MATCH REPORT | Walsall 1 Milton Keynes Dons 4 MATCH REPORT | Walsall 1 Milton Keynes Dons 4
Posted by: Bescot Banter

MATCH REPORT | Walsall 1 Milton Keynes Dons 4

Walsall played their final fixture of the 2016/17 League One campaign on Sunday afternoon as they played host to Milton Keynes Dons at Banks's Stadium.
Walsall played their final fixture of the 2016/17 League One campaign on Sunday afternoon as they played host to Milton Keynes Dons at Banks's Stadium. We were in attendance, and our match report is below.

Milton Keynes Dons got the match underway, and three minutes in, they created the first chance of the game, with Ben Reeves firing a low effort in from distance, but the shot was blocked on the edge of the area, allowing Walsall to regain control and work the ball up to the other end and into the MK Dons penalty area, where Mitchel Candlin and Andreas Makris tried in vain to get a shot away.

The Saddlers won the first corner of the game in the sixth minute when a pass from Joe Edwards was deflected by Darren Potter. Ben Tilney was on hand for the visitors to block the cross into the box at the near post, allowing Stuart O'Keefe to clear the danger. MK Dons then won a corner moments later, from which Harvey Barnes almost played in George Williams, but the Walsall defences got a head to the ball and cleared the danger.

Eleven minutes in, the visitors put themselves ahead when a lovely ball over the top from Barnes put Robbie Muirhead through on goal, and the forward fired emphatically past Craig MacGillivray in the Walsall goal to give his side the early advantage.

The Saddlers, keen to find a quick reply, won themselves a corner in the fourteenth minute, which Ed Upson got a head to, gifting the hosts a second corner, which Erhun Oztumer almost curled in direct from the flag-kick, but MK Dons 'keeper, Lee Nicholls got across to claim at the near post to keep his side ahead. The visitors, looking to extend their lead, created another chance in the sixteenth minute, Muirhead firing a left-footed effort goal-wards, but MacGillivray was alert to save at his near post.

The game settled for a while, with much of the play centred in the midfield area as both sides looked to build an attack. Twenty five minutes in, O'Keefe dispossessed Kory Roberts allowing the visitors to break, with Muirhead racing into the box before over-hitting a cross intended for O'Keefe. The Saddlers were then awarded a free-kick in the twenty seventh minute, when Edwards was fouled just outside the area. The ball in from George Dobson was picked up by Eoghan O'Connell whose cross found Roberts, but his headed effort was tipped over by Nicholls, and the resulting corner came to nothing.

There was a brief stoppage half an hour in, with Upson requiring treatment following a coming together with Edwards, but he was soon up and able to continue. Moments after rejoining the action, Upson found Muirhead with a precise pass, but Muirhead's cross was blocked behind, and the resulting corner was dealt with by the Walsall defences.

In the thirty third minute, the MK Dons doubled their lead with a stunning twenty five yard strike from Reeves, into the top left corner from the edge of the box. A superb goal. Within a minute, the visiting side could have added further to their tally, but Upson's twenty yard effort curled just wide of the far post. Two minutes later, the visitors again went close, when a cross from Tilney found Barnes, who cut inside and saw a shot blocked before Upson's dragged the follow-up wide.

The visitors continued to dominate as we raced towards half-time, with Tilney collecting a loose ball in the thirty seventh minute, but his effort on goal sailed wide of MacGillivray's upright without troubling the Walsall 'keeper. Moments later, Muirhead fired another effort in, but the Walsall defences were alert to block the effort.

The tempo slowed a little as we closed in on the break, with both sides struggling to create further chances. A minute into the two additional minutes awarded at the end of the half, Oztumer fired a speculative thirty yard effort wide, which would be the last real action before the break.


Walsall got the second half underway, with two changes to their line-up; Kieron Morris and Florent Cuvelier coming on for the re-start, in place of Kory Roberts and Mitchel Candlin as the hosts looked to get back into the game. The Saddlers started the half brightly, with Andreas Makris going close inside the opening two minutes, his overhead kick just missing the mark.

Six minutes into the half, some lovely work from O'Connell set up Morris on the edge of the box, but Morris' effort sailed harmlessly wide of the left post. A better spell of play from the Saddlers though. In the fifty second minute, the visitors won the first corner of the half, when James O'Connor turned behind a dangerous looking cross from Barnes. The Saddlers defence stood firm to deal with efforts from Barnes and Williams from the corner, to keep themselves just the two behind.

The visitors began to see more of the ball, and in the fifty second minute, O'Keefe saw an effort blocked by Edwards, and the resulting corner then saw a low shot from Reeves blocked by his own man. Moments later, MacGillivray spilled George Baldock's twenty five yard curling effort, but the Walsall 'keeper was able to gather at the second time of asking.

Walsall finally got the ball up to the other end in the sixty fourth minute, but Nicholls got down well to his left to save a powerful effort from Morris. The Saddlers then won a corner moments later, when Baldock intercepted a cross from Dobson. The delivery was poor, sailing over the head of O'Connell, but the hosts quickly won another corner, which Upson was able to clear, allowing his side to break; Barnes taking the ball into the Walsall box before firing straight into the waiting arms of MacGillivray.

In the seventy first minute, a shot from Tilney took a huge deflection, turning the ball past MacGillivray and into the bottom right-hand corner of the net, taking the visitors out of sight of the Saddlers with a three-goal cushion.

With quarter of an hour still to play, the MK Dons bench opted to make their first, and second, changes of the game, introducing Giorgio Rasulo and Callum Brittain in place of Darren Potter and Ben Reeves.

The game slowed, with little of note, until the visitors made their third and final change of the afternoon, replacing Robbie Muirhead with Kieran Agard, with ten minutes of the season remaining.

Walsall, still looking for something back, built a decent chance in the eighty second minute, but Morris' eventual effort made for an easy save for Nicholls. Two minutes later, the Saddlers came again, and this time Oztumer was able to hit the back of the net with a thunderous stick from distance nestling into the bottom right-hand corner. Probably too little, too late, which was confirmed just a minute later, when a deflection off O'Connor, sent a Barnes shot bobbling past MacGillivray and into the bottom right corner of the Walsall net, to restore the visitors three goal cushion.

Little further happened, and after two additional minutes had played out, the referee brought an end to the Saddlers 2016/17 campaign.

HT | 0-2
GOALS | Oztumer (84') - Muirhead (11'), Reeves (32'), O'Keefe (71'), Barnes (85')
REFEREE | Mark Brown (East Yorkshire)
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