MATCH REPORT | Coventry City 1 Walsall 0

The Saddlers played their final away fixture of the season on Saturday afternoon as they travelled to the Ricoh Arena where they took on Coventry City. We were in attendance, and our match report is below.
The Saddlers played their final away fixture of the season on Saturday afternoon as they travelled to the Ricoh Arena where they took on Coventry City. We were in attendance, and our match report is below.

The match got off to a quiet start, with both teams taking time to settle into the game. Seven minutes in, Amadou Bakayoko was presented with an opportunity to pounce on a mistake from Reice Charles-Cook, who dropped the ball following a cross from Jason McCarthy, but a Coventry City defender was on hand to spare the 'keepers blushes. Little then happened as the teams continued to contest the game in midfield, until the twelfth minute, when Walsall 'keeper, Craig MacGillivray was called into action to save a Kevin Foley effort from eight yards, after a Ruben Lameiras effort deflected into the defenders path.

Seventeen minutes in, some nice combination play from Andreas Makris and Eoghan O'Connell resulted in a shot from the latter curling into the arms of the Coventry 'keeper, who held well. Some good skill on display, but very little created by either side going forwards. Shortly before the halfway point of the first half, Coventry won the first corner of the match, when O'Connell put the ball behind, before winning a second moments later, courtesy of Amadou Bakayoko, but the hosts were unable to make use of either as the Saddlers defended well.

With twenty five minutes on the clock, the match was briefly halted, whilst Bakayoko received treatment for an  injury sustained when Charles-Cook clattered into him and Coventry captain, Jordan Willis, when he came out to punch a long ball clear. Thankfully it wasn't long before both were up and able to continue.

Shortly after we reached the half hour mark, Walsall won a free-kick in a dangerous position when Vladimir Gadzhev tripped Kieron Morris. Joe Edwards whipped in a promising looking ball, which Matt Preston headed wide. The hosts were quick to get the ball up to the other end, where George Thomas was played in by Gael Bigirimana, but MacGillivray was alert and came off his line to smother. The Saddlers got forward again moments later, with Bakayoko firing a low, twenty yard drive goal-wards, but Charles-Cook was able to claim comfortably. Much better play from both sides as they looked to take an advantage into the half-time break.

With six minutes of the first half remaining, City won a corner when Thomas found his way into the box before seeing his left-footed effort deflected behind by James O'Connor. The hosts played a short corner, with the ball eventually falling to Thomas who side-footed it into the bottom corner of the net to put his side ahead. Coventry should have doubled their advantage moments later, when Lameiras played Thomas in again, but under pressure from MacGillivray, the midfielder fired wide.

After two additional minutes were played, the referee brought an end to a poor half of football, with the hosts taking a one-goal lead into the break.


The visitors made two changes before the match got back underway after the break, with Andreas Makris and Isaiah Osbourne sitting out the second half in favour of Erhun Oztumer and George Dobson. The Saddlers started the half brightly, with Morris firing an effort over from the edge of the box, just two minutes in, as his side sought to get back on level terms. The hosts had other ideas and soon had the ball at the other end, but Lameiras low effort from the edge of the box had little on it and MacGillivray was able to save comfortably.

Eight minutes into the half, the Saddlers began to turn up the pressure, as Edwards played in Bakayoko with a lovely cross, but the forwards effort on goal was blocked by an alert defender and trickled through for Charles-Cook. Moments later, the visitors won a free-kick, which O'Connell took quickly before being booked and ordered to re-take the set-piece. Oztumer's twenty yard effort from the re-take hit the wall and went wide. The resulting corner was swung in by Edwards and found the head of O'Connell, but Bigirimana was on hand for the hosts to clear the ball off the line as it looked to be heading in.

The visitors continued to test the Coventry defences, and fifty seven minutes in, almost drew themselves level when some lovely work from O'Connell saw the ball played into the box for Bakayoko, who fired an effort goal-wards, into the waiting arms of Charles-Cook.

The game returned to the midfield as we passed the hour mark, where both sides struggled to find an advantage, until the sixty seventh minute, when Jodi Jones and Lameiras combined well to create a chance for Thomas, who fired a twelve yard effort over the bar, without troubling MacGillivray in the Walsall goal.

In the sixty ninth minute, the Saddlers bench opted to make their final change of the afternoon, introducing Mitchel Candlin for the final twenty minutes, in place of Kieron Morris. Moments later, Walsall were reduced to ten men, when Eoghan O'Connell received his marching orders for a second bookable offence when he fouled Thomas.

In the seventy fifth minute, Coventry were forced to make their first change of the afternoon; Chris Stokes unable to continue after a heavy collision with the advertising boards, necessitating the early introduction of Farrend Rawson. The Saddlers felt they should have had a penalty three minutes after the change, when Bakayoko played in Edwards who was then felled in the box, but the referee was unmoved by their appeals and waved play on.

With just six minutes remaining, Coventry made their second change of the game, introducing Jordan Shipley in place of Vladimir Gadzhev, before making their third and final change just moments later, when Kevin Foley made way for Dion Kelly-Evans for the final five minutes.

Moments after the hosts substitutions were completed and play resumed, Oztumer went down with an injury. It looked for a brief time, like the Saddlers may have to see out the final few minutes with nine men, but after a short spell of treatment he was able to continue.

Five additional minutes were awarded at the end of the regulation ninety, but neither side were able to create much and despite an effort from Oztumer being dropped by Charles-Cook, the hosts saw out a one-goal-to-nil victory, and the Saddlers returned to the Banks's empty handed.

HT | 1-0
GOAL | G.Thomas (39')
ATTENDANCE | 9,284 (932 Walsall)
REFEREE | Darren Drysdale (Lincolnshire)

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