MATCH REPORT | Northampton Town 2 Walsall 1

Here is our Match Report from Saturday's League One clash between Northampton Town and Walsall.
Jon Whitney's Saddlers returned to action on Saturday afternoon as they took on Northampton Town at Sixfields Stadium. We were in attendance, and you can read our match report below.

The match got off to a frenetic start, and within two minutes of kick-off, a mistake from Northampton Town 'keeper, David Cornell who came out of his box and tangled with Aaron Pierre, allowed Amadou Bakayoko to pick up the loose ball and cross to the waiting Erhun Oztumer who coolly slotted home from close range to gift his side an early lead.

The Saddlers advantage was short lived, as, in just the fourth minute, Chris Long headed home an equaliser, following up from a brilliant save from Walsall 'keeper, Mark Gillespie who denied John-Joe O'Toole a goal. A fantastic opening five minutes, with both sides capitalising on their chances.

The early pace continued, but in the eighth minute there was a short break in play as Zeli Ismail received treatment following a clash with the Northampton goalkeeper, but he was soon up and able to continue. The Saddlers felt they should have been awarded a penalty following the incident, but the referee was unmoved by their appeals.

Bakayoko and Oztumer continued to combine well for the Saddlers, and almost created a second goal thirteen minutes in, but Oztumer's left-footed volley took a deflection en-route and sailed wide of the upright, and Cornell was well placed to catch the ball in from the resulting corner to keep the scores tied.

Walsall continued to see much of the ball, and in the sixteenth minute, Kieron Morris almost created another scoring chance as he flashed a ball across the face of goal from the left wing, but Northampton captain, David Buchanan was on hand for the hosts to hack the ball away off the line.

There was another break in play in the nineteenth minute following a late challenge from Matt Crooks, which left Flo Cuvelier writhing in pain. Following treatment, the midfielder attempted to re-join the action but soon went down again, forcing an early change to the Saddlers line-up, with Joe Edwards taking his place.

With twenty six minutes on the clock, the Saddlers were awarded a free-kick in a dangerous position. Oztumer played the ball in to Bakayoko who controlled well before sending a low shot across the face of goal and wide of the far post. Moments later, a Walsall free-kick from the other end, created another chance as Gillespie fired a long ball forward for Bakayoko, who flicked it on to Zeli Ismail, but the on-loan midfielders twenty yard volley sailed over the crossbar without troubling the man between the sticks.

The pace slowed a little as we past the half hour mark, but with just four minutes left to play before the break, Long picked up the ball twenty yards from goal, with space to shoot and fired a driven right-footed effort into the bottom corner to put his side ahead.

Two additional minutes were played to end the half, but neither side were able to create any further chances and Northampton Town took a two-goal-to-one lead into the break.

2 - 1

Both sides returned unchanged for the second half, which began with an early chance for the hosts, as Long, looking for his hat-trick, worked the ball into the box, before the Saddlers defences crowded him out. Lewis McGugan got to the loose ball first, but his effort was deflected behind by Jon Guthrie and the resulting corner came to nothing.

Northampton continued to dominate as the match continued, but were unable to create any further chances of note until the fifty seventh minute, when some nice play from Sam Foley played Buchanan in, but Buchanan's cross into the box was turned behind and the resulting corner was cleared by the Saddlers defences.

Walsall took a while to get going in the second half and it wasn't until we past the hour mark that they created anything of note, but Oztumer's ball in towards the back-post in the sixty second minute had just a little too much on it, slipping behind for a goal-kick.

In the sixty fifth minute, Sam Foley picked up a yellow card for a foul on Morris. With the Saddlers side in need of a shake-up, Jon Whitney and his touchline team then opted to make their second substitution of the afternoon, replacing Kieron Morris with Daniel Agyei.

Moments after his introduction into the game, Agyei was almost played in by Ismail, but Pierre was on hand for the hosts and got to the ball just ahead of the recently introduced man.

With seventy one minutes on the clock, Joe Edwards was awarded a yellow card for a late challenge on Long. The resulting free-kick was fired goal-wards from thirty five yards by Grimes, who had spotted Gillespie off his line, but the Walsall shot-stopper got across and managed to turn the ball behind, with the resulting corner coming to nothing.

With just fifteen minutes remaining, the Saddlers almost drew level, thanks to a neat half-volley from Luke Leahy, but his long range effort  sailed wide of Cornell's left post.

In the seventy seventh minute, Daniel Agyei became the next player to see the yellow card brandished, for a foul on Pierre who was driving forwards with purpose. Moments after the re-start, the hosts went close to extending their lead, but Crooks effort from the edge of the area was blocked, before Long picked up the loose ball and fired an effort into a Walsall player, with the deflection enough to turn the ball behind.

With just eleven minutes still to play, a foul on Oztumer resulted in Matt Grimes joining the ranks in the referee's notebook as he too was booked. Two minutes later, another name was added to the ever-growing list of cautioned players, as Matt Crooks saw yellow.

Eighty two minutes in, the Saddlers opted to make their third and final change of the afternoon as they sought to get back into the game. Liam Kinsella the man to make way as Nicky Devlin joined the fray.

There was little further action of note as the final ten minutes hurried past, though Ash Taylor saw a half chance deflected behind in the eighty sixth minute, before the resulting corner was cleared.

Four additional minutes were awarded at the end of the regulation ninety, and in the second of them, Amadou Bakayoko saw red, being sent off for a shocking late challenge on Foley. The incident angered the home team, leading to Matt Crooks picking up a second yellow card for dissent, which saw him also sent for an early shower.

Northampton, hoping to see out the final few moments without incident, took the opportunity to make a change to their line-up, introducing Ryan McGivern in place of Lewis McGugan, and moments after the re-start, they then made another change, bringing on Regan Poole for the final seconds in place of match winner, Chris Long.

The breaks in play in the final few minutes enough to ensure that Walsall were unable to create any further chances, as Northampton took all three points, winning by two-goals-to-one. A disappointing afternoon for the Saddlers, who started so brightly but were just unable to really get going again after the break, bringing their winning streak to an abrupt end.

2 - 1
Long (4')
Long (41')
Oztumer (2')

ATTENDANCE - 5,055 (394)
REFEREE - Charles Breakspear

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