Match Report: AFC Wimbledon 1 Walsall 3

Here is our Match Report from Tuesday evening's League One clash between Dean Keates's Walsall and Neil Ardley's AFC Wimbledon.
Both the Saddlers and Dons arrived at this match without suffering a defeat in their three season-opening league games, and were keen to build upon that momentum as they met at Kingsmeadow on Tuesday evening.

The match got off to a flying start, with Walsall launching an early attack which was swiftly cut out and followed by a promising counter attack from AFC Wimbledon, but a foul from Andy Barcham on Nicky Devlin saw the move brought to a premature halt.

Referee, Tom Nield saw his first real involvement of the evening in just the third minute, as a late challenge on Jon Guthrie drew a yellow card from the official for Anthony Wordsworth.

The Saddlers enjoyed much of the ball in the early goings and almost their possession pay in the fifth minute, when a good move from Morgan Ferrier culminated in Kieron Morris playing in a tasty cross that had just too much height on it for Andy Cook who was unable to control his header. Moments later, Cook was presented with another chance at goal, this time from thirty yards out, but the strikers half-volley bounced wide of the upright without troubling Tom King in the Wimbledon goal.

The hosts looked also looked lively with the ball, and could have opened the scoring in the ninth minute, when a low cross from Ben Purrington was neatly controlled by Joe Pigott, who then turned a shot goal-wards from inside the box, but Guthrie was well placed to block the effort.

Walsall soon had the ball back at the other end, with captain George Dobson and Ferrier combining well to set up Devlin, but the defenders cross-come-shot flashed across the face of goal and harmlessly out of play.

Wimbledon almost opened the scoring in the eleventh minute, with Mitch Pinnock driving through the Walsall defences before firing a low, driven effort goal-wards, but his twenty yard effort sailed inches wide of the mark.

Once again, the Saddlers were quick to whisk the ball back to the other end as the end to end action continued, though the move was quick to break down. However, with just sixteen minutes on the clock, Walsall found the breakthrough as Cook headed the ball down into the path of Morris who took duly fired a left footed curling effort past King into the back of the net from twenty yards out. A superb strike from the midfielder.

The home team looked to respond immediately, with Pinnock firing a half-volley goal-wards just a minute after his side fell behind, but he scuffed his shot and it trickled wide. The frenetic pace then slowed a little, but twenty-two minutes in, Wordsworth found himself in space on the edge of the area, but his shot also crept wide.

Walsall were soon on the hunt for a second, and twenty-four minutes in, Ferrier almost found it with a forty yard run down the left-wing, before turning an effort in from a tight angle, but King was alert and got enough on the ball to push it clear.

Moments later, with the ball once again back at the other end, the hosts went close to equalising, as Wordsworth fired a twenty-five yard effort inches wide of the upright. The hosts continued to pile on the pressure as they looked to get back on level terms, drawing a save from Walsall shot-stopper, Liam Roberts, in the twenty-eighth minute; a good catch which denied Pigott.

The pressure continued relentlessly as we headed into the final ten minutes of the half, with the hosts winning a free-kick in the thirty-eighth minute, which saw Roberts spill his save allowing Kwesi Appiah a shot on goal, but the striker was unable to make a clean connection.

Five minutes before the break, the hosts again looked likely to get themselves back on level terms, as Barcham fought his way past Dobson to get a strike away, but Roberts was well placed to gather. Two minutes later, some good play from Wimbledon saw the ball worked to Purrington, who crossed the ball onto the head of Appiah, but the forwards headed effort sailed over the crossbar.

The breathless action continued as we raced towards the interval, and moments from time the hosts were gifted another chance on goal, winning a free-kick thirty yards out, but Pinnock was unable to get his effort down in time and the ball sailed inches over.

One additional minute was played to end the half, with Purrington seeing a cross into the box blocked by Dobson, with the resulting corner being fired over by Liam Trotter from the edge of the box, which would be the last action of the opening forty-five. The Saddlers taking a one-goal lead into the break.

0 - 1

The teams returned unchanged after the break and the second half got under-way. Wimbledon started the half as they had ended the first, with an early shot in from Pigott who caught the ball off balance, sending it sailing wide. Moments later, the hosts won a corner thanks to some good work from Toby Sibbick, but the ball in was easily dealt with by the visitors.

The relentless pressure from the hosts continued, but with little end product. Fifty-two minutes in though, Barcham was able to get past Devlin to get a cross away into the box, but Roberts was alert to the danger and able to clear ahead of Barcham’s team-mates.

Fifty-four minutes in, the Saddlers created their first chance of the second half, with Devlin playing a neat ball in to Morris who cut into the box and found space before seeing his effort on goal blocked by Will Nightingale.

Walsall continued to enjoy a better spell, seeing plenty of the ball and continuing to create chances. Morris turning provider as he set up Devlin whose effort was turned behind by Trotter for a corner, which came to nothing a Morris’ shot was blocked.

In the sixty-first minute, the Dons opted to make their first change of the evening, introducing James Hanson in place of Joe Pigott for the final half hour.

The visitors continued to press forwards in search of a second goal, and sixty-three minutes in, won a corner. The ball in from Guthrie looked good, finding the head of Dobson, but the midfielders headed effort cleared the bar without troubling King.

The Dons were able to get the ball up to the other end in the sixty-fourth minute after a prolonged spell of Walsall pressure, winning a corner, which Pinnock used to find the head of an unmarked Hanson, but the forwards header on sailed narrowly over the bar.

The Saddlers soon had the ball back in-front of the Wimbledon goal as they sought to double their advantage and alleviate some of the pressure their hosts had been putting them under, but it was ultimately a huge mistake from Nightingale which saw Walsall extend their lead, as the defender looked to play the ball back to his ‘keeper and instead put the ball into his own net.

Wimbledon looked to respond quickly, to keep any hope of a point or more alive, with Hanson and Pinnock both trying their luck from close range fifteen minutes from time but Luke Leahy was on hand for the Saddlers to ensure the ball remained clear of goal.

With seventy-seven minutes on the clock, Walsall opted to make their first change of the evening, replacing Kieron Morris with Kane Wilson for the run in.

Moments after the change, with seventy-nine minutes played, Cook secured the Saddlers third of the evening, effectively putting the tie to bed and ensuring all three points would be headed back to the Midlands. A clever, darting run from the recently introduced Wilson creating the chance, as he passed the ball to Ferrier who saw a shot blocked before Sibbick hit Cook with the clearance, seeing the ball rebound into the corner.

Andy Cook then found himself heading into the referee’s notebook, picking up a yellow card for his celebration.

The hosts continued to look for a goal back as time ebbed away, with Barcham stinging the palms of Roberts in the eighty-third minute before Purrington picked up the loose ball and sliced a shot wide.

With eighty-five minutes on the clock, Walsall opted to make their second change of the night, with Josh Gordon taking the place of Andy Cook for the final five minutes.

The Dons refused to give up the hunt for a goal, and though it would be nothing more than a consolation, they finally found the breakthrough in the eighty-seventh minute with a left-footed shot from Appiah enough to finally get the ball over the line from close range.

The hosts opted to make a change to their line-up in the eighty-eighth minute, as Anthony Hartigan took the place of Anthony Wordworth.

Four additional minutes were added to end the game, during which Pinnock saw a right-footed effort from just outside the box blocked, before his side opted to make their final change of the evening in the ninety-second minute, as Scott Wagstaff replaced goalscorer, Kwesi Appiah.

That would be the final action of the evening though as time was called. The Saddlers taking a lucky, but deserved, three points back to the Bescot, with a three-goal-to-one victory, a result which would see them head into fourth place in the League One table.

1 - 3
Appiah (87')

Morris (16')
Nightingale OG (70')
Cook (79')
Attendance: 3,887
Referee: Tom Nield
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