Match Report: Walsall 2 Plymouth Argyle 1

Here is our Match Report from Saturday afternoon's season-opening League One clash between the Saddlers and Plymouth Argyle.
The Saddlers picked up all three points at the first time of asking as they defeated their well-supported opponents on a warm day at Banks's Stadium. Goals from Andy Cook and Luke Leahy proving enough to make Ryan Edwards' opener a mere consolation.

Walsall almost got the season off to the perfect start, with their first shot on goal coming in just the second minute as, after a superb run down the left, Josh Ginnelly picked out the recently arrived Morgan Ferrier who was able to turn an angled shot goal-wards, forcing Plymouth Argyle ‘keeper, Matt Macey to turn the ball behind, with the resulting corner coming to nothing.

Argyle were quick to work the ball up to the other end, where it was picked up by West Bromwich Albion loanee, Jack Fitzwater, who almost allowed the visitors first blood when his back pass to Liam Roberts trickled passed the ‘keeper, who then had to scramble backwards to clear the danger.

Both sides continued to enjoy time on the ball as the game continued. Seven minutes in,  Walsall were awarded a free-kick just outside the box, which George Dobson curled inches wide of the upright.

The Saddlers continued to enjoy good spells of possession, forcing corners, but with no end product. The visiting side began to improve as the game progressed, creating a chance to open the scoring quarter of an hour in, as a shot from Graham Carey deflected behind, before the resulting corner was swung in towards the head of Scott Wootton, but the defender was unable to keep his effort on target, with the ball sailing inches wide of the post.

Argyle continued to press, and created another good chance in the twentieth minute as some good work from Carey culminated in a Ruben Lameiras cross from the left-wing being turned wide by Ryan Taylor.

With twenty-six minutes on the clock, Ferrier did well to hold up the ball allowing Dobson to work his way into space, before Nicky Devlin headed behind, with a little help from a deflection, but the resulting corner came to nothing.

Walsall continued to press, with Dobson again involved as he set up Andy Cook just two minutes later, finding the striker in space in the box, but the summer signing saw his shot blocked after taking an extra touch that allowed the Argyle defences time to get back.

With thirty-seven minutes on the clock, Ashley Smith-Brown picked up the first yellow card of the game, for a foul as Walsall looked to break.

After a good spell from the hosts, Plymouth won a free-kick in a dangerous position in the fortieth minute. Conor Grant played the ball into the box, where Ryan Edwards timed his run well to and fired the ball home to put his side ahead.

Walsall looked to respond immediately, with Zeli Ismail racing up-field, before picking out Ferrier with a well-timed cross, but the front-man was unable to find the target.

Moments before half-time, heading into the one additional minute to be played, Walsall again broke, with Ginnelly putting on a fine display before finding Ferrier with a neat pass into the box, where Joe Riley felled the striker before he could get a shot away. The referee was in no doubt as he pointed to the spot, also showing Riley the yellow card.

Cook stepped up to take the spot-kick, which Macey got his hands to to save, with a little help from the crossbar, but Cook remained alert and fired the rebound home to draw the sides level as they headed into the break.

1 - 1

Both sides opted to make changes ahead of the second half, with Freddie Ladapo taking the place of Ruben Lameiras for the visitors, whilst Liam Kinsella replaced Saddlers captain, Adam Chambers, who looked to have been carrying a knock.

Walsall started the half brightly, almost taking the lead just eight minutes in, as a corner kick swung in by Luke Leahy found Fitzwater, who couldn’t keep his headed effort down, with the ball finding the crossbar on it’s way behind. The Saddlers so close to going ahead for the first time in the game.

The hosts were dealt a blow in the fifty-seventh minute as Morgan Ferrier appeared to pick up a knock which would see him unable to continue, forcing a second change from the Saddlers, who brought on Kieron Morris in his place.

Plymouth began to get more into the game after the Saddlers enforced change, creating their first real chance of the half a minute shy of the hour mark, as Carey found a route past Leahy before firing a curling effort towards the top corner, but Walsall shot-stopper, Liam Roberts, was alert and tipped the ball away with a diving effort.

The Saddlers soon had the ball back at the other end, creating another superb effort themselves on the counter, as Ginnelly took advantage of a mistake from Carey and raced up-field, where Leahy was brought into the action, passing a defender before firing a low shot inches wide of the post.

With sixty-four minutes on the clock, Kieron Morris was brought down on the edge of the box by Ryan Edwards, resulting in a yellow card being shown to the Argyle man and free-kick being awarded to the Saddlers, twenty yards from goal. Leahy stepped up to take the set-piece, curling a fabulous effort beyond Macey into the top corner to put his side ahead for the first time in the game.

Argyle looked to respond to the Walsall goal, with Carey waiting in the box as the ball was played in to him, but Leahy was on hand for the Saddlers, throwing himself in the way of the goal-bound effort to deflect the ball wide, with the resulting corner coming to nothing.

The visitors opted to make their second change of the afternoon with fifteen minutes left to play, as Conor Grant made way for Gary Sawyer.

Argyle enjoyed a good spell following the change, getting forward well, though unable to really test the Walsall defences, until, in the eighty-second minute, they won a corner. The ball came to Taylor from the flag-kick, with the forward flicking it goal-wards in a move that looked certain to draw the sides level, but Devlin was on hand to keep his side ahead, with a superb last-second clearance as he turned the ball off the line.

Walsall made the final change to their line-up in the eighty-third minute, as Josh Ginnelly made way for West Bromwich Albion loanee, Kane Wilson.

Argyle continued to look for an equaliser as time rapidly ebbed away from them, and they almost found one in the eighty-seventh minute, but Edwards header from a Carey corner sailed wide of the far post.

Moments after the missed chance, the visiting side decided to make their third and final change of the afternoon, replacing Ashley Smith-Brown with Gregg Wylde as the search continued for a late equaliser.

Four additional minutes were signalled to end the game, with the Saddlers looking almost certain to score in the first of them, as the ball fell to Cook, but the strikers effort met with the post.

Moments later, with the ball back at the other end, Roberts was forced into a diving save to keep his sides lead intact, as Carey picked up the ball at the far post and fired a shot in. Thankfully, for the Saddlers, the shot-stopper was equal to it.

The final action of note came in the form of a yellow card shown to Jamie Ness in the forty-ninth minute, moments before the referee brought a halt to the contest, with the Saddlers two-goals-to-one lead still intact. A superb encounter to open the season, with lots to be excited about for the upcoming campaign.

2 - 1
Cook (45+1')
Leahy (64')
Edwards (40')

Attendance: 5,755 (1,740)
Referee: Andy Haines
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