MATCH REPORT | Charlton Athletic 1 Walsall 1

On Saturday afternoon Jon Whitney's Saddlers travelled to the Valley and took on Charlton Athletic in the latest League One fixture of the season. We were in attendance, and our match report is below.
On Saturday afternoon Jon Whitney's Saddlers travelled to the Valley and took on Charlton Athletic in the latest League One fixture of the season. We were in attendance, and our match report is below.

The Addicks got the match action underway, but it was Walsall who saw the first chance of the afternoon just two minutes in, when Joe Edwards broke into the box, but the midfielders effort was blocked by the legs of Declan Rudd, who did well to get to the ball. It took only a few moments for the home side to get the ball back to the other end though, where Tony Watt found himself with enough space to get a shot away, his twenty five yard effort sailing over the bar without troubling Neil Etheridge.

Walsall were afforded plenty of time on the ball and were keen to take advantage, which they looked likely to do in the fifth minute when Edwards combined with Erhun Oztumer to set up Simeon Jackson just yards from goal, but there was a little too much on it and, stretching, Jackson blazed the ball over the bar. It wasn't long before the Saddlers had regained possession and won a corner. Edwards played the ball in to Jackson who headed the ball goal-wards, but Joe Aribo was on hand for the home team to clear the ball off the line, preventing the early goal. Some excellent attacking play on display from the visitors, but the hosts just doing enough to quash their attacks in the opening few minutes.

The Saddlers continued to press, being afforded far too much space by their opposition. Nine minutes in, Edwards again took advantage of the space to get a cross in, intended for Oztumer who was in a good position, but the Charlton defences were alert and able to intercept the pass before a shot was made. Charlton enjoyed a brief spell of possession, without creating anything to test the Walsall defences, but the vising side soon had the ball back again, and in the twelfth minute, they won another corner when Rudd got to an Oztumer cross ahead of Jackson and pushed the ball behind. Edwards swung a cross in from the flag-kick, but Eoghan O'Connell's header  was a poor one and the ball sailed over the bar.

Charlton were awarded a free-kick in the fourteenth minute when Scott Laird felled Tony Watt. Ricky Holmes took the set-piece, but the Saddlers defences were alert and cleared the danger. Two minutes later, the visitors were awarded a free-kick of their own, when Jason McCarthy was brought down by Andrew Crofts out on the right wing, but the ball was fired straight into the wall and the hosts came away with it. Walsall soon had the ball back in their possession, and again found space, setting Kieron Morris free twenty yards from goal, but his left-footed low drive fell kindly for Rudd who got enough on it to turn it wide. The resulting corner came to nothing.

In the eighteenth minute, the hosts won a free-kick in a dangerous looking position, just outside the box, when Morris fouled Holmes, but Holmes' left-footed shot sailed wide of the mark without troubling the Saddlers defences. Thankfully for those of us reporting on the game, the frenetic pace of the opening twenty minutes slowed as both teams settled into the game. In the twenty second minute Andrew Crofts won a free-kick for his side after a foul by Isaiah Osbourne stopped him in his tracks, but the hosts were unable to make use of the ball and Crofts soon turned offender, gifting the Saddlers a free-kick in the twenty third minute when he fouled Walsall skipper, Adam Chambers. Walsall used the opportunity to get the ball to Oztumer in the centre of the box, but the midfielders header missed the target.

Charlton won their first corner of the match in the twenty six minute, when the ball was turned behind by McCarthy. Holmes played a good-looking ball in from the flag-kick, but Walsall shot-stopper, Etheridge, who had had little to do early in the game, came out well to claim.

The game continued at a slower tempo, with little created by either side for almost quarter of an hour, but as we headed into the final five minutes of the half, the Walsall defences were tested, and their blushes only spared by a late block, when Holmes pounced on a mistake from James O'Connor who was unable to control an Etheridge throw, before turning an effort goal-wards.

In the forty fourth minute, the Saddlers finally found the breakthrough, when a lovely flick on found Jackson just onside. The midfielder ran ran forty yards with the ball, making his way into the box before calmly slotting the ball past Rudd, into the net. A deserved lead for the Saddlers who spent the opening twenty minutes looking almost certain to score. One additional minute was awarded following the celebrations, after which the Saddlers took their one-goal advantage into the break.


The teams returned to the field unchanged and Walsall got the second half underway. The sides didn't remain unchanged for long, with Charlton being forced to make a change just five minutes into the half, when Ezri Consa landed awkwardly and was unable to continue after a brief spell of treatment, Johnnie Jackson the man to replace him.

The second half began at a much less frantic pace than the first, with the first real action coming in the fifty third minute when Walsall won a corner thanks to some lovely play from Osbourne who beat the Charlton defences to play in Jackson. Unfortunately the flag-kick came to nothing and the game resumed with neither side looking likely to score.

In the fifty sixth minute, Charlton made their second change of the afternoon, introducing Lee Novak in place of Lewis Page, who had been of little effect for his side for much of the game.

As we reached the hour mark, with neither side looking particularly likely to score, the home side won a free-kick in a dangerous position when Holmes was brought down by Osbourne. After a brief scramble in the box, the loose ball fell to Tony Watt, who smashed the ball into the bottom left corner of the net to draw his side level. A disappointing goal for the Saddlers to concede, when their opponents had struggled to create anything thus far.

The Walsall bench reacted to the goal, by making their first change of the afternoon, with Amadou Bakayoko coming on in place of Simeon Jackson.

In the sixty fifth minute, the Saddlers won a corner, following some excellent build-up play which saw McCarthy break down the right before crossing the ball in to the near post when Oztumer was waiting. The ball in from the flag-kick was a good one, but Rudd was first to it and pushed it out for another corner, from which he was able to make the catch.

Sixty eight minutes in, the Walsall bench opted to make their second change of the afternoon, introducing George Dobson in place of Kieron Morris. Moments after the change, Isaiah Osbourne was added to the referee's notebook, picking up a yellow card for a poor challenge on Holmes.

The match continued, with less intensity than was on display in the opening half, and neither side really creating much going forwards. With fifteen minutes still to play, the hosts won a free-kick out on the left, which Holmes swung into the box. Watt was waiting at the far post, and the forward did well to get a shot away, but the ball was tipped over the bar by Etheridge. The resulting corner was played to Aribo on the edge of the box, but his twenty yard, curling shot took a deflection on it's way through and Etheridge was again on hand to tip the ball over the bar, gifting the hosts another corner, which came to nothing.

In the seventy seventh minute, Nathan Byrne fouled Oztumer, for which he picked up a yellow card.

As we headed into the final ten minutes of the match, the Saddlers saw an opportunity to regain their earlier lead slip through their fingers, when Oztumer cut the ball back for Bakayoko, who, unmarked in front of goal, side-footed wide of the near post from ten yards out. A huge missed opportunity for the visitors with time rapidly disappearing.

In the eighty third minute, with the hosts enjoying a brighter spell with the ball, Holmes attempted to beat Etheridge with a cute cross-come-shot from the right side of the box which looked to be headed for the back of the net, but the Walsall 'keeper remained alert and did well to get enough on the ball to tip it over. Etheridge then claimed the ball with ease from the resulting corner. Moments after the goal-kick was taken, Johnnie Jackson received a caution for a poor challenge on Oztumer.

The Addicks continued to enjoy a brighter spell as we headed into the final five minutes of the match, Holmes and Watt enjoying more space than earlier in the game as they broke with the ball, before the Saddlers defences were able to intercept inside the box to put the ball out. The resulting corner fell to Aribo who fired a shot in from the edge of the box, which was blocked by the Walsall defences, allowing them to get the ball away and clear the danger.

In the final minute of the regulation ninety, the Charlton bench decided to make their final change of the afternoon, replacing a busy Tony Watt with Karlan Ahearne-Grant, who was gifted seven minutes to impress by the referee.

Keen to grab a late winner, the Saddlers came forward well during extra time, but were prevented from getting a cross in in the ninety second minute by Adam Chicksen, before his Charlton side launched a counter-attack, which culminated in a Holmes cross into the six yard box, which Etheridge was first to. The visitors came forward again as time fast ran down, but McCarthy's ball into the box, flashed across the face of goal, evading everyone, and the referee drew a halt to proceedings with the scores tied at one-apiece.

A good point on the road for a Walsall side who will be undoubtedly disappointed not to have taken all three points following their superb first half display.

HT | 0-1
GOALS | Watt (61') - S.Jackson (44')
ATTENDANCE | 9,900 (316 Walsall)
REFEREE | Nick Kinseley (Essex)
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