, where Mark Duffy played in Ebanks-Landell, whose headed effort cleared the crossbar without troubling Etheridge in the Walsall goal.

Twenty two minutes in, the Saddlers were awarded a free-kick on the edge of the area for a foul by Chris Basham on Edwards. Erhun Oztumer took the set-piece, but fired the ball straight into the wall. The Blades countered with a long ball into the area, which Sharp controlled well before firing straight at the waiting Etheridge. The visitors then almost took the lead twenty seven minutes in; a Freeman cross trickling across goal, where Sharp looked to have an easy tap in, but scuffed his shot wide from close range.

Thirty three minutes in, referee Richard Clark, awarded the first yellow card of the game, as Cuvelier was fouled by Done. The tempo quietened as we headed into the final ten minutes of the half, with both sides enjoying decent spells of possession without really troubling either 'keeper.

Three minutes before the break, Etheridge was called into action as Caolan Lavery beat Jason McCarthy before firing a powerful right-footed effort goalwards from the corner of the box. The Walsall shot-stopper was alert to the danger and did well to palm the ball behind. The resulting corner came to nothing for the visitors, though they continued to dominate during the final few minutes of the half, without really creating any further chances.

Moments before half-time, McCarthy became the second player to receive a yellow card for a foul, though it appeared to be something of a mix-up by the referee as guilty party, Matt Preston, walked away without punishment.

One additional minute was added at the end of the half, during which the visitors continued to press, with Sharp seeing a right-footed effort from the centre of the box blocked, before Coutts fired a right-footed effort over the bar from just outside the box. They were unable to hit the mark though, and the first-half was brought to an end with the scores tied.


The teams remained unchanged as they returned for the second half. The Saddlers started the half brightly, with Bakayoko seeing a superb overhead kick from the edge of the box, tipped around the post by Moore at full stretch, just forty five seconds in. A minute later, it was the turn of Oztumer, who fired an effort over from twenty five yards following some good build-up play. An excellent start to the half from the home side, as they looked to re-take their early lead.

The game settled a little following the early Saddlers chances, but six minutes in, the visitors found their way through on goal following a run through the middle from Freeman, but his effort from distance cleared the bar without troubling the Walsall 'keeper. The Blades continued to press and won a couple of free-kicks as Basham and Freeman drew fouls from Edwards, but they were unable to make much use of them as the Saddlers defended well.

With fifty eight minutes on the clock, the Saddlers found the breakthrough and re-took the lead, courtesy of some fine exchanges between Bakayoko and McCarthy. McCarthy finishing the move with a low, right-footed shot into the bottom left corner.

Shortly after the hour mark, Amadou Bakayoko was shown a yellow card for a poor challenge on Chris Basham. The Saddlers regained possession quickly following the resulting free-kick and created another fine goal-scoring opportunity, with Edwards taking the ball around the 'keeper before seeing his effort deflected by Jack O'Connell. The Saddlers felt they should have been awarded a penalty for a handball, but the referee waved play on.

Sixty seven minutes in, the Saddlers further extended their lead, as Bakayoko collected a long ball over the top and controlled well before picking out Edwards who cut inside, beating his defender, before firing a low effort into the bottom corner.

Moments after the Saddlers goal, the Blades bench opted to make their first change of the afternoon, introducing Leon Clarke in place of Chris Basham. The visitors enjoyed a spell of possession following the change, which culminated in a low ball into the box finding Sharp, but Preston was on hand to apply just enough pressure to prevent a decent shot, and Etheridge was able to claim his tame effort with ease.

Seventy four minutes in, the Saddlers made their first change of the afternoon, as Flo Cuvelier made way for George Dobson. Two minutes after his introduction into the game, Dobson was brought down in the box by Blades 'keeper, Moore, and the Saddlers were awarded a penalty. Oztumer stepped up to take the spot-kick, and coolly converted to take his side further clear of their opposition.

Moments after the Saddlers fourth goal, the Blades introduced their second substitute of the afternoon, as Stefan Scougall replaced Caolan Lavery. The Saddlers also made their second change of the afternoon, replacing Amadou Bakayoko with Simeon Jackson.

The visitors continued to threaten the Saddlers goal, when they were allowed, and seven minutes from time, a cross from Mark Duffy set up a headed effort from Clarke, which drew a diving save from Etheridge to keep the ball out. Clarke continued to pepper shots at the Walsall goal as time wore on, but Etheridge remained alert and was equal to them.

Three minutes from time, John Fleck was added to the referee's notebook for a poor tackle. Moments later, the Saddlers made their final change of the afternoon, with Erhun Oztumer making way for Kieron Morris.

Three additional minutes were awarded at the end of the ninety, but neither side created any further real chances and the referee called an end to the match with the Saddlers taking all three points following an impressive four-goal-to-one display.

HT | 1-1
GOALS | Bakayoko (5'), McCarthy (58'), Edwards (67'), Oztumer PEN (76') - J.O'Connell (10')
ATTENDANCE | 6,899 (2,532 Sheffield United)
MAN of the MATCH | Amadou Bakayoko
REFEREE | Richard Clark (Northumberland)

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