Match Report: Portsmouth 2 Walsall 0
Here is our Match Report from Tuesday evening's Sky Bet League One clash between Walsall and league-leaders, Portsmouth,
Walsall arrived at Tuesday evening's match on the back of last weekend's draw with promotion-chasing Sunderland, a result which saw Dean Keates' side surrender a two-goal lead to take a share of the spoils.

Portsmouth’s Jamal Lowe got the match underway, and it took his side just two minutes to create the first half-chance of the evening with Walsall skipper, George Dobson putting his body on the line to deny Pompey captain, Gareth Evans.

The home side continued to look the brighter throughout the opening five or so minutes, but Walsall almost opened the scoring in the seventh minute, with a cross from Josh Ginnelly finding Kane Wilson at the back post, but Wilson’s headed effort had a little too much height on it as it looped onto the roof of the net.

Moments later, with the ball back at the other end, a cross from Ronan Curtis looked to have set up an unmarked Evans inside the Walsall box, but the captain could only nod his effort over the bar. Curtis was involved again just a minute later, after his side were awarded a free-kick in a dangerous position, but the strikers set-piece was unable to breach the Walsall wall and the follow-up effort from Tom Naylor was blocked.

Walsall soon had the ball back in the Portsmouth box, winning a corner for their efforts as Jack Whatmough was forced to put the ball out of play. The ball in looked good, but the Pompey defences were able to deal with the danger, gifting the Saddlers a second corner, which was met by Morgan Ferrier at the back post. The striker was unable to get a clean shot away though and after a brief scramble inside the box, the hosts were able to get the ball clear.

The ball was soon back in the Walsall area, where the Saddlers were a little lucky to survive a penalty appeal unscathed, after Evans was bundled over by Nicky Devlin inside the box. The referee was unmoved by the hosts appeals and waved play on. The home side continued to press, but Luke Leahy was on hand for the visitors to deny Lowe.

The frenetic pace continued, with Walsall racing the ball back up to the Portsmouth end, where Josh Gordon fired an effort high and wide, before his side won a corner which the home defences were able to clear.

With twenty-five minutes on the clock, Portsmouth found the breakthrough, as a cross from Curtis out on the left, took a deflection off Dobson and fell to Oliver Hawkins at the back post, with the striker heading home from close range.

The hosts were unlucky not to have made it two-nil just three minutes later, as Ben Thompson fired a scorching, twenty-five yard effort inches wide of the upright.

The Saddlers almost levelled the scores in the twenty-ninth minute, as Ferrier played in Wilson, but the defenders low shot was deflected narrowly wide. The resulting corner caused problems for former Walsall shot-stopper, Craig MacGillivray, who spilled the ball after making an initial save, but Whatmore was on hand to save any blushes and hacked the ball away.

Portsmouth were soon presented with another chance to double their advantage, after some good build-up play from Nathan Thompson set Lowe up at the back post, but the midfielder could not trouble Walsall ‘keeper, Liam Roberts as he sent his effort high and wide.

Roberts was called into action in thirty-fifth minute, with the Saddlers shot-stopper doing well to get down to his right to prevent a weak effort from Curtis finding the back of the net. Evans then tried his luck with a left-footed effort from the centre of the box, but the ball sailed out of play without causing the Walsall defences too much alarm.

The pace slowed a little as we headed through the final ten minutes of the first-half, with neither side able to create anything of note until a move from Lowe in the forty-fifth minute, set up Curtis, but the forward was unable to keep his effort on target, seeing the ball flash across the face of goal as the officials indicated one additional minute would be played. The final minute passed without incident and the sides headed off for their half-time refreshments with the hosts taking a one-goal lead into the break.

1 - 0

The sides returned unchanged after the interval and Walsall got the second-half underway. The Saddlers started the half brightly and went close to levelling the scores just three minutes in, as Russell Martin played a looping ball into the box for Ginnelly, who fired a first time effort just over the bar, when he really should have scored.

The Saddlers then won a corner, as Thompson was forced to put the ball out of play. The ball in was played short, ultimately allowing Portsmouth to break and score as Curtis picked up the ball and fired home a right-footed effort from close range. A disappointing goal for Walsall to concede, especially coming just moments after they should have equalised.

Buoyed by the goal, Portsmouth continued to press, winning a corner in the fifty-fourth minute, which was whipped into the box by Evans and fell to Hawkins, who was unable to guide his header on target, sending the ball soaring over the bar.

With fifty-five minutes on the clock, Nicky Devlin became the first player to enter the referee’s notebook, picking up a yellow card for dissent.

The home side soon had the ball back in the danger zone, with Evans whipping another cross into the box for Hawkins, who again failed to keep his headed effort on target as he sent the ball narrowly wide of Roberts’ upright.

Kane Wilson joined Devlin in the referee’s notebook in the sixty-first minute as the official deemed Wilson’s fall inside the box under a challenge from Matthew Clarke to have been simulated.

In the sixty-fourth minute, the Saddlers were forced to make their first change of the evening, as a knock to Josh Ginnelly forced the midfielder into an early exit, with former Portsmouth loannee, Conor Ronan the man to take his place.

The Saddlers continued to see much of the ball as the match continued, but with little forward pressure, and nothing getting through to test MacGillivray.

Seventy-four minutes in, Kenny Jackett opted to make the first change to his sides line-up, replacing Ronan Curtis with David Wheeler for the final quarter of an hour.

Four minutes later, Dean Keates opted to make a second change to his side, introducing Andy Cook in place of Josh Gordon.

The Saddlers won a corner moments after the substitution, but Leahy’s in-swinging ball was comfortably gathered by MacGillivray and moments later, the recently introduced Cook got involved, touching the ball into the path of Ronan whose left-footed effort sailed inches wide of the upright.

Ten minutes from time, Pompey almost put the game to bed, with Roberts doing an outstanding job to tip away a Nathan Thompson twenty-five yard effort which looked destined for the top corner, with the resulting corner coming to nothing.

George Dobson picked up a yellow card in the eighty-second minute for a foul on Lowe.

Portsmouth made their second change of the evening in the eighty-fifth minute, replacing Gareth Evans with Ben Close and Walsall opted to make their third and final change of the match three minutes later, as Kane Wilson made way for Kieron Morris.

Ben Thompson went close in the final minute of regulation time, but his headed effort from a tight angle sailed wide of the far post as the officials indicated a minimum of four additional minutes would be played.

The final four minutes were an uneventful affair, the only real action a ninety-four minute effort from Morris which sailed well wide, before time was eventually called with Portsmouth taking all three points, winning by two-goals-to-nil. A somewhat disappointing evening from the Saddlers who failed to register a single shot on target against the league leaders.

2 - 0
Hawkins (25')
Curtis (49')

Attendance: 16,794 (184)
Referee: Alan Young
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