Match Report: Walsall 3 Bradford City 2 Match Report: Walsall 3 Bradford City 2

Match Report: Walsall 3 Bradford City 2

Here is our Match Report from Saturday afternoon's Sky Bet League One clash between Walsall and visitors, Bradford City.
Both the Saddlers and Bantams arrived at this weekend's match in desperate need of three points as their respective battles against relegation hadn't really got going, and, with just thirteen games remaining, time was running out to put things right.

Walsall got the match underway, but it was Bradford City who enjoyed the brighter start, with David Ball breaking free of the Saddlers defences to play Billy Clarke in, but the midfielder was unable to get a clean connection on the ball and his shot was dealt with by the hosts defences.

With just six minutes on the clock, the Saddlers suffered a serious blow as Andy Cook received a straight red card after connecting with Nathaniel Knight-Percival with his elbow as he jumped for the ball. There was a brief pause in proceedings whilst the defender received treatment following the incident, but he was soon up and able to continue and the free-kick came to nothing.

The home side were awarded a free-kick moments later, which Luke Leahy played into the box, where Nicky Devlin headed the ball back across goal, looking to play Jon Guthrie in, but some good defending from the visiting side ensured the danger was cleared ahead of him.

With twelve minutes on the clock, Bradford found the breakthrough, as a perfectly aimed cross was played onto the head of Eoin Doyle who duly nodded past Walsall shot-stopper, Liam Roberts into the bottom corner.

The visiting side almost doubled their advantage six minutes later, as Doyle fired another effort goal-wards, but Devlin was on hand for the Saddlers to prevent an almost certain goal with a superb block.

Walsall won a free-kick in a dangerous position in the twenty-third minute, which Leahy swung into the box, but former Saddler, Richard O’Donnell was alert to the danger and plucked the ball out of the air.

Nicky Devlin became the first player to see yellow in the twenty-fourth minute, picking up a booking for a foul on Adam Chicksen.

Twenty-eight minutes in, the visitors won a corner, which Roberts punched clear, but only as far as Paul Caddis, whose fired a left-footed shot in, which was blocked behind by Guthrie. The resulting corner was swung in by Jacob Butterfield to Knight-Percival, but the referee spotted a foul in the box and awarded a free-kick to Walsall, alleviating the pressure.

The Saddlers began to enjoy a brighter spell, seeing much more of the ball as we raced through the half-hour mark, creating a good chance to draw level in the thirty-second minute, as Matt Jarvis picked out Josh Gordon on the edge of the box, but the forwards right-footed effort was blocked by the City defences.

With thirty-four minutes on the clock, Lewis O’Brien became the second player to see yellow, entering the referee, Brett Huxtable’s notebook for a foul on Zeli Ismail.

The resulting free-kick was delivered into the box by Leahy, where Guthrie was on hand to nod goal-wards, but O’Donnell was well placed and saved.

With forty-one minutes played, the Saddlers drew level as a superb move from captain, Joe Edwards set up Jarvis, who saw his effort blocked, before the ball fell to Gordon eight yards out and the striker fired emphatically home.

There was a brief delay in the forty-third minute, allowing Guthrie to receive treatment for an injury, but the defender was soon up and able to continue.

Three minutes were added to end the first-half, during which time the visiting side almost restored their earlier advantage thanks to a neat cross from Chicksen, which was met by the head of Doyle, but the effort sailed narrowly wide of Roberts’ upright. The sides saw out the remainder of the half without incident, heading off for their half-time refreshments with the scores tied at one goal apiece.

1 - 1

The teams returned unchanged following the break, and Jack Payne got the second-half underway, and it took just two minutes for Walsall to take the lead, as a superb cross from Ismail found Jarvis, whose headed effort cannoned off the crossbar and onto the head of Edwards who nodded past O’Donnell.

The Bantams set about looking for an immediate response, with O’Brien playing the ball into the box in the fiftieth minute, but David Ball was just unable to connect with the cross.

Just seven minutes after Edwards fired Walsall ahead, Bradford found an equaliser, winning a corner which Clarke played short to O’Brien whose driven shot was well saved by Roberts, before the City skipper, Anthony O’Connor picked up the rebound and tapped the ball into into an empty net.

Matt Jarvis joined the ranks in the referee’s notebook following the equalising goal.

With fifty-seven minutes on the clock, the visitors almost restored their early lead, but O’Brien’s twenty-five yard effort hit the post.

The hosts soon had the ball back at the other end though, where Knight-Percival was forced to turn the ball behind. The resulting corner was whipped into the box by Leahy, for Gordon who was waiting to head home from close range to fire his side ahead.

Again, the Bantams looked to respond quickly to falling behind, but Butterfield’s sixty-fifth minute effort sailed wide of the upright, before O’Connor brought Roberts into play with a right-footed effort from the edge of the area, but the Saddlers shot-stopper remained alert to save.

The visiting side continued to press, with Clarke testing Roberts again in the seventy-first minute, with an effort from the edge of the area, which the ‘keeper managed to tip round the post. O’Connor then went close from the resulting corner, but was unable to make his effort count.

With seventy-two minutes on the clock, Bradford opted to make their first change of the afternoon, as Billy Clarke made way for Jermaine Anderson.

Seventy-four minutes in, Jacob Butterfield found his name added to the referee’s notebook, picking up a yellow card for a foul on Edwards.

Bradford continued to press, but the Saddlers defences stood firm. As fatigue began to kick in, the Saddlers opted to make their first change of the match, with Isaiah Osbourne taking the place of Zeli Ismail in the seventy-ninth minute.

Walsall almost put the game to bed in the eightieth minute, as Edwards broke with the ball and fed Jarvis, who found his way into the box before seeing his effort on goal blocked. Moments later, with the ball back at the other end, the Bantams almost drew level, but Guthrie put his body on the line to deny Doyle.

The Saddlers opted to make a second change to their line-up in the eighty-third minute, with brace scoring, Josh Gordon made way for Aramide Oteh.

Bradford opted to make their final two changes of the afternoon two minutes later, with Lewis O’Brien and Paul Caddis making way for George Miller and Kelvin Mellor.

Walsall then made their third and final change of the game three minutes from time, as George Dobson took the place of Matthew Jarvis for the run-in.

The visitors continued to press as we raced towards the final whistle, with Payne firing an eighty-eighth minute effort in from close range, but the shot was blocked. Moments later, Chicksen also saw a left-footed effort blocked, with the visitors winning a corner from the effort as the ball bobbled behind. The Saddlers defences stood firm to defend the flag-kick.

Four additional minutes were added by the officials as Walsall assistant manager, Andy Davies found himself picking up a yellow card. The Bantams continued to press as time ebbed away, with Knight-Percival heading over the crossbar in the ninety-first minute, before his side were awarded a late free-kick following a hand ball from Leahy in the ninety-fourth minute. The set-piece was swung into the box by Butterfield and met by the head of Knight-Percival, but the defender put a little too much on it, and fired over.

That would be the last action, as the referee brought an end to the contest with Walsall’s three-goals-to-two lead intact. A fiercely fought contest, with some moments of brilliance from both teams. The Saddlers putting everything on the line to take all three points.

3 - 2
Gordon (42')
Edwards (47')
Gordon (62')
Doyle (12')
A.O'Connor (53')

Attendance: -
Referee: Brett Huxtable
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