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MATCH REPORT | Walsall 0 Bristol Rovers 0

Here is our Match Report from Boxing Day's Sky Bet League One clash between Walsall and Bristol Rovers.
The Saddlers returned to action on Boxing Day as they took on Bristol Rovers at Banks's Stadium. We were in attendance, and you can read our match report below.

The game got off to a bright start, with Walsall winning the first corner inside the opening three minutes. Zeli Ismail swung the ball in, but Ollie Clarke was on hand for Bristol Rovers, at the near post and headed the ball clear. The hosts continued to seek early opportunities, and almost played Erhun Oztumer in in the sixth minute, but some quick thinking from Adam Smith saw the Rovers 'keeper off his line to intercept ahead of the onrushing midfielder.

The hosts continued to see much of the ball as the match progressed, but ten minutes in, the visiting side did win themselves a free-kick on the halfway line, but Daniel Agyei ensured they were unable to make use of it, winning the ball back for his team. Four minutes later, Walsall shot-stopper, Mark Gillespie was called into action for the first time in the match, getting down well to prevent a twenty-five yard effort from Billy Bodin finding the target.

With twenty-one minutes on the clock, the Saddlers almost opened the scoring, with Agyei launching a fabulous run which saw him pass between two defenders and culminated in a right-footed shot at goal, but Smith was alert in goal and pulled off a stretching save to palm the effort away. The visiting side responded immediately, with Bodin darting towards the Walsall area before firing a weak, left-footed shot towards goal, but Gillespie had no problems gathering.

In the twenty-third minute, Luke Leahy became the first player to pick up a yellow card, for a foul on Bodin. Moments later, the match was halted temporarily as the Walsall man tended to an injury, but he was soon able to continue.

The hosts continued to search for an opening goal and looked in line to find one in the thirty-first minute, with a deep cross into the Rovers area from Ismail headed for Kieron Morris who was waiting at the far-post, but Daniel Leadbitter rose well and headed clear. Two minutes later, the visitors saw a chance go begging as a free-kick from Bodin into the box was cleared only as far as Ollie Clarke who sent his shot racing wide of the upright.

With thirty-six minutes on the clock, the action was paused whilst Daniel Leadbitter received treatment on the pitch. It was soon decided that the defender would be unable to play any further part and Marc Bola was sent on to take his place.

There was little action of note following the change, and after one additional minute was played, the teams headed in for their half-time refreshments with scores still tied.

0 - 0

The sides returned unchanged after the break and the second half got underway. Rovers started the half brightly, with Liam Sercombe almost setting up Tom Nichols, but Gillespie raced off his line to claim. Moments later, with the ball back at the other end, Tom Broadbent was on hand for the visitors to prevent Agyei crossing the ball into the box.

Seven minutes into the half, Gillespie was again called upon, pulling off a superb save to deny Nichols who had worked his way in behind the Saddlers defences. Moments later, Chris Lines almost opened the scoring with some help from a Kory Roberts sliced deflection, but fortunately for Walsall, the ball ballooned wide of the post and the scores remained tied.

With fifty-eight minutes on the clock, Ollie Clarke became the second player on the receiving end of a yellow card, picking up a booking for a foul on Walsall captain, Adam Chambers.

As we headed past the hour mark, Chambers had a chance to open the scoring, firing a delightful twenty-five-yard effort goal-wards, but Smith was alert and held well.

Sixty-three minutes in, Bristol Rovers opted to make their second substitution of the afternoon, introducing Rory Gaffney into the fray in place of Billy Bodin. The Saddlers also opted to make a change to their line-up, with Simeon Jackson taking the place of Daniel Agyei.

In the sixty-seventh minute, the recently introduced Jackson almost converted a delightful cross from Leahy, but his headed effort sailed inches over the crossbar and out for a goal-kick. Moments later, Smith was tested in the Rovers goal, as Ismail worked his way into the box and fired a low drive towards goal, but the visiting 'keeper was alert and saved well. The hosts felt they should have been awarded a penalty minutes later, as Oztumer was felled by Lines, but the referee was unmoved and waved play on.

Undeterred, the hosts continued to press forwards, with Smith again being tested in the seventieth minute, pulling off a diving save to deny Joe Edwards a goal from twenty yards out.

With seventy-one minutes on the clock, the visiting bench opted to make their third and final change of the afternoon, introducing Stuart Sinclair for the run in, in place of Tom Nichols.

The match became something of a midfield battle as we headed rapidly towards the final whistle, with neither side able to create much going forwards, but in the eighty-first minute, the visiting side won their first corner of the game. Lines swung the ball into the area, where it was met by the head of Nicky Devlin and cleared.

A mistake from Roberts in the eighty-fourth minute almost allowed Sercombe a shot on goal as the Rovers midfielder pounced on the sliced clearance and trotted into the box, but Jon Guthrie got back well to make a sliding tackle to clear the danger. In the eighty-fifth minute, Tom Lockyer was shown a yellow card for a foul on Guthrie.

As the final minute of normal time was played, Bristol Rovers almost found themselves ahead courtesy of a rasping thirty-yard effort from Gaffney, but the ball sailed just wide of the upright, ensuring the sides remained level as they headed into four additional minutes.

There was little further action of note, and the final whistle sounded with the sides as they had started the day, level with no goals on the scoreboard. A bit of a damp squib of a game, with few decent chances and nobody really setting themselves apart, though another point on the board is always welcome.

0 - 0

ATTENDANCE - 5,759 (1,103)
REFEREE - Robert Lewis

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