Match Report: Oxford United 1 Walsall 2 Match Report: Oxford United 1 Walsall 2
Match Report: Oxford United 1 Walsall 2

Match Report: Oxford United 1 Walsall 2

Here is our Match Report from Saturday afternoon's Sky Bet League One clash between Walsall and hosts, Oxford United.
Dean Keates Saddlers arrived at this weekend's match on the back of last Saturday's defeat to Doncaster Rovers, Gavin McCann's side inflicting the first defeat of the season upon the Banks's Stadium side as they won the clash by four-goals-to-one.

Walsall captain, George Dobson got the match underway. The game got off to a relatively slow start though, with the only real action in the opening minutes, an Oxford United free-kick in the second minute, awarded after Ricky Holmes was fouled, which came to nothing.

Both sides continued to enjoy decent spells of possession in and around the midfield area, though neither were able to work the ball into shooting range, until United were awarded a free-kick in a dangerous position in the ninth minute. Holmes played the ball forward, finding his captain, John Mousinho who was waiting by the penalty spot, but the defenders first-time effort sailed wide.

The hosts won the first corner of the match eleven minutes in, as the Saddlers defences stayed alert to deflect a dangerous looking cross from Holmes behind, but the flag-kick came to nothing and Walsall soon worked the ball to the other end, winning a corner of their own just a minute later through a Josh Ginnelly cross, which Mousinho put out of play. Dobson swung the ball into the area, where it was met by the head of Jon Guthrie, but Jonathon Mitchell was alert in the Oxford goal and claimed the downward effort.

Walsall won their second corner of the game three minutes later, from which Luke Leahy and Morgan Ferrier combined to set up Zeli Ismail who drew another save from Mitchell with a ten yard drive. The Saddlers continued to look the more likely side to open the scoring, testing Mitchell again in the twenty-first minute, with Ginnelly letting fly from the left side of the box, but the United shot-stopper got down well to save.

In the twenty-fourth minute, the Saddlers found the breakthrough as Ferrier was played through on goal and calmly slotted the ball through the legs of the legs of Mitchell to secure his third goal of the season, as the Oxford ‘keepers defensive line looked on assuming the Walsall man to be offside.

Jack Fitzwater picked up the first yellow card of the afternoon in the twenty-fifth minute, entering the referee’s notebook for a foul on James Henry.

The hosts set about trying to restore parity, and almost drew level just two minutes after the opening goal, with a free-kick from Holmes being headed goal-wards by Curtis Nelson, but Roberts was on hand to deny the defender with a superb fingertip save. The resulting corner fell to Henry who saw his effort blocked on the line by Dobson who headed the ball onto the bar before Josh Gordon and Nicky Devlin stepped in to clear the danger.

The game then settled into something of a midfield battle, with neither side creating much, until, in the thirty-sixth minute, the Saddlers should have doubled their lead as a shot from Gordon rebounded off the post and fell to Ferrier six yards out, with an open goal ahead of him, but the strikers effort hit the crossbar before Mitchell gathered.

Five minutes before the break, the hosts could have drawn level, as some good work from Henry set up Sam Smith, but the striker miss-struck his shot and Roberts saved with ease.

Forty-two minutes in, John Mousinho picked up the second yellow card of the game for an off-the-ball foul.

United won a corner moments before half-time, through some good combination play from Henry and Gavin Whyte, but the former flicked the in-swinging ball from Luke Garbutt straight into the waiting arms of Roberts from the flag-kick.

Two additional minutes were played to end the half, but neither side was able to create anything further and the sides headed off for their half-time refreshments with the Saddlers slender, one-goal lead intact.

0 - 1

The sides returned unchanged after the break, and Oxford got the action back underway. Both teams began the half brightly, with United launching a quick attack which came to nothing, followed immediately by a Walsall attack which saw the visitors win the first corner of the half, which was easily dealt with by the Oxford defences.

The hosts won a corner themselves five minutes into the half, as a cross from Whyte was put behind, but the Saddlers defended well, before the hosts won a second corner moments later, which drew a save from Roberts to deny Mousinho.

Walsall captain, George Dobson found his way into the referee’s notebook in the fifty-second minute, picking up his fifth booking of the season for a foul on Holmes.

Oxford opted to make their first change of the afternoon in the fifty-sixth minute, as Jonathon Obika took the place of Sam Smith.

The Saddlers doubled their advantage in the fifty-eighth minute thanks to some good work from Isaiah Osbourne who beat Jamie Hanson in the middle before playing in Ismail who fired a powerful effort across Mitchell and into the bottom corner.

As we reached the hour mark, Josh Gordon became the fourth player to receive a yellow card, drawing the attentions of the referee with a foul on Holmes.

The hosts set about finding a route back into the game, and almost found a goal back in the sixty-second minute as Whyte worked his way into the area and fired goal-wards. With the ball heading wide of the far post, Henry got a foot to it and looked to turn the ball home, but instead turned the ball wide of the near post.

United then won a corner as Guthrie was forced to put the ball behind, but Henry was unable to keep his effort on target from the flag-kick and his side remained two behind.

Not to be outdone, the Saddlers soon had the ball back at the other end, with Ismail doing well to find Ferrier with a cross from the right-wing, but the forwards headed effort clipped the crossbar as it sailed over.

Twenty minutes from time, a break from halfway almost saw Holmes pull one back for his side, with an eventual effort from the edge of the area, but his left-footed shot sailed narrowly wide of the far post without troubling Roberts in the Walsall goal. The hosts continued to press and could have clawed a goal back in the seventy-fifth minute, but Obika was unable to keep his header from a Shandon Baptiste cross on target.

The Saddlers opted to make their first change of the afternoon in the seventy-sixth minute, as Zeli Ismail made way for on-loan West Brom defender Kane Wilson.

Two minutes later, the visitors chose to make their second change of the day, replacing Josh Gordon with Andy Cook for the final twelve minutes.

In the eighty-first minute, Josh Ginnelly became the fourth Walsall man to see yellow, picking up his sides third booking for a foul on Holmes.

Five minutes from time, Oxford opted to make a change to their line-up, as Jamie Hanson made way for Josh Ruffels.

The game had settled into something of a midfield battle as the action was broken up by changes to both sides, with neither team creating much, until Henry pulled a goal back for his side in the eighty-seventh minute with a simple tap in from close range from a Whyte cross.

Four additional minutes were added to end the game, giving the hosts hope of finding a late equaliser, but the first action of extra time came in the form of a booking as James Henry saw yellow for a foul, before his side opted to make their final change of the afternoon, bringing on Rob Dickie in place of Cameron Norman.

In the third additional minute, another yellow card was shown, this time to Luke Garbutt, who picked up a booking for dissent, before moments later, Andy Cook picked up the Saddlers fifth booking of the afternoon, seeing yellow for preventing a free-kick being taken.

The hosts appealed for a late penalty in the final minute of the game as Dickie went down in the Walsall box, but the referee awarded a free-kick to the Saddlers and the game ended with the visitors seeing out the match to take all three points back to the Banks’s with a two-goal-to-one victory. A superb response to last weekends defeat from the Saddlers who did well to get ahead in the game and limit their opponents to just the one goal.

1 - 2
Henry (87')

Ferrier (24')
Ismail (58')
Attendance: 6,080 (658)
Referee: Alan Young
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