Saturday, 31 March 2018

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Match Report: Walsall 0 Portsmouth 1

5:17 pm Saturday, 31 March 2018
As we near the final few weeks of the 2017/18 League One campaign, Dean Keates' Saddlers played host to Kenny Jackett's Portsmouth at Banks's Stadium.
Dean Keates' Saddlers were back in action on Saturday afternoon they took on Play-Off chasing Pompey. We were in attendance, and you can read our Match Report below.

Walsall got the match underway but it was Portsmouth who looked the more likely to score in the opening moments, with Kal Naismith setting up Jamal Lowe just a minute in, but the Saddlers defences were alert and cleared the danger. Keen to get the upper hand themselves, the Saddlers were soon on the attack themselves but good work from Dion Donohue and goalkeeper, Luke McGee ensured they were unsuccessful in their efforts.

Eight minutes in, a clever flick on from Naismith set up Brett Pitman, but the Portsmouth captain scuffed his effort allowing Liam Roberts to claim. Four minutes later, after a brief midfield tussle, the visitors again worked the ball forwards, with Gareth Evans playing the ball in from the right for Ben Close who fired a shot straight into the waiting ‘keepers arms.

After a brief spell of Walsall possession, the visiting side got forward again, with but Pitman getting on the end of a cross to glance a header wide. Portsmouth were awarded a free-kick in a dangerous position moments later, with Evans ball to the far post finding Jack Whatmough, but the defender was unable to guide the ball home.

Walsall continued to struggle to get into the game, with Portsmouth dominating possession, and twenty-four minutes in, the visitors almost made their domination pay, as a neat cross from Evans met the head of Pitman, but thankfully for the Saddlers the ball sailed just wide of the post, keeping the scores tied.

It wasn’t long before the vising team had again worked their way into shooting range, with Close firing a shot in, but a deflection inside the box allowed Roberts to make the save. Two minutes later, a throw from Donohue set Close up for another shot, this time inside the box, but the ball sailed just wide of the near post.

The first yellow card of the game was shown to Nicky Devlin in the thirty sixth minute for a foul on Naismith.

After a long spell of Portsmouth pressure, the Saddlers created their first real chance of the match forty minutes in, with Kieron Morris firing a low twenty-yard effort just wide of the upright.

Forty-three minutes in, Dion Donohue joined Devlin in the referee’s notebook, picking up a yellow card for a foul on Morris.

One additional minute was played to end the half, but neither side was able to alter the score-line before the break and the sides headed off for their refreshments with Walsall surely the happier of the teams, having been on the backfoot for most of the opening forty-five.

0 - 0

The teams returned unchanged following the break, and Portsmouth got the action back underway. Portsmouth started as they had left off, on the front-foot and five minutes in saw the first chance of the second half go begging when an Evans cross was met by Donohue who fired a powerful effort over the bar.

The visiting side continued to dominate, and moments later, created another scoring opportunity, but Naismith’s shot from the edge of the box deflected wide. The resulting corner was swung into the box by Evans, but Whatmough’s headed effort from the cross sailed wide of the far post without troubling the Walsall shot-stopper.

Shortly before the hour mark, Amadou Bakayoko picked up a yellow card for a late challenge on McGee.

Sixty-five minutes in, Portsmouth again went close, with Naismith firing a low, twenty-five-yard effort inches wide of the upright. Moments later, Naismith turned provider as he played the ball in to the back post, but Pitman was just unable to get a touch on it.

With sixty-seven minutes on the clock, Dean Keates opted to make his first Saddlers switch, introducing Maz Kouhyar into the fray in place of Julien Ngoy.

After a quiet five minutes, a second Walsall substitution was made, with George Dobson taking the place of Florent Cuvelier for the final twenty minutes.

In the seventy third minute, the Saddlers created arguably their best chance of the afternoon, as a powerful cross was swung in by Leahy. Bakayoko got to the ball first but was unable to keep his shot down and the ball sailed over the bar.

Seventy-six minutes in, Jon Guthrie was added to the referee’s expanding notebook as he received a yellow card for a foul on Lowe.

Portsmouth opted to make their first change of the afternoon in the seventy-seventh minute, with Ben Close making way for Conor Ronan.

The visitors finally found the breakthrough in the seventy ninth minute, as Lowe played the ball into the path of Evans, who needed no second invitation to fire a low effort home.

Eighty-four minutes in, the Saddlers made their third and final change of the afternoon, replacing Erhun Oztumer with Justin Shaibu for the final few minutes of the game.

Four minutes from time, the referee’s yellow card got another outing, as it was flashed at Jack Whatmore for a foul, and just a minute later it was out again as Kieron Morris picked up a booking for a foul on Nathan Thompson.

Five additional minutes were added to end the game, and with just seconds remaining, Whatmough turned a Saddlers free-kick behind giving the hosts a late chance at an equaliser. The corner was swung in by Dobson and met by Kouhyar, but the defenders headed effort sailed wide of the post ending Walsall’s chances of taking a point from the encounter as the referee called time.

Another disappointing afternoon for Walsall, who never truly looked likely to take anything from the game against a visiting side who were able to create far more chances than their hosts. The Saddlers lucky not to slip further in the goal-difference rankings, which could be all important should this poor form continue.

0 - 1

Evans (79')
Attendance: 5,159 (1,458)
Referee: Darren Handley

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