Saturday, 9 September 2017

Saturday, 9 September 2017

MATCH REPORT | Bristol Rovers 2 Walsall 1

Here is our match report from Saturday afternoon's League One clash between Bristol Rovers and Walsall.
On Saturday afternoon Jon Whitney's Walsall journeyed South to the Memorial Stadium where they took on Bristol Rovers in their latest League One fixture of the season. Here is our match report.

Bristol Rovers began the game brightly, testing the Saddlers defences early on and winning a corner in just the second minute. The flag-kick was played short to Lee Brown, but the Rovers defender saw his long-range effort blocked as the visitors continued to defend well. Unfortunately, that did not last long, as a slip from Jon Guthrie in the fifth minute allowed Rory Gaffney to get behind the Walsall defences. Taking on Mark Gillespie one-on-one, he chipped the ball neatly over the Saddler's shot-stopper, to gift his side an early lead.

The sides took some time to settle into the game after the early opener, but in the tenth minute a delightful cross from Joe Partington looked to be headed for Gaffney in a dangerous position. Fortunately for the Saddlers, James Wilson made a crucial interception, heading the ball clear. Some good defensive work on display from the visitors, despite the unfortunate slip which led to the early goal.

The Saddlers created their first real chance of the game in the twelfth minute, when a lovely pass from Daniel Agyei set up Amadou Bakayoko inside the box, but the striker was unable to execute from a tight angle, and his low effort flashed across the face of goal and wide of the post. The hosts were quick to get the ball back up to the other end, with Tom Nichols doing well to set up Billy Bodin, but the twenty five yard shot from Bodin was parried by Gillespie in the Walsall goal and Gaffney was unable to convert the follow-up.

The Saddlers began to see more of the ball as the match continued, and sixteen minutes in, were unlucky not to level the scores when an in-swinging corner from Erhun Oztumer was spilled by Sam Slocombe, but the Rovers 'keeper was able to gather the loose ball at the second attempt, before the visitors could get bodies to it. Moments later, Oztumer was again involved, setting up Bakayoko with a delightful ball over the top, but the big striker was unable to control with his first touch, and Slocombe was able to claim.

Undeterred, the Saddlers continued to press, and again tested the man between the sticks in the eighteenth minute, with Wilson picking out Luke Leahy with a cross in-field, but Leahy's headed effort was an easy one for Slocombe to deal with. The hosts were then able to clear the ball from their area, and enjoyed more possession as the game became something of a midfield battle, with neither side able to get the ball forward.

In the twenty ninth minute, there was a brief pause in proceedings as Walsall captain James Chambers received treatment, but he was soon back on his feet and able to continue, whilst Ollie Clarke became the first player to receive a yellow card, for the foul.

The match continued to centre in the midfield as it got back underway, but Gillespie was tested in the thirty fifth minute, as Bodin was found in space by a teammate, with a long ball forward, but the midfielders low effort was cleared by the Walsall shot-stopper. Moments later, the hosts won a corner, thanks to some good work from Gaffney, but Lockyer, in space, was unable to guide his headed effort home.

Moments later, up at the other end, the Saddlers saw another chance to equalise missed, as a well placed Slocombe gathered a headed Bakayoko effort with ease. Walsall then won a free-kick in the forty second minute, which Oztumer whipped towards Leahy who was unmarked in good position, but the defenders headed effort sailed agonisingly wide of the upright when he really should have levelled the scores.

Two additional minutes were played at the end of the first half, but neither side was able to change the score-line, as the early goal proved enough to see the hosts take a narrow lead into the break.


The second half got underway with both sides lining up as they had done in the first half. Just two minutes into the half, James Wilson was added to the referee's notebook, picking up a yellow card for a poorly timed tackle. The visitors, looking to get back on level terms, almost scored in the forty ninth minute but Bakayoko's powerful twenty yard effort sailed just wide of the top corner.

There was a brief pause in play in the fifty first minute as Chris Lines required treatment, but he was soon up and able to continue as the match back underway.

With fifty seven minutes on the clock, the hosts made their first changes of the match, introducing Dan Leadbitter and Ellis Harrison in place of Chris Lines and Rory Gaffney. The Saddlers also opted to make their first substitution, bringing on Tyler Roberts to replace Daniel Agyei.

The Saddlers found the breakthrough moments after the change, as a corner kick from Joe Edwards was met in the air by Wilson who headed the ball emphatically into the top corner, bringing his side level.

Two minutes after Slocombe was beaten by Wilson, the Rovers 'keeper  found himself the recipient of a red card when he came out of his box to bring down Bakayoko who was through on goal. The fall-out saw Alexis Andre-Jr brought on to take his place in goal, as Tom Nichols made way.

The Saddlers won a free-kick in the sixty third minute, which Oztumer fired goal-wards. The substitute goalkeeper was alert and got down well to save, tipping the ball wide and the resulting corner came to nothing.

There was little action of note during the following ten minutes, as the Saddlers tried in vain to make their man-advantage tell. The visitors won a free-kick in the seventy fifth minute for a foul by Leadbitter on Bakayoko, for which Leadbitter was booked. Harrison was on hand to head the ball out before Wilson could get to it from the free-kick, and the resulting corner came to nothing.

A delightful curling effort from Edwards looked likely to give the Saddlers the lead in the seventy eighth minute, but Andre-Jr was able to tip the ball over the bar, resulting in another corner for the visitors, which they were unable to make use of.  The referee booked Joe Edwards and Billy Bodin in the seventy eighth and ninth minutes respectively for fouls.

The Saddlers made their second change of the afternoon in the eighty second minute, with Zeli Ismail taking the place of Nicky Devlin. It was only four minutes later, that Ismail joined the ranks in the referee's notebook, picking up a yellow card for a late challenge on Lee Brown.

With just three minutes of the regulation ninety still to play, the hosts re-took their early lead, when a loose ball in the area was picked up by Clarke, who calmly slotted a right-footed shot into the bottom left corner from close range.

Six additional minutes were awarded at the end of the half, just as a shot from Ismail from inside the box was deflected into the arms of Andre-Jr.

In the ninety second minute, Tom Lockyer and Tyler Roberts picked up yellow cards for fouls committed against their oppostition.

The Saddlers were unlucky not to score a late equaliser, with Bakayoko going close with a twenty yard volley three minutes into injury time, before Shaun Donnellan saw a shot tipped over the bar by the Rovers 'keeper in the final minute. Ultimately though, they were unable to make their extra man pay, as the hosts took all three points, winning the game by two-goals-to-one.

Gaffney (5') O'Clarke (86') - Wilson (58')
ATTENDANCE | 8,544 (482)
REF | John Brooks

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