Saturday, 18 March 2017

MATCH REPORT | Southend United 3 Walsall 2

MATCH REPORT | Southend United 3 Walsall 2

On Saturday afternoon Jon Whitney's Saddlers travelled to Roots Hall in Southend-on-Sea to take on Southend United 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 Roots Hall in Southend-on-Sea to take on Southend United in the latest League One fixture of the season. We were in attendance, and our match report is below.

The match got underway, but had to be paused just two minutes, when Erhun Oztumer went down holding his ankle. After a few worrying moments, he was able to resume his role, though looking less than comfortable on his injured leg. Moments after the restart, Southend United created the first chance of the game, but Anthony Wordsworth's twenty five yard, left-footed effort sailed just wide of Neil Etheridge's upright, without troubling the man between the sticks.

The match continued with both sides looking keen to get forward, but with little created by either in front of goal, though seven minutes, the hosts looked to be in at the back post as a deep cross from the left headed towards Ryan Inniss, but the Saddlers defences were alert and cleared the danger.

The hosts looked the brighter team early on, seeing more of the ball and creating more with it. Thirteen minutes in, they created another chance when a lovely move culminated in a cross from Stephen McLaughlin, from the left wing, being met by Nile Ranger, who headed wide of the mark under pressure. The Saddlers defending well to limit Southends chances.

Fourteen minutes in, the Saddlers decided that a change was in order as Erhun Oztumer appeared unable to shake off the early injury. Ex-Southend player, Franck Moussa came on his place.

The hosts continued to look the more dangerous side, creating another chance in the seventeenth minute, when John White's right-wing cross fell to Ranger, who completely unmarked in front of goal, headed the ball over the bar from close range. Southends ability to finish leaving much to be desired, luckily for the Saddlers.

Just four minutes after taking to the field against his former employers, Moussa got on the end of lovely left-wing cross from Joe Edwards, just ten yards from goal, and coolly fired a right-footed shot past Ted Smith, into the net to send his side into the lead, against the run of play.

The following seven minutes were a quiet affair as the home side looked for an equaliser, unsuccessfully, before, twenty five minutes in, Moussa stepped up to double Walsall's lead. A poor kick from Smith, gifting the ball to Edwards on the left wing. Edward's low cross was picked up by Inniss who failed to clear, and Moussa was on hand to side-foot the ball into the bottom corner. Poor defending from the hosts allowing the Saddlers chances in front of goal.

The game quietened again after the Saddlers second goal, with the hosts looking to create an opportunity to get back into the game, but being thwarted by a solid Walsall defence. Ten minutes before the break, Southend finally found a route through for Wordsworth who fired a powerful effort goal-wards from the edge of the box, really testing the Walsall 'keeper for the first time in the match, and Etheridge was equal to it, tipping the ball over. A spectacular finger-tip save.

The game settled into a midfield battle again, as the hosts again sought to find a goal back before half-time, whilst the Saddlers were content to thwart their advances. In the forty first minute, they did manage to create a chance, Wordsworth playing a lovely through ball for McLaughlin, but Etheridge came off his line to smother before the midfielder could get to it.

Moments before half-time, the hosts were awarded a free-kick out on the left touchline, when McLaughlin was fouled by Jason McCarthy. Ben Coker's cross was met by Ranger, whose weak header was easily dealt with by Etheridge. That was to be the last real action of the half as, after two minutes of time added on, the teams took to the dressing rooms with the visitors leading by two-goals-to-nil. The home side leaving the pitch to a chorus of boo's, their supporters clearly unhappy with what they had seen during the opening forty five minutes.


The match got back underway, with the sides unchanged following the break. Four minutes into the half, Ryan Inniss became the first player to receive a caution, picking up a yellow card for a foul. That was the last real action from the defender, as the hosts opted to make a double change in the fifty first minute. Inniss and Luke Amos being replaced by Theo Robinson and, former Saddler, Jason Demetriou, much to the delight of the travelling supporters.

The hosts set out in search of a route back into the game, but were unable to create much in front of goal. Etheridge equal to the few balls that came his way. Not content to sit on their two goal cushion, the Saddlers continued to press when the chance arose. Fifty seven minutes in, a good spell of Walsall possession, culminated in Isaiah Osbourne firing a speculative effort goal-wards. He perhaps should have done better, but dragged his shot, sending the ball well wide of the mark.

The game continued as something of a midfield battle, with neither side offering much attacking threat but the Saddlers looking in control for much of the time, until the sixty third minute, when Southend were awarded a free-kick for a foul by Walsall captain, Adam Chambers on Ranger. Coker too the free-kick quickly, catching the Walsall defences a little off-guard. The ball found Will Atkinson, who crossed to Ranger, who met the ball with his head in the centre of the box, finding the bottom right corner of the net to bring his side back into the game.

Buoyed by their goal, the home team began to get forward much more, looking far more dangerous in front of goal. Demetriou seeing a wonderful, thirty yard, right-footed effort, sail inches wide of the left post in the sixty eighth minute, before creating another chance moments later, which he was unable to connect cleanly with, sending the ball into the air. The ball came down for Ranger who attempted an overhead kick, before Atkinson picked up the ball and dragged a shot wide.  All Southend as they looked for an equaliser.

Seventy two minutes in, the hosts almost found the goal to draw them level, a curling shot from Robinson stopped on the line by Edwards. Superb defending. The Blues continued to pile the pressure on, testing the Saddlers defences, and moments after seeing his shot saved on the line, Robinson drew a save from the 'keeper with another curling effort, but Etheridge was alert to tip the twenty five yard effort over the bar.

In the seventy third minute, Southend opted to make their final change of the afternoon, replacing Will Atkinson with Simon Cox as they continued to search for an equaliser.

Southend continued to dominate, firing shots in at every opportunity. In the seventy sixth minute, their pressure was rewarded with a free-kick in a dangerous position. Wordsworth's set-piece was half cleared before it was picked up by Anton Ferdinand, who volleyed the ball into the top left corner, to draw his side level.

With ten minutes still to play, the Saddlers made their second change of the afternoon, introducing Amadou Bakayoko in place of Andreas Makris, who had struggled to get into the game. Just a minute later, the Walsall bench made their third and final change of the day, bringing on Kieron Morris in place of earlier substitute, Franck Moussa.

Moments after the two Walsall changes, the hosts were awarded a free-kick on the edge of the penalty area after appeals for a spot-kick when James O'Connor brought down Wordsworth. O'Connor receiving a yellow card for the foul. Cox took the free-kick and curled the ball into the top left hand corner of the net to complete the turnaround. Ben Coker picked up a yellow card for his excessive celebrations following the goal.

Not content with seeing themselves into the lead, the hosts continued to press as we headed into the final minutes of regulation time. In the ninetieth minute, Etheridge was again called into action when the ball broke for Ranger. The Walsall 'keeper able to get enough behind the ball to parry it clear. A good save, which gave his side hope of finding a late equaliser of their own, unlikely as that looked with Southend continuing to dominate.

Five additional minutes were awarded at the end of the ninety, but the Saddlers were prevented from creating any chance of an equaliser by a Southend team who were determined to keep the ball and search for a further goal themselves until the referee called time.

A second half collapse from the Saddlers who looked to have done enough during the first half to secure all three points. A very disappointing afternoon on the road for Jon Whitney's men.

HT | 0-2
GOALS | Ranger (63') Ferdinand (76') Cox (83') - Moussa (18', 25')
ATTENDANCE | 6,756 (228 Walsall)
REFEREE | Robert Jones (Merseyside)

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