Match Report: Cheltenham Town 1 Walsall 2

Here is our Match Report from Saturday afternoon's pre-season friendly clash between Dean Keates' Walsall and Gary Johnson's Cheltenham Town.
The Boys from the Bescot arrived at this match on the back of their recent two-nil victory over Ajax Amsterdam, a result which saw summer signing Andy Cook grab a goal in either half to secure a famous win at Banks's Stadium.

The home side, who had unveiled former Wolves striker Liam McAlinden in the build-up to kick-off, got the game underway and enjoyed a good spell of possession in the early goings with McAlinden the target of Manny Duku's powerful pass. The opening came to nothing as the match continued.

With around seven minutes on the clock our hosts went close to grabbing the game's opening goal as Walsall's defence struggled to contain their attack with plenty of miscommunication thrown in for good measure. Summer signings Duku and McAlinden combined well to find fellow new arrival Jacob Maddox in space, with the latter hitting the inside of the post before seeing the ball roll across goal to safety.

Walsall struggled to come up with anything of note for the opening twenty minutes and could've gone behind from the penalty spot as the ever-present Duku earned a spot kick when Saddlers trialist Tomáš Egert failed to cope as the attacker looked to turn him and was subsequently brought down.

Luckily for the Saddlers, Duku didn't have it all his own way as he regained his feet to slip the ball wide of Liam Roberts' goal. The game remaining all-square, but with plenty to worry about for the travelling Saddlers.

Winger Josh Ginnelly was the first Saddler to force Cheltenham stopper Scott Flinders into any action worthy of note as his edge-of-the-area curling effort needed to be beaten away by the former Barnsley and Crystal Palace 'keeper. Not a huge test, but possibly something for Walsall to build upon.

Dean Keates' men continued to look for openings and forced Town captain Johnny Mullins into action as he headed the ball clear following a series of Saddlers corners. Some signs that the travelling side had finally settled into the match.

Liam Roberts also had to remain alert as McAlinden got behind the ball and forced a save. Some neat play from the former Wolves prospect, who showed some good skill to create room for the effort.

With less than ten minutes of the half remaining Walsall could've grabbed the games opening goal as first-year pro Dylan Parker got free down the right wing and pulled the ball back for fellow striker Andy Cook, who could only head the ball wide of goal. Another positive attack from the Saddlers with Parker continuing to have a promising pre-season.

Walsall had a claim to a penalty of their own late in the half as Andy Cook appeared to be being held by Will Boyle as he looked to take control of the ball. The Saddlers' bench was adamant but the referee allowed play to continue as our hosts cleared the danger.

The Saddlers didn't dwell on the issue for long as they soon took the lead thanks to a Nicky Devlin thunderbolt. The defender, who was seen running into space by Zeli Ismail, drove into the box and lashed the ball across the 'keeper and into the top corner of the net. A superb finish from the Scottish right-back.

0 - 1

Walsall made a change ahead of the second-half as Kieron Morris replaced Dylan Parker as manager Dean Keates continued to look at his options ahead of next weekend's season-opening clash with Plymouth Argyle.

The second-half got underway but was soon paused as Johnny Mullins required some treatment from the Cheltenham physio. He was OK to continue soon after.

The Saddlers started the half off well and went close to doubling their lead soon after the second restart as Zeli Ismail lifted the ball just over the bar following Josh Ginnelly's pass. A speedy attack from the Saddlers as they looked to round off their pre-season campaign with a win.

Andy Cook continued to pose a threat and again went close to hitting the back of the net as he played a nice one-two with Ismail before lifting the ball over the bar. Fellow summer signing Ginnelly was also in the attack and way well have been in a better position to score.

Cheltenham midfielder Duku also remained a major part of the action as he combined with Joshua Debayo to slip the ball just wide of goal. Debayo's left-wing cross causing plenty of concern in Walsall's penalty area.

Shortly after our hosts had made a couple of changes, Saddlers left-back Luke Leahy almost grabbed his first and Walsall's second goal of the game as he met George Dobson's corner kick with a glancing header, the ball slipping just past the post.

Cheltenham manager Gary Johnson continued to ring the changes as the half went on, taking a little bit of the momentum out of proceedings.

Walsall continued to push for another goal and would go on to hit the post again as Egert, who had started the game fairly shakily, got into the opposition area and onto the end a Leahy cross, sadly he could only power the ball off the outside of the post as our host remained within a goal of parity. A strong header from the former Burton man who continues to seek a deal ahead of the upcoming campaign.

Shortly after Town's Nigel Atangana and McAlinden had combined to lift the ball over the Walsall bar the visitors made another change with Maziar Kouhyar taking to the field, replacing Ginnelly. The home side also made further changes with three more taking to the field.

The Saddlers were soon back on the attack with Kouhyar wasting very little time as he broke into the area and slammed an effort off the foot of the post. The ball rebounded to the feet of Ismail who shockingly lifted the ball over with a goal there for the taking.

Dean Keates' men didn't dwell on the miss and would go on to double their lead with around ten minutes of the match remaining. Substitute Kouhyar found Ismail in space with the latter then forcing Flinders into a save, his effort was too much for the stopper as the rebound fell for Cook who made no mistake, slotting home from close range.

Shortly after the goal Walsall went on to make two more changes as Adam Chambers and Zeli Ismail were replaced by Liam Kinsella and Mitchel Candlin, plenty of youth and experience on display.

Sadly for the Saddlers their sheet wouldn't remain clean as trialist Egert was adjudged to have fouled second-half substitute Jordon Forster inside the area. Fellow sub Brian Graham stepped up and slotted the ball home from the spot, giving the home side a late glimmer of hope. Both Keates and Egert were furious with the match officials, with the penalty decision appearing to be quite harsh.

There were no further goals as the Saddlers ended their pre-season with a win. A solid display from Dean Keates' men who grew into the match and, despite a last minute scare, deservedly secured the win.

1 - 2
Graham PEN (89')

Devlin (45')
Cook (80')
Attendance: 1,130
222 Walsall
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