Saturday, 24 February 2018

Saturday, 24 February 2018

MATCH REPORT: Walsall 1 Blackburn Rovers 2

Here is our Match Report from Saturday's League One clash between Walsall and Blackburn Rovers.
Walsall were back in action on Saturday afternoon as they played host to Blackburn Rovers in their latest League One fixture of the season. We were in attendance, and you can read our match report below.

Walsall got the game underway, but were soon tested defensively when Elliott Bennett picked up the ball on the right and raced forwards, but Nicky Devlin was on hand for the Saddlers and turned the cross in behind. The resulting corner was swung in towards the far post by Blackburn Rovers captain, Charlie Mulgrew, connecting with the head of an unmarked Darragh Lenihan but the hosts were able to intercept the shot and clear.

The home side soon had the ball at the other end, where a tussle in the box allowed Joe Edwards to dispossess Ryan Nyambe but his effort on goal sailed wide. Moments later, with the ball back in-front of the Walsall goal, the visitors worked the ball to Bennett who sent a low, driven shot goal-wards, which George Dobson did well to block.

The visiting side continued to see much of the ball as the match progressed, with the Saddlers working hard to confine them to the midfield area, but seventeen minutes in, Blackburn found the breakthrough thanks to some good work from Adam Armstrong who collected an over-hit pass from Elliott and crossed the ball in to Danny Graham who bundled the ball over the line from close range.

Walsall responded well to falling behind, with Devlin doing well to work the ball to Dobson in shooting range, but the midfielders goal-bound effort was blocked just short of the line by Lenihan.

The game settled a little, with both sides enjoying spells of possession, but twenty six minutes in, Graham made it two, nodding home Bennett's cross with a little help from Jack Payne who headed the ball down and into his path.

Thirty three minutes in, Graham almost converted a third as another beautifully timed cross from Bennett picked him out at the near-post, but his flick trickled just wide of the upright ensuring his side stayed just the two goals ahead of their hosts. Rovers continued to dominate, and again came close to finding a third in the thirty seventh minute as Payne broke from inside the Blackburn half before slipping the ball through for Armstrong who was racing through on goal, but his powerful effort rattled the crossbar.

As we headed into the final of the opening forty-five minutes, the Saddlers won a corner, which Dobson swung in from the left, finding Edwards who hooked the ball back in for Jack Fitzwater who buried the ball in the roof of the net to bring his side back to within a goal of their visiting opposition.

Two additional minutes were added by the match officials, but neither side were able to make use of them and they trudged back to their respective dressing rooms with Blackburn leading by two-goals-to-one.

1 - 2

Blackburn got the second half underway, with the teams unchanged following the break. It wasn't long before Blackburn had the ball back in-front of the Walsall goal, but Armstrong's forty ninth minute effort sailed high and wide without troubling Liam Roberts between the sticks.

The Saddlers began to enjoy more of the ball as the game wore on, with Edwards unlucky not to score in the fifty second minute as his effort from the corner of the box was held by David Raya. Shortly thereafter, Walsall captain, Adam Chambers sent Devlin racing away down the right, but Justin Shaibu was unable to get to the crossed in ball ahead of Raya. Much better from the hosts, who finally began to enjoy some better spells on the ball.

Shortly after the hour mark, there was a brief moment of concern for the Saddlers as Edwards stayed down, but he was soon up and able to continue.

In the sixty second minute, Blackburn opted to make their first change of the game, introducing Dominic Samuel in place of Danny Graham. Just two minutes later, the Saddlers made their first substitution of the afternoon, with Julien Ngoy replacing Justin Shaibu.

Sixty six minutes in, there was a break in play as Edwards again went down with what appeared to be a knee injury, resulting in the Saddlers making their second change of the afternoon as he left the field, to be replaced by Maz Kouhyar. Rovers also took the opportunity to make another change to their line-up, introducing Marcus Antonsson in place of Corry Evans.

The Rovers substitutes were soon in the thick of the action, as Antonsson swung a cross in from the left in the sixty ninth minute, finding the head of Samuel, but Samuel's downward header bounced before sailing over the bar.

Walsall were awarded a free-kick in the seventy fourth minute, which Erhun Oztumer swung in with his left foot, but Raya was alert and got his fingertips to the ball to tip it over the bar. The Saddlers continued to press, and moments later a through ball from Dobson found Ngoy in a dangerous position, but Raya again did well to get to the ball to deny the equaliser.

In the seventy ninth minute, Blackburn opted to make their third and final change of the afternoon, bringing on Amarii Bell in place of Jack Payne as they looked to limit the Saddlers chances to tie the game.

The visiting side were awarded a free-kick in the eighty third minute, which Mulgrew whipped into the box for Lenihan, who headed the ball towards the Walsall goal, but Roberts was on hand to claim.

With eighty five minutes on the clock, George Dobson became the first player to see yellow, as he picked up a booking for a foul on Samuel.

There was a brief halt to proceedings in the eighty eighth minute, as Mulgrew received treatment after being caught by Ngoy's high boot, for which the Walsall man was booked and Mulgrew was eventually able to continue.

Six additional minutes were added to end the game, but neither side were able to make use of them and the referee eventually brought the game to an end with Blackburn's slender lead intact. The Saddlers much better in the second half, but outclassed in the first, with two first half goals proving enough for Blackburn to take all three points.

1 - 2
Fitzwater (45')

Graham (17')
Graham (26')
Attendance: 6,893
Referee: Ross Joyce

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