Carabao Cup Match Report: Tranmere Rovers 1 Walsall 3

Here is our Match Report from Tuesday evening's Carabao Cup - First Round clash between Walsall and hosts, Tranmere Rovers.
Walsall arrived at this evening's match in good form having taken four points from a possible six in their opening League One games. The Saddlers exited the competition at the First Round stage last season and were keen to go at least one step further as tackled Micky Mellon's side at Prenton Park.

Walsall got the match under-way, and soon had the ball in Tranmere Rovers box, but the cross aimed for Andy Cook was cut out by Manny Monthe at the back post before the Striker could get to it.

It wasn’t long before the home side created an opening of their own as, finding himself in space twenty-five yards from goal, Ollie Banks unleashed a thunderous strike, which luckily for the Saddlers, was a fraction too high, grazing the bar as it headed behind for a goal-kick.

Tranmere continued to look the brighter as the match continued, though both sides enjoyed good spells of possession in the early goings. Seven minutes in, another ball was played into the box aimed at Cook, but it had a little too much on it and sailed out of play. Two minutes later, the hosts emulated the move, with Paul Mullin the man unable to get to the ball in time.

Rovers got forward again in the eleventh minute, with Banks finding space on the edge of the area to fire an effort goal-wards, but Chris Dunn got down well and was able to palm the ball out of play. The resulting corner fell to Mullin, but the forwards downward header trickled wide of the post without causing the Walsall shot-stopper any concern.

The Saddlers began to gain the upper-hand as the match progressed, getting the ball to Cook in shooting range as we reached the quarter hour mark, but the striker sliced his shot and the ball sailed wide of the mark. Two minutes later, the visiting side came again, with captain, George Dobson racing forwards before laying the ball off to Josh Ginnelly who took a touch before seeing a ten yard effort blocked.

In the nineteenth minute, Walsall again worked their way into shooting range thanks to some good work from Zeli Ismail who played Morgan Ferrier in, but Mark Ellis was on hand for the hosts to block the goal-bound effort. The resulting corner saw Dobson and Luke Leahy combine well, but the latter’s powerful shot on goal sailed behind.

Moments later, with the ball back at the other end, it was the Saddlers defences who were tested as Caprice Powers raced down the right before cutting inside and into the box, but the Walsall back-line stood firm and cut his move out before he could unleash a shot.

With twenty-nine minutes on the clock, Ferrier secured his first goal in a Walsall shirt as he picked up a beautifully placed ball into the box and turned his man before side-footing past Shamal George in the Tranmere goal into the far corner from a tight angle. The striker then found himself entering the referee’s notebook, picking up a yellow card for goading the opposition support.

Thirty-one minutes in, Tranmere opted to make their first change of the evening, replacing captain Zoumana Bakayogo with Steve McNulty who took the armband.

The hosts looked to respond to going behind quickly, with Banks finding space, in the thirty-fourth minute, but the midfielders effort was a fraction off target, striking the outside of the post as it headed behind.

The Saddlers had an opportunity to extend their slender lead in the thirty-ninth minute, as the ball fell to Ismail at the edge of the box, but the Tranmere defences were well-placed and the midfielder saw his shot blocked behind. The resulting corner was played onto the head of Cook, but the striker could only nod the ball wide of the far post.

The hosts looked to get back on level terms ahead of the break, playing the ball in to Banks in a dangerous position In the forty-third minute, but Jack Fitzwater was well-placed to block the goal-bound effort.

Not to be outdone, the visitors created another chance of their own in the final minute of the opening forty-five, but Ginnelly’s effort flashed across the face of goal, sailing inches wide of the far post.

One additional minute was added ahead of the break, during which Dobson picked up a yellow card for a foul on Harvey Gilmour. There were no further chances though and the sides headed back down the tunnel with Walsall’s advantage intact.

0 - 1

The teams returned unchanged after the break and Tranmere got the action back under-way. Walsall got off to a flying start, creating the first opening of the half just two minutes in, as some lovely build-up play from Ferrier and Ginnelly culminated in a cross into the box from Leahy finding Cook who looked favourite to score, but the summer signing scuffed his eight yard shot allowing George to make an easy save.

Walsall were presented with another early chance in the forty-ninth minute as the referee awarded a free-kick for a foul on Ginnelly by Larnell Cole. The Saddlers skipper stepped up to take the set-piece but sent his twenty yard effort sailing well over the bar.

Five minutes into the second half, Ollie Banks joined the ranks in the referee’s notebook, picking up a yellow card for a cynical foul on Ismail.

Walsall continued to enjoy good spells of possession as the game continued, and their persistence almost paid off in the fifty-eighth minute, winning a free-kick twenty-five yards out. Leahy opted to fire the set-piece goal-wards, testing the Tranmere shot-stopper, but George was able to gather the ball into his chest to prevent his side falling further behind.

Tranmere began to grow into the second half as time raced away, and almost found an equaliser fifty-ninth minutes in as a long ball over the top was chased down by Stockton who then found himself in space just inside the area, but the striker sliced his shot, sending the ball wide of Dunn’s post.

Walsall opted to make their first change of the evening in the sixty-second minute, with goal-scorer, Morgan Ferrier making way for Josh Gordon. The hosts also took the opportunity to introduce their second substitute of the day, with Ben Tollitt departing the field in favour of Jon Smith.

With sixty-three minutes on the clock, the Saddlers doubled their advantage courtesy of Ginnelly who found himself in possession as a long throw bounced into his path on the edge of the box and lashed it into the bottom corner. Showing a touch of class, the young midfielder refused to celebrate scoring against his former employers.

Just four minutes after the second, the Saddlers secured a third goal, with Ismail all but putting the tie to bed with a fabulous solo run up-field which he finished with a low driven effort which sailed past George into the bottom corner.

Tranmere opted to bring Jay Harris on for the final twenty minutes, with Ollie Banks the man to make way.

The Saddlers went close to extending their lead further still in the seventy-third minute as Kane Wilson raced into the box and curled an effort towards the far corner, but George was alert to the danger and pulled off a fine save to deny the on-loan defender. The resulting corner saw Fitzwater with a free header, which he was unable to turn home, before Ginnelly picked up the loose ball and fired wide.

With fifteen minutes still to play, the Walsall bench decided to make their second change of the evening, as scorer of the third goal, Zeli Ismail made way for Kieron Morris.

Ten minutes from time, Tranmere managed to pull a goal back with Cole converting with a neat finish from ten yards. Too late to be anything other than a consolation, with both sides having seemingly accepted the outcome and slowing play, but a good goal nonetheless.

With time ebbing away and the pace slowing chances became fewer and further between as we saw out the final ten minutes of the game, but a good move between Cook and Gordon could have resulted in a further extension of the Saddlers lead had Morris not been crowded out before he could get a shot away.

The hosts won a corner in the eighty-fifth minute, which Smith played into the box, but the Saddlers defences were on hand to half-clear allowing Mullin a chance with an overhead kick, which could have been spectacular and created a tense final few minutes, but ultimately culminated in the Walsall ‘keeper making a comfortable save.

There was little further action during the final five minutes of the ninety, with both sides enjoying spells of possession without troubling their opposition defences.

As the board went up, displaying four additional minutes to be played, the Saddlers went close to finding a fourth as Morris raced the length of the pitch before crossing the ball in to Cook who was waiting at the back post, but the striker was unable to keep his headed effort below the bar. There was little further action as time ticked away, though Smith did find the side-netting as he looked to get a second back for his side in the ninety-third minute. Ultimately, it wouldn’t have mattered though, and time was called moments later with the Saddlers winning by three-goals-to-nil to secure themselves a place in the second round. It took a while to get going, but once they did, the Saddlers looked unstoppable.

1 - 3
Cole (80')

Ferrier (29')
Ginnelly (64')
Ismail (68')
Attendance: 3,817
Referee: Michael Salisbury
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