Match Report: Rochdale 1 Walsall 2

Here is our Match Report from Saturday afternoon's Sky Bet League One clash between Walsall and hosts, Rochdale.
Dean Keates' Saddler arrived at this weekend's clash on the back of a midweek triumph over AFC Wimbledon, and without suffering defeat in all competitions so far this season.

Opponents Rochdale were looking to avenge two recent home defeats which had seen them concede a total of eight goals, putting Keith Hill's side among the early League One strugglers.

Walsall got the match underway, but the action stopped just seconds in as a rough challenge resulted in Luke Leahy requiring treatment to his neck, but thankfully, after a lengthy spell of pause, the defender was able to continue and the game resumed.

Rochdale won a corner moments after the restart, which Joe Rafferty swung in towards the near post, where Leahy was on hand to head clear. Moments later, a late tackle from Nicky Devlin saw David Perkins win a free-kick for his side, thirty-five yards from goal, which Oliver Rathbone whipped into the box, but the ball evaded everybody and sailed harmlessly out of play for goal kick.

The host continued to dominate, winning another corner in the tenth minute, as a Rafferty cross was turned behind, but the flag-kick was easily dealt with by the visiting defences. Two minutes later, Liam Roberts was tested by an effort from range, but the Saddlers shot-stopper was alert to beat the ball away, before Callum Camps fired the follow up out of play.

Walsall were fortunate not to fall a goal behind in the fourteenth minute, as Jon Guthrie almost diverted an Ian Henderson shot into his own net, but thankfully for the Saddlers the ball sailed inches wide of the upright. The resulting corner was cleared, but only as far as Rafferty who turned the ball back in allowing a Matt Done a shot on goal, which was well blocked by the visiting defences.

The early frenetic pace began to slow a little as we marched past the quarter hour mark, with both sides enjoying spells of possession without troubling their opposition ‘keeper’s. Twenty-two minutes in though, the hosts won yet another corner thanks to some good work from Done and Harrison McGahey. The ball in fell to McNulty who got a header away, but some scrambling defensive work from the visiting team eventually saw the ball cleared.

Walsall were awarded a free-kick in the twenty-sixth minute for a handball offence, but the hosts were able to clear the danger as the ball curled into the area.

The Saddlers continued to see more of the ball following the cleared set-piece, winning a free-kick in the twenty-ninth minute in a move which also saw Matt Done become the first player to enter the referee’s notebook, picking up a yellow card for the foul. The set-piece was played into the area and cleared by Camps, but only as far as Josh Ginnelly who picked up the loose ball twenty yards out and fired a fairly tame effort goal-wards, where Magnus Norman, who had thus far had little to do, was alert and held comfortably.

With thirty-one minutes on clock, and somewhat against the run of play, Ginnelly fired the Saddlers into the lead with a first time shot which caught Jordan Williams on it’s way through the crowd before nestling in the bottom corner.

The game quietened again following the goal, with the action becoming something of a midfield battle, until, forty minutes in, Dale were awarded a free-kick just outside the box for a trip on Rafferty, who was also the man to take the set-piece, swinging the ball into the box where it was met by the head of McNulty who was unable to test Roberts as he headed wide.

Five additional minutes were added to end the half, during which time the hosts won a corner as they continued to search for a leveller, but the Saddlers were able to half-clear the danger before Roberts gathered a deflected Camps shot, and Walsall took their one-goal lead into the break.

0 - 1

Walsall made their first change ahead of the second half, with Zeli Ismail joining the line-up in place of goalscorer Josh Ginnelly, before Rochdale got the match back underway. The Saddlers looked brighter following the break, with Morgan Ferrier racing forward down the right just two minutes in, in a move which culminated in a low cross which was just too far ahead of Andy Cook for the striker to turn it home. Much better from the visiting side though..

There was a brief pause in play in the fifty-third minute, allowing Nicky Devlin to receive treatment but the defender was soon back on his feet and able to continue.

With just ten minutes of the half played, Rochdale opted to make their first change of the afternoon, with Oliver Rathbone making way for Calvin Andrew as the hosts looked for someone to get them back on level terms.

Walsall were awarded a free-kick in the fifty-sixth minute as Ferrier continued to cause problems for the hosts, but McNulty was on hand to head the ball partially clear before Ismail saw a right-footed effort held by Norman who got down well.

The game settled into something of a midfield battle as it continued, with both sides enjoying spells of possession, with neither able to create much going forward.

There was another brief halt to proceedings in the sixty-fifth minute whilst Morgan Ferrier received treatment, with the striker ultimately being taken off, in place off Josh Gordon.

Rochdale almost drew themselves level in the sixty-eighth minute, with Camps a ball in towards the back post being headed narrowly wide by Andrew. Moments later, the hosts opted to make their second change of the afternoon, replacing David Perkins with Bradden Inman for the run-in.

Twenty minutes from time, Zeli Ismail picked up a yellow card for delaying a Dale free-kick, but the kick was eventually taken and played short before being cut-out.

The hosts continued to search for a route back into the game, with Done winning his side a corner in the seventy-fourth minute, from which Williams fired over with a powerful eight yard effort when he really should have scored.

There was another brief pause in proceedings in the seventy-fifth minute as a clash between Williams and Isaiah Osbourne saw the latter require treatment, but he was soon up and able to continue as Dale took their free-kick, which came to nothing.

With seventy-seven minutes on the clock, the Saddlers extended their lead, with Ismail taking time to set himself up before firing home from just inside the area.

Rochdale responded immediately, returning their deficit to just the one goal in the seventy-ninth minute with Aaron Wilbraham initially seeing a headed effort hit the post, before Camps picked up the loose ball and tapped home from close range.

Buoyed by their goal, the hosts set about the task of finding a second, and would have in the eightieth minute had Roberts not been on hand to parry Camps effort. A great diving save from the man between the sticks. Not to be outdone, the Saddlers soon had the ball back at the other end, with Cook turning his man before firing narrowly wide from a tight angle at the far post.

With eighty-five minutes on the clock, the hosts opted to make their third and final change of the afternoon, as Kgosi Nthle replaced Matt Done.

Four minutes from time, Zeli Ismail picked up his second yellow card of the game for a handball offence, and received his marching orders. The resulting free-kick was played into the box by Camps, but the Walsall defences were able to clear the initial danger, before the hosts eventually won a corner from the move. The ball in from the flag-kick found Camps, but the visitors were able to take the ball from him and break, but Williams was on hand for the hosts to cut-out the move before Dale won another corner, which culminated in a foul on Roberts and a free-kick to the Saddlers which eased the pressure.

In the final of the ninety minutes, the Walsall bench opted to make their final change of the afternoon, with Kieron Morris making way for Kane Wilson as the board went up to confirm six additional minutes would be played.

The Saddlers continued to defend their lead stoically, with Roberts doing well to claim a ninety-third minute drive from Inman, which would ultimately prove to be enough to ensure his side would take all three points back to the Bescot. Another good outing from the side, who maintained composure in defence, whilst taking their chances well at the other end.

1 - 2
Camps (79')

Ginnelly (32')
Ismail (77')
Attendance: 3,080 (566)
Referee: Graham Salisbury
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