MATCH REPORT | Bury 1 Walsall 0

Jon Whitney's side travelled North to Gigg Lane where they took on Bury in the opening game of the 2017/18 Sky Bet League One campaign.
On Saturday afternoon the Saddlers opened their League One campaign away to Bury. We were in attendance, and you can read our match report below.

Erhun Oztumer got Walsall's 2017/18 campaign underway at Gigg Lane. The Saddlers started positively, getting forward from the off, but the referee spotted a foul on Tom Aldred and awarded Bury a free-kick in their own box. Just a minute later, with the ball up at the other end, the hosts were awarded a penalty, when their captain, Stephen Dawson was tripped in the box by Luke Leahy. Jermaine Beckford stepped up to take the spot-kick, but Walsall 'keeper, Mark Gillespie guessed correctly and got down to keep the ball out.

Moments after the penalty save, Gillespie was again called into action by Beckford, but the man between the sticks was again equal to it, getting down well to his left to make the save. A superb start to the season from the Saddlers shot-stopper.

Seven minutes in, Florent Cuvelier found himself in space, twenty five yards out. The Belgian midfielder did well to work the ball into position before dragging a low, right-footed effort wide of the post. After the frenetic start, the pace slowed a little as the teams settled into the game.

As we passed the quarter hour mark, Walsall almost opened the scoring, when a lovely move from Kieron Morris and captain Adam Chambers, culminated in a low drive from Simeon Jackson deflecting off Dawson and clipping the base of the post. The resulting corner came to nothing, but the Saddlers quickly launched another attack. Cuvelier and Morris again linking up to carve out a chance for Morris, who fired a weak left-footed effort in from twenty yards out, which made for an easy save for Joe Murphy in the Bury goal.

The following ten or so minutes were a quiet affair, with much of the play centred in the midfield area. As we reached the half hour mark, the hosts won a corner, getting forward thanks to a Greg Leigh throw in which was played into the box by Beckford. The Saddlers defences were on hand to put the ball out of play and again to deal with the resulting corner moments later.

Thirty seven minutes in, the Saddlers launched a counter-attack, with Cuvelier and Jackson linking up well to get the ball to Oztumer, who cut the ball back for Jackson but put too much on it, resulting in the ball going out of play. The hosts soon had the ball back at the other end, where a long-range, right-footed effort from Chris Maguire sailed wide of the upright.

One additional minute was awarded at the end of the opening forty five, as Leahy received the first caution of the game for a foul on Craig Jones, for which Bury were also awarded a free-kick on the right wing. Just seconds before the half-time whistle blew, Maguire took played the ball in from the set-piece, finding a Walsall head, which deflected the ball on to Beckford who headed home from close range to put his side ahead heading into the break.

A disappointing end to the half for the travelling side, who had been arguably the better side through much of the first half.


Maguire got the second half underway, with both teams unchanged. The half started quietly, but fifty minutes in, there was a brief pause to proceedings as Jay O'Shea received treatment following a foul on him just outside the Walsall box. The resulting free-kick was taken by Maguire, who tried to catch Gillespie off guard, but the Walsall 'keeper was able to gather.

Three minutes after picking up the knock, O'Shea's game came to a premature end, unable to continue he was replaced by Zeli Ismail.

Little of note happened in the seven minutes following the Bury change. On the hour mark, the hosts decided to make a further change to their line-up, introducing Tsun Dai in place of Nicky Ajose.

Moments after the Bury change, Leahy fired an effort goal-wards as he looked to bring the Saddlers back on level terms, but his shot sailed wide of the post, without troubling the man between the sticks. Seconds later, back at the other end, the hosts looked to double their advantage with Maguire firing a thunderous effort in from the edge of the box, but Gillespie was alert in the Walsall goal and palmed the effort clear.

With sixty seven minutes on the clock, the hosts were awarded a free-kick outside the Walsall box. Maguire's twenty five yard effort looked good, but sailed just inches wide of the right-hand upright. A huge let off for the Saddlers who could easily have found themselves two goals down.

The Walsall bench opted to make their first changes in the seventy fourth minute, with Florent Cuvelier and Simeon Jackson making way for Maz Kouhyar and Amadou Bakayoko as the Saddlers looked to get back on level terms with their hosts.

As we reached the final ten minutes, a trip from Jon Guthrie on Ismail in the box, resulted in a second penalty being awarded to the hosts. With Beckford having missed his earlier spot-kick, Maguire took over penalty duties. His strike was good, but Gillespie again went the right way and  turned the ball onto the post to keep his side just the one goal behind. Some fabulous goalkeeping on display.

Four minutes later, the Saddlers saw a fabulous chance to draw level missed, when Oztumer lifted a lovely ball over the top to Kouhyar, but the defender's shot was pushed wide by an alert Murphy, with the resulting corner coming to nothing.

Moments later, the Walsall bench opted to make their final change of the afternoon, as Kieron Morris made way for Mitchel Candlin.

Little happened as the clock rapidly ran down, the hosts seemingly content to let the time play out, with their one-nil lead intact. In the eighty eighth minute, Bury made their final substitution of the afternoon, replacing Chris Maguire with Ryan Lowe.

Four additional minutes were awarded at the end of the regulation ninety, but there was little further action of note, as the hosts did what was needed to keep their slender lead intact, though there were two late cards for the hosts, as recently introduced Ryan Lowe was cautioned for a high tackle in the ninety second minute, a minute before Jermaine Beckford picked up a yellow for a trailing foot. The hosts did, however, see out the match with their one goal advantage in place, as the Saddlers struggled to get forward in the latter stages. A disappointing opening day result for Walsall, but a performance on which they can build as the season progresses.

HT | 1-0
GOAL | Beckford (45+1')
ATTENDANCE | 4,240 (681 Walsall)
REFEREE | Mark Heywood

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