Tuesday, 14 March 2017

MATCH REPORT | Walsall 0 Fleetwood Town 1

MATCH REPORT | Walsall 0 Fleetwood Town 1

On Tuesday evening the Saddlers played host to promotion-chasing Fleetwood Town in the latest League One fixture of the season. We were in attendance, and our match report is below.
On Tuesday evening the Saddlers played host to promotion-chasing Fleetwood Town in the latest League One fixture of the season. We were in attendance, and our match report is below.

The Saddlers started the game brightly, winning two corners inside the opening three minutes, the first of which was cleared by Bobby Grant, before a blocked shot from Walsall captain, Adam Chambers won them a second, which Fleetwood Town were again able to clear, through Kyle Dempsey. Eight minutes in, Grant won a corner for the visitors, which Cameron Brannagan played into the box, where it was met by Ben Davies, whose glancing header was blocked by the Saddlers defences, before Isaiah Osbourne was able to clear the danger. Lots of early attacking intent on show from both sides, but both defences working well in the early stages.

Walsall were keen to take control of the match from the outset, enjoying good spells of possession and creating some decent looking chances. In the eleventh minute, some excellent passing play from Osbourne and George Dobson led to the latter almost getting a shot away from a dangerous position, but a well timed tackle from Dempsey instead gave the Saddlers another corner, which Fleetwood were able to clear at the front post.

The home side continued to look the more likely to open the scoring as the match continued, and in the sixteenth minute, Osbourne created another half decent chance, but his cross-come-shot was just wide of the mark and sailed out without troubling Fleetwood 'keeper, Alex Cairns. The game settled a little, as both teams began to take a more patient approach, which paid off the visitors, when in the twenty first minute, Neil Etheridge was called into action to tip a poorly timed cross from Grant behind. The resulting corner was played in by Brannagan from the left-wing, and met by Cian Bolger who rose highest to head the ball down, past Etheridge at the far post to give his side the lead.

The Saddlers went in search of a quick reply, with Erhun Oztumer doing well to create space  for himself, but his twenty five yard effort sailed high over the bar. The home side continued to press, as they sought an equaliser, and soon had the ball back in the box, thanks to Osbourne, who found George Dobson with a lofted pass. Dobson did well to control, but his effort on goal was blocked by goal-scorer, Bolger. The resulting corner eventually found Eoghan O'Connell who knocked the ball down for Scott Laird, after a bit of a scramble in the Fleetwood box, but Laird dragged his effort wide from close range, when he really should have done better.

As we reached the half hour mark, Etheridge was called into action, pulling off a superb, diving save to deny Brannagan from close range. Excellent goalkeeping on display from the man between the sticks, just moments before he gifted the ball back to Fleetwood, with a poor kick which dropped to Ashley Hunter in shooting range. Luckily for the Walsall 'keeper, who was off his line, Hunter's ambitious, long-range effort sailed wide of the post.

Ten minutes before the break, the Saddlers were forced to make a change to their line up, when O'Connell pulled up with an injury, after winning the ball in a race with Grant. The Celtic loanee was, thankfully, able to make his own way off the pitch, but was unable to continue and Matt Preston took his place.

The match became more of a midfield battle as it continued, with shots becoming few and far between. It wasn't until the forty fourth minute that we saw another real chance of any note. The visitors should have extended their lead just before the break, when a header from Bolger found Godswill Ekpolo, who rattled the bar with a header of his own. Dempsey picked up the re-bound and fired an effort goal-wards, but Chambers was on hand for the Saddlers to clear the ball off the line.

Three additional minutes were awarded at the end of the first half, by referee Trevor Kettle, who it is fair to say had not enjoyed his best game thus far. Two minutes into added time, the Saddlers felt they should have had a penalty, when Dobson was blocked in the box, but play was stopped as Brannagan had picked up a head injury, and the sides went into the break with Fleetwood still enjoying a one goal advantage over their hosts.


The Saddlers got the second half underway, but it was the visitors who enjoyed the better of the early action, being awarded a free-kick in a dangerous position in the forty ninth minute when Grant was felled by O'Connor. Brannagan curled a twenty five yard effort in from the set-piece, but it sailed just wide of Etheridge's near post, without really troubling the Saddlers 'stopper.

Eight minutes into the half, Fleetwood created another chance when Grant flicked the ball on for Hunter, who fired a shot in from twenty yards, which sailed just wide of Etheridge's upright. The Saddlers struggled to get going again after the break, and the visitors continued to pressure the Walsall goal, with Hunter spotting Etheridge off his line, sending a twenty five yard effort goal-wards, which sailed just over the bar, moments after winning a corner for his side when the Walsall 'keeper was forced to tip another of his efforts away at his near post. Some good play on display from the visitors who were only prevented from extending their lead by some excellent work from Etheridge between the sticks.

The hosts enjoyed a brief brighter spell as the game continued, but were unable to create any chances of note as they sought a route back into the game. Shortly after we reached the hour mark, the Saddlers won a corner, which Scott Laird headed back across goal in the most promising chance of the half for the home side, but disappointingly, none of his teammates were positioned to get to the ball to tap it home.

In the sixty eighth minute, the Saddlers bench opted to make their second change of the evening, replacing Simeon Jackson, who had struggled up front, with Amadou Bakayoko. Two minutes later, the Fleetwood bench opted to make a change of their own, replacing Cameron Brannagan with David Ball for the final twenty minutes.

Seventy three minutes in, the Saddlers bench rolled the dice and brought on their final substitute of the evening, introducing club record signing, Andreas Makris, in place of George Dobson as they looked for a creative spark to turn their evening around.

The Saddlers began to see more of the ball as the half progressed, though they continued to struggled to create much going forward. In the seventy seventh minute, a lovely piece of individual skill from Joe Edwards saw him cut into the box before firing a shot into a Fleetwood defender, winning a corner for his side. Unfortunately, his Walsall teammates were unable to make use of the set-piece and the ball sailed harmlessly out of play. Nine minutes from time, the hosts won another corner, which Edwards played in to Preston who got his head to the ball, sending it sailing high over the bar without troubling the visiting 'keeper.

In the eighty fifth minute, the visitors opted to make another change to their line-up, as Kyle Dempsey made way for George Glendon.

With one minute of regulation time remaining, Walsall won a free-kick in a dangerous position, twenty five yards from goal. Oztumer curled the ball over the wall, but it sailed wide of Cairns' right-hand upright without troubling the Fleetwood 'keeper, continuing the run of off-target efforts.

Five additional minutes were added, but neither side was able to create anything further of note, with the visitors content to hold on to their single goal. The match finished with the one goal being enough to secure all three points for Fleetwood, with Walsall unable to register a single shot on target all evening, a statistic which they must improve upon if they are to challenge for a Play-Off place as the season draws to an end. Overall, a disappointing evening for the Saddlers who could have equalled their previous streak of seven consecutive home wins.

HT | 0-1
GOAL | Bolger (22')
ATTENDANCE | 3,890 (142 Fleetwood)
REFEREE | Trevor Kettle (Rutland)

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