Match Report: Walsall 2 Luton Town 2

Here is our Match Report from Saturday afternoon's Sky Bet League One clash between Walsall and visitors, Luton Town.
The Saddlers arrived at the match in need of both a positive result and improved performance following their Boxing Day defeat to Bristol Rovers, a loss which saw many of the major issues surrounding the side laid bare as the visiting Pirates eased to victory.

Luton Town got the match underway, with the game getting off to a slow start as both sides took time to settle. The sides largely cancelling each other out during the opening ten minutes, with Walsall enjoying plenty of possession, though neither team was able to create much going forwards, keeping much of the action confined to the midfield areas.

After a quiet opening quarter of an hour, Luton finally created their first half-chance of the afternoon, as Elliot Lee broke forwards and fired a left footed effort in from the centre of the box, but the Walsall defences were well placed and blocked the shot.

Two minutes later, Luton won the first corner of the game as a right footed, twenty yard effort from Lee was expertly tipped over the bar by Walsall shot-stopper, Liam Roberts. The resulting flag-kick was played in to captain, Sonny Bradley who headed goal-wards, towards the top corner, but Roberts remained alert to save.

The game really began to heat up, and the Saddlers soon created a chance of their own, with Luke Leahy swinging a ball in towards the back post in the nineteenth minute, where Andy Cook met it with a downward header, but Luton ‘keeper, James Shea was on hand to save.

Luton were quick to get the ball back up to the other end, where Pelly Ruddock Mpanzu rattled the woodwork with a curling effort from eighteen yards.

Walsall were awarded a penalty in the twenty-fifth minute as captain George Dobson was felled in the area by Jack Stacey. Morgan Ferrier stepped up to take the spot-kick and calmly slotted the ball home to put his side a goal to the good.

The pace slowed a little again following the goal, before Luton were forced to make an early change to their line-up, ten minutes before the break as Harry Cornick was replaced by Danny Hylton after it appeared Cornick had injured his thigh.

The game returned to something of a midfield battle, with the two sides largely cancelling each other out, the Saddlers doing particularly well to keep Lee out of the game.

Two additional minutes were added to end the half, but neither side was able to make use of them, and the referee brought an end to the first-half with the Saddlers taking a one goal lead into the break.

1 - 0

The sides returned unchanged after the break and the Saddlers got the match action back underway. After a relatively slow start to the second-half, which saw numerous fouls committed by both sides, Luton won a corner in the fifty-first minute as Jack Fitzwater was forced to turn the ball out of play, but the Walsall defences were able to deal with the danger.

With fifty-five minutes on the clock, Josh Gordon became the first player to enter the referee’s notebook, picking up a yellow card for a foul on Mpanzu.

The large number of fouls and subsequent free-kicks continued as time marched on, with the Walsall midfield contingent doing well to contain their opponents.

As we reached the hour mark, Alan McCormack joined Gordon in the referee’s notebook, picking up a yellow card for a foul on Nicky Devlin.

The Saddlers continued to work hard to prevent their visitors finding a flow, almost entirely eliminating Elliot Lee from the game, prompting the Hatters to replace him in the sixty-third minute, with Kazenga LuaLua taking his place.

There was a brief delay to the game following the change, whilst Gordon received treatment for an injury, but the forward was soon back on his feet and able to continue.

The Saddlers were rewarded for their patience and defensive work in the sixty-seventh minute as Ferrier and Leahy combined to set up Cook, who fired home his tenth all competition goal of the season to double his sides advantage.

Just five minutes later, the Saddlers defences were breached, with McCormack seeing an effort on goal deflect into the path of James Collins who fired a left footed effort under Roberts and into the bottom corner from the centre of the box to pull his side back to within a goal of Walsall.

The Hatters responded to the goal by making their third and final change of the afternoon as they looked to claw themselves back onto level terms. Andrew Shinnie was the man to make way as Alan Sheehan took his place.

With seventy-four minutes on the clock, Luton again had the ball in the Walsall net after some good work from Mpanzu allowed Hylton to turn the ball home. Thankfully for the Saddlers, the goal would not stand, as the linesman’s flag was raised for an infringement of the offside rule.

The game began to really heat up, with both sides keen to secure more goals. Liam Kinsella firing a right footed effort narrowly wide in the seventy-seventh minute, before the visiting side worked the ball up to the other end moments later, where James Justin’s headed effort also trickled inches wide.

Ten minutes from time, the Saddlers opted to make a change to their line-up, replacing Josh Gordon with Kane Wilson.

The visiting side continued to press following the change, with Bradley firing a right footed effort goal-wards from the centre of the box in the eighty-first minute, but the shot sailed wide of Roberts upright without troubling the ‘keeper.

Three minutes later, it was the turn of LuaLua, who also fired a right footed effort in on goal, sending the ball sailing wide of the mark. Followed shortly thereafter by Justin who also fired a right footed attempt wide as their side continued to seek an equaliser.

The officials found five additional minutes from somewhere, which were tacked on to the end of the game. The Saddlers won a corner in the first of the added minutes, as Matty Pearson was forced to put the ball out of play, but the Luton defences were able to deal with the danger.

In the ninety-third minute, Walsall captain, George Dobson was shown the yellow card for a foul on Bradley.

The Hatters continued to search for a late equalising goal as time ebbed away from them, with Sheehan seeing a left footed effort blocked by Wilson, gifting his side a late corner, which Pearson headed goal-wards from the centre of the box, but the Walsall defences remained alert and dealt with the danger.

Moments later though, in the final minute of the match, the Saddlers defences were again breached and LuaLua slotted a right footed shot into the bottom left corner bringing the sides level seconds before the full-time whistle was blown. Heartbreak for the Saddlers who worked so hard to contain their opponents for lengthy periods of the game, only to come unstuck at the last.

2 - 2
Ferrier (26')
Cook (67')
Collins (72')
LuaLua (90+4')
Attendance: : 5,739 (1,957)
Referee: Ollie Yates
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