Match Report: Walsall 1 Doncaster Rovers 4

Here is our Match Report from Saturday afternoon's Sky Bet League One clash between the Saddlers and visitors, Doncaster Rovers.
The Saddlers arrived at the match without suffering a single defeat in League One, with Dean Keates' side, which had been named among the favourites for relegation, being ranked along side some of the best clubs in the country.

Walsall captain, George Dobson got the game underway, but it was Doncaster Rovers who saw the first effort on goal, winning a free-kick in the fifth minute which Danny Andrew powered goal-wards from twenty-five yards out, but Liam Roberts was alert in the Walsall goal and parried over, with the resulting corner coming to nothing.

The visiting side continued to enjoy the brighter start, seeing plenty of the ball, though unable to make their possession pay, but against the run of play, the Saddlers almost opened the scoring in the tenth minute as a wonderful move from Luke Leahy set up Josh Ginnelly who was just unable to curl his effort enough to hit the back of the net, instead slipping his shot just wide of the upright.

Doncaster won a corner in the fourteenth minute as a good run from Matty Blair culminated in his shot from the right being deflected behind. Andrew whipped the ball in from the flag-kick, finding ex-Saddler Andy Butler who was unable to keep his headed effort on target, flashing his shot just wide.

Walsall soon had the ball back at the other end, winning a corner in the seventeenth minute which Dobson swung into the box, seeing his cross cleared before Ginnelly picked up the loose ball and crossed back into the box finding the head of Butler who failed to clear allowing Morgan Ferrier a headed effort on goal, which he duly converted, putting his side a goal to the good.

The hosts continued to look the more dangerous side following the goal, with Ginnelly almost doubling his sides advantage four minutes later, but his effort was deflected wide and Jon Guthrie’s headed effort from the corner sailed high over the bar without troubling Marko Marosi in the Rovers goal.

The game quietened a little as we raced towards the half hour mark, with much of the action confined to the midfield area, with neither side able to create anything of note going forwards, but as we hit the thirty minute mark, the visitors almost restored parity. A superb block from Roberts just enough to deny John Marquis after the forward picked the ball up following a deep free-kick.

Parity was indeed restored three minutes later, when a handball offence from Leahy in the area saw a penalty awarded to the visitors. Marquis stepped up to take the spot-kick, sending Roberts the wrong way and firing home to level the scores. The handball offence also saw Luke Leahy pick up the first yellow card of the afternoon.

Not content with a level game, the visitors set about trying to find a way ahead, but Roberts remained alert and their thirty-ninth minute effort through James Coppinger was well saved by the Walsall shot-stopper.

There was a brief halt to proceedings five minutes before the break to allow Leahy to receive treatment, but he was soon up and able to see out the half as tensions began to boil over.

Two additional minutes were added to end the first half, but neither side was able to create anything further and the sides headed off for their half-time refreshments with the scores tied at one-goal-apiece.

1 - 1

The teams returned to the field with their line-ups unchanged following the break, and James Coppinger got the action back underway. The second half got off to a fairly quiet start, but five minutes in, Marosi was called into action to deny Ferrier a goal from just six yards out. The Rovers shot-stopper doing well to get to the ball in time.

With fifty-three minutes on the clock, Walsall were forced to make their first change of the afternoon, introducing Connor Ronan in place of Isaiah Osbourne who appeared to have picked up a knock.

Tempers soon began to flair again, with George Dobson finding his way into the referee’s notebook in the fifty-seventh minute for a foul, whilst Butler also received an earful from the official.

Rovers found the first goal of the half in the fifty-eighth minute, thanks to some good work from Ben Whiteman who played in Mallik Wilks, who sent a left-footed effort sailing into the bottom left corner to put his side ahead. Little Roberts could have done to prevent the goal.

The visitors continued to press as they looked to put the tie to bed, with Whiteman’s sixty-fourth minute effort from range was easily dealt with by a well positioned Roberts, who did well to get his body behind the shot.

Two minutes later, with sixty-six minutes on the clock, Doncaster did manage to beat Roberts to secure their third goal of the afternoon, with Wilks breaking and playing in Coppinger who fired the ball into the top corner.

In the sixty-ninth minute, Herbie Kane found his way into the referee’s notebook for a foul, two minutes before team-mate, Niall Mason was shown the yellow card for another foul.

With tempers fraying, and the referee completely losing control of the game, an altercation between Wilks and Dean Keates on the sidelines, resulted in the Walsall manager being booked.

The Saddlers then opted to make their second change of the afternoon as they looked for a route back into the game, with Zeli Ismail taking the place of Kieron Morris for the final eighteen of so minutes.

The hosts continued to press, and almost created something in the seventy-third minute as Ronan looked to bring his side to within a goal of their opponents, but Butler was on hand for Rovers to block the effort.

With seventy-four minutes played, the Doncaster bench opted to make two changes to their line-up, with James Coppinger and Herbie Kane making way for Alfie May and Jermaine Anderson.

Things quietened a little following the raft of changes, with little action of note as Rovers quelled any Walsall attack, though there was a brief delay in proceedings due to an injury to Whiteman which required treatment, but he was soon up and ready to continue.

With ten minutes remaining, the home side opted to make their third and final change of the afternoon, sending Josh Gordon on in place of Josh Ginnelly as they searched for a goal back.

Four minutes later, Doncaster also opted to make their final change of the day, with Paul Taylor taking the place of Mallik Wilks.

Walsall continued to search for a goal as time ticked away, and almost found one in the eighty-seventh minute, but Gordon was unable to Ginnelly’s cross home after some good play from Ronan. Moments later, Marosi was called into action as a shot came in from Leahy, but the Rovers ‘keeper was able to deal with the danger.

With eighty-nine minutes on the clock, Andy Butler became the sixth player of the afternoon to enter the referee’s notebook, seeing yellow for a foul on Gordon.

Six additional minutes were added to end the game, and in the second off them Matty Blair put the game to bed, with a twelve yard, right-footed effort which sailed into the top right corner. Blair then became the seventh player to see yellow, picking up a booking for excessively celebrating his goal.

Walsall were eventually put out of their misery when the referee brought an end to the ill-tempered affair, with Doncaster running out four-goal-to-one victors. A sour taste left in the mouths of the Saddlers and their supporters, but with their first league defeat of the season now behind them, hopefully the side can re-group and get back to winning ways next weekend.

1 - 4
Ferrier (17')

Marquis PEN (33')
Wilks (58')
Coppinger (66')
Blair (90+2')
Attendance: -
Referee: Antony Coggins
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