MATCH REPORT | Walsall 1 Oxford United 1

On Saturday afternoon Jon Whitney's Saddlers looked to bounce back from last weekend's defeat to Bradford City as they played host to Oxford United in the latest Sky Bet League One fixture of the season. We were among those in attendance, and our match report is below.
On Saturday afternoon Jon Whitney's Saddlers looked to bounce back from last weekend's defeat to Bradford City as they played host to Oxford United in the latest Sky Bet League One fixture of the season. We were among those in attendance, and our match report is below.

Walsall started the match brightly, winning a free-kick just four minutes in. Kieron Morris played the ball in to Matt Preston who knocked it down, setting Scott Laird up for a simple tap in, but he was deemed to be offside and the early goal was disallowed. A positive start from the home side who continued to dominate the early stages of the game, getting forward again in the seventh minute. Morris fired a low effort in from the edge of the box, rattling the inside of the far post, before Isaiah Osbourne fired a shot over the bar.

Thirteen minutes in, Oxford United managed to create a chance when Conor McAleny found Chris Maguire in space, but Maguire's cross towards the back of the area had too much on for Marvin Johnson, whose was unable to get his shot away cleanly, making for an easy save for Neil Etheridge.

The Saddlers were quick to get the ball back to the other end, with a lovely move from Morris and Osbourne eventually seeing the ball come to Joe Edwards, who aimed a cross at Andreas Makris which was turned out by the visiting defence, gifting Walsall the first corner of the game, which, unfortunately for the home side, came to nothing. Moments later, Oxford were awarded a free-kick for a foul by Preston on Johnson, close to the Walsall area. Maguire played the ball deep to Canice Carroll who headed the ball across goal. The Saddlers defences half cleared the danger, but McAleny managed to win the ball back and fired an effort high and wide.

In the twentieth minute, the Saddlers again got forward, through Franck Moussa, whose lovely ball over the top found Makris in space, but Simon Eastwood was alert in the Oxford goal and came off his line to clear the danger. Moments later, it was the turn of Etheridge, who did well to save a low shot from Joe Rothwell, who fired an effort in from eighteen yards after some good work from Carroll and a slip from Walsall captain, Adam Chambers, allowed him space to shoot. The visitors continued to press, as they enjoyed much more of the ball as the game progressed. Some lovely combination play from Johnson, Maguire and McAleny looked to have set Rothwell up for a fairly easy goal in the twenty fourth minute, but the midfielders effort sailed wide of Etheridge's upright without troubling the 'keeper.

Twenty five minutes in, the Saddlers broke, and an superb move from Jason McCarthy and Makris culminated in Morris firing a left-footed drive in from twenty yards, but Eastwood was alert and got a hand to the ball to turn it away. The frenetic pace slowed momentarily, but as we reached the half hour mark, the home side were awarded a free-kick for a foul on Moussa by Charlie Raglan. Laird's effort from the set-piece was punched clear by Eastwood, but only as far as Edwards who attempted a first-time shot, which sailed high over the bar without troubling the man between the sticks.

There was a brief halt to proceedings in the thirty second minute, whilst Chambers received treatment for a collision with Ryan Ledson which left the Walsall captain with a head wound. Thankfully for the Saddlers, Chambers was able to continue, returning to the field of play with his head bandaged. Moments after the re-start, the first yellow card of the match was shown to Jason McCarthy for a foul on Johnson. The resulting free-kick was punched clear by Etheridge, who got to the ball well.

In the thirty eighth minute, Canice Carroll was added to the referee's notebook, picking up a yellow card for a foul on Edwards.

As we headed rapidly towards the break, the Saddlers began to pile the pressure onto their opponents, with Osbourne finding his way through the United midfield, before over-hitting his final pass, intended for Edwards. Three additional minutes were awarded at the end of the half, with both sides keen to find a goal to take them into the lead heading into half-time. Osbourne continued to press for the Saddlers, and moments after the board was shown, he saw an effort deflected behind for a corner by Ledson, who stayed down requiring treatment. Great commitment on display. The corner was eventually taken, with Ledson off the pitch receiving treatment, but the ball was fired straight into the side netting without troubling the Oxford defences. Ledson was eventually able to rejoin the action for the final few moments, during which the hosts continued to press, culminating in a twenty yard effort from Moussa sailing over the bar, before the referee brought an end to the first half.


The visitors made a change at the break, with Toni Martinez taking the place of Joe Rothwell for the second half, which the Saddlers started as they had the first, with a goal in the opening minutes, which, this time, stood; Andreas Makris scoring his first goal for the team, when the ball fell to him eighteen yards from goal courtesy of a lovely pass from Edwards, the Saddlers striker showing superb control, chesting the ball down before firing a left-footed half-volley off the crossbar and into the net.

The visitors almost found an equaliser just two minutes after the Saddlers had taken the lead, with a cross from Maguire being turned onto the post by James O'Connor. McAleny got his head to the rebound, but the Walsall defences stood firm to clear the danger.

Fifty three minutes in, the visitors were awarded a free-kick, which Maguire played to Johnson, who did well to get the ball into the box, before being brought down, leading to penalty appeals from the travelling side and their supporters, but the referee was unmoved and waved play on. Moments later, Johnson won Oxford their first corner of the game, which came to nothing.

The visiting side continued to press, as they sought an equaliser, and in the fifty eighth minute, they called Etheridge into action again, when a right-wing cross from Maguire, following some good work from Martinez, was met by the head of McAleny, but the Walsall 'keeper was well placed to save.

In the sixty second minute, the Walsall bench opted to make their first change of the afternoon, replacing their record signing, Andreas Makris, who had opened his goal-scoring account with the club just fifteen minutes earlier, with Simeon Jackson. Three minutes after the Walsall change, the Oxford bench opted to make their second change of the game, introducing Kane Hemmings in place of Marvin Johnson, moments after Martinez won a corner for his side.

The match got back underway following the change in personnel, with the visitors taking their corner, which Walsall dealt with with ease. Oxford were quick to win the ball back though, and Maguire played in Martinez, who saw an effort blocked, before firing an effort miles over from the rebound.

In the sixty ninth minute, the Walsall bench opted to make their second change of the game, with Franck Moussa making way for George Dobson for the final twenty minutes.

Seventy five minutes in, Etheridge was caught out when a twenty five yard strike from Maguire deflected off O'Connor and rolled past the Walsall 'keeper, into the net to draw the sides level. A disappointing goal to concede.

With quarter of an hour still to play, the Saddlers made their third and final change of the afternoon, as Kieron Morris made way for Florent Cuvelier.

The Saddlers responded well to the Oxford goal, keeping possession well as they looked for a goal to take them back into the lead, and limiting their opponents time on the ball. Ten minutes from time, this culminated in an effort from Laird from distance curling over the bar. The visitors eventually won the ball back, with some good combination play from Hemmings and Martinez winning them a corner, which was headed over the bar by Raglan, under pressure.

With six minutes still to play, the visitors made their third and final change of the game, replacing Ryan Ledson with Josh Ruffels.

The visitors enjoyed a good spell of pressure as we headed into the final minutes of the match, and eighty five minutes in, they almost found a second goal from a twenty five yard, McAleny effort, but Etheridge managed to get just enough on the ball to tip it around the post. A superb save from the Walsall shot-stopper. The resulting corner came to McAleny, but this time his effort cleared the bar without troubling the man between the sticks.

Three additional minutes were awarded at the end of the regulation ninety, as the visitors continued to seek a late winner, with the Saddlers pushed back. Oxford won a corner moments before the full-time whistle, when a long-range shot from John Lundstram fell to McAleny, whose effort on goal was deflected wide. McAleny fired wide again from the corner, before the final whistle was blown, bringing an end to a frenetic game, with both sides taking a point.

HT | 0-0
GOALS | Makris (48') - Maguire (74')
ATTENDANCE | 5,417 (1,146 Oxford)
REFEREE | Darren Handley (Lancashire)

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