Match Report: Walsall 2 Sunderland 2 Match Report: Walsall 2 Sunderland 2
Posted by: Bescot Banter

Match Report: Walsall 2 Sunderland 2

Here is our Match Report from Saturday afternoon's Sky Bet League One clash between Walsall and visitors, Sunderland.
Last weekend's televised draw between the Saddlers and Fleetwood Town gave Dean Keates' side plenty to build upon heading into Saturday afternoon's clash with Jack Ross' title-chasing Sunderland.

Walsall captain, George Dobson got the match underway, but it was Sunderland who enjoyed the brighter start, creating the first chance of the game just four minutes in with Tom Flanagan heading a deep cross narrowly wide of the mark.

Sunderland continued to press, with Bryan Oviedo finding a way through moments later, but a fortunate block from Liam Kinsella ensured the former Everton defenders effort was easily saved by Walsall shot-stopper, Liam Roberts.

The visiting side continued to dominate, forcing the Saddlers to concede a number of corners and peppering the Walsall goal, with shots from Aiden McGeady and Max Power being saved by an alert home defence, with more corners following.

As we reached the quarter hour mark, with Sunderland still struggling to make their early dominance pay, there was a brief halt to proceedings whilst Nicky Devlin received treatment for an injury, but the midfielder was soon back on his feet and able to continue.

Walsall finally created their first real chance of the afternoon in the twenty-second minute, with Devlin sending a lovely cross into the box, where Andy Cook was waiting to get on the end of it, but the strikers effort was well saved by Sunderland ‘keeper, Jon McLaughlin.

With just twenty-three minutes on the clock, Sunderland were reduced to ten men as Max Power saw red for a lunging, late challenge on Kinsella. The resulting free-kick was played into the box by Luke Leahy, where Russell Martin was waiting at the back post, but the defenders headed effort was deflected wide by Jack Baldwin, with the resulting corner coming to nothing.

Sunderland soon had the ball back up at the other end, where they won another succession of corners, the latter of which Oviedo almost curled into the net, but Roberts remained alert and pushed the ball behind, with the resulting corner coming to nothing.

In the thirty-seventh minute, Walsall were forced to make their first change of the afternoon as Zeli Ismail picked up a knock which forced him to depart early, with Kieron Morris taking his place.

Moments after the change, the Saddlers had the ball in the back of the net, with a fabulous cross from Josh Ginnelly being headed home by Cook, but the linesman’s flag was raised for an offside infringement and the goal disallowed. Walsall very unlucky not to be a goal to the good, with a very close call.

The Saddlers continued to press and almost scored in the forty-first minute, through captain Dobson, who did well to win the ball in the box before firing an off-balance effort goal-wards, but the midfielder could only find the post.

In the forty-third minute, Josh Gordon became the first player to see yellow, picking up a booking for a foul on Baldwin.

Walsall continued to look the more likely to score as we headed into three additional minutes, with Ginnelly seeing an effort blocked before Cook saw a right-footed effort, close range effort saved by McLaughlin. That would be the last real action of the first-half, with the sides heading into the break with the scores still tied.

0 - 0

Both teams returned unchanged following the break, and Sunderland got the action back underway, but it was Walsall who got off to the perfect start, opening the scoring just thirty-nine seconds after the restart thanks to some clever play from Cook and Devlin who combined to set up Josh Gordon who flicked the ball home. A superb start to the second half for the Saddlers.

Sunderland opted to make their first change of the game in the fiftieth minute, replacing Bryan Oviedo with Luke O’Nien for the final forty minutes.

The Saddlers went close to a second moments after the change, with Ginnelly running the length of the field before seeing his shot turned behind. The resulting corner was played short, eventually falling to Leahy at the back post, but the defenders headed effort trickled just wide of the post.

With fifty-three minutes on the clock, the Saddlers doubled their advantage, with Ginnelly cutting inside his man before unleashing an absolute screamer which sailed into the top corner, nothing McLaughlin could have done to prevent the goal.

George Honeyman became the second player to see yellow in the fifty-third minute.

With sixty-one minutes played, Sunderland opted to make their second change of the afternoon, introducing Chris Maguire in place of Josh Maja.

Walsall continued to press, looking to make their man advantage tell further, but somewhat against the run of play, Sunderland pulled a goal back in the sixty-second minute, with Lynden Gooch setting up McGeady who fired into the bottom corner from the edge of the area.

Sunderland set about finding an equaliser after their first goal, and almost found one in five minutes after the first, but Maguire’s right-footed effort was saved by Roberts, before Adam Matthews mistimed his effort, sending the ball across the face of goal.

Fifteen minutes from time, Lyndon Gooch picked up a yellow card for a foul on Kinsella.

Walsall opted to make their second change with ten minutes to go, with Morgan Ferrier being brought on in place of Josh Gordon.

There was a brief delay in proceedings in the eighty-first minute, whilst Maguire received treatment for an injury, but he was soon up and able to continue.

The Saddlers were unlucky not to have put the game to bed in the eighty-fifth minute, as a lovely cross from Devlin was headed over the bar by Ferrier at the back post.

Just a minute from time, Walsall were left to rue their missed chance, as Sunderland drew level through Gooch, who fired a right-footed effort into the bottom corner from inside the box.

Six minutes were added to end the contest, during which time the Saddlers set about looking to restore their lead, though efforts from both Morris and Dobson were blocked. Moments before the final whistle, Sunderland created one final chance to snatch victory, but Gooch’s right-footed shot from close range sailed harmlessly over the bar and an end was called to the game with the sides level at two-goals-a-piece.

A decent afternoon for the Saddlers, who struggled to get into the game in the opening twenty minutes or so, before putting themselves two goals to the good in the second half. The side will no doubt be disappointed not to have seen out the win, but taking a point against their second placed opposition offers plenty of positives for the team to build upon.

2 - 2
Gordon (46')
Ginnelly (52')
McGeady (62')
Gooch (89')
Attendance: 7,868 (3,279)
Referee: Craig Hicks
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