Match Report: Sunderland 2 Walsall 1 Match Report: Sunderland 2 Walsall 1
Posted by: Bescot Banter

Match Report: Sunderland 2 Walsall 1

Here is our Match Report from Saturday afternoon's Sky Bet League One clash between Sunderland and Walsall.
The Saddlers arrived at this weekend's clash with the Black Cats on the back of a midweek defeat to Portsmouth, a result which halted a brief return to form and saw Dean Keates' side resume their slide towards the dropzone.

Joe Edwards got the match underway, with his side starting brightly, winning a corner in just the second minute as a twenty-five yard effort from Luke Leahy was blocked by Lee Cattermole, but Sunderland goalkeeper, Jon McLaughlin was alert and gathered the in-swinging flag-kick.

Walsall’s lively start continued, seeing them take the lead in just the fourth minute as a free-kick was delivered low into the box by captain, George Dobson for Josh Gordon who flicked the ball into the bottom corner.

The visiting side continued to apply pressure in-front of the Sunderland goal, with Gordon going close again in the ninth minute, with a right footed shot from outside the box, but the hosts defences stood firm and blocked the shot.

As we reached the quarter hour mark, Sunderland thought they had equalised, but a foul on Jon Guthrie in the build-up, saw the referee rule the goal out.

The Saddlers were quick to work the ball back up to the other end, as they looked to put daylight between themselves and the Black Cats, with Zeli Ismail bursting into the box before cutting the ball back for Edwards, but Tom Flanagan made a crucial block to keep the midfielders low effort on goal, out.

Walsall continued to cause their opposition defences headaches, with Leahy taking a quick throw-in in the ninth minute, finding Edwards who fired a dipping effort goal-wards, but McLaughlin was eventually able to gather the ball at the second time of asking.

The hosts soon had the ball up at the other end, as they began to grow into the game, and they could have drawn themselves level, had Lewis Morgan’s curling twenty yard effort not sailed fractions wide of Liam Roberts upright.

Morgan continued to look dangerous in-front of the Walsall goal, forcing Roberts into his first save of the game in the twenty-second minute, with an effort from the edge of the area that the Saddlers shot-stopper was forced to turn behind. The resulting corner saw Roberts again called into action, with the man between the sticks punching the ball clear, as far as Morgan who fired an effort over the bar from close range.

Sunderland continued to enjoy plenty of the ball as the game continued, with Morgan again going close in the twenty-seventh minute after some good work from Aiden McGeady played him in, but the midfielder dragged his effort wide of Roberts far post without troubling the ‘keeper. The home side then won a corner as Nicky Devlin was forced to put the ball out of play, but the flag-kick came to nothing.

The visitors should have doubled their advantage as we reached the half hour mark, with Ismail beating his man into the box and firing a low effort goal-wards, but McLaughlin was able to get to it in time to turn the ball away.

With thirty-three minutes on the clock, Sunderland found the breakthrough and drew level, with Lee Cattermole scoring from a tight angle.

In the thirty-fifth minute, Grant Leadbitter became the first player to enter the referee’s notebook, seeing yellow for a foul on Corey Blackett-Taylor. Just three minutes later, Jon Guthrie joined him in the referee’s notebook, picking up a yellow card for a foul on Max Power.

Five minutes before the break, the home side could have taken the lead, winning a free-kick in a dangerous position, which was played to Will Grigg’s at the far post, but Roberts was on hand for the Saddlers to pull off a sublime save to prevent his effort finding the back of the net.

Three minutes were added to end the first-half, but there was little further action of note and the sides headed off for their half-time refreshments with the scores tied at one-apiece.

1 - 1

The sides returned unchanged following the break, and Sunderland got the action back underway. The hosts started the second-half brightly, with Leadbitter going close from twenty yards just two minutes in, before his side won a corner a minute later, which the Saddlers were able to defend successfully.

Lee Cattermole joined Leadbitter and Guthrie in the referee’s notebook in the forty-ninth minute, receiving a yellow card for a foul on Joe Edwards.

The hosts continued to see plenty of the ball as the game progressed, and won a corner in the fifty-second minute as a McGeady effort from outside the box had to be turned behind by Roberts. The Saddlers continued to hold their nerve, ensuring the flag-kick came to nothing.

Leadbitter called Roberts into action again in the fifty-fourth minute with a thunderous strike, which the ‘keeper was able to gather at the second time of asking.

In the fifty-sixth minute, Josh Gordon joined the growing ranks in the referee’s notebook, seeing yellow after a poor tackle on Jack Baldwin.

With sixty-two minutes on the clock, Sunderland blinked first, making their first change of the afternoon as Lee Cattermole made way for Lynden Gooch.

Five minutes later, the hosts opted to make their second change of the game, replacing Adam Matthews with Denver Hume.

Hume settled into the game quickly, sending a dangerous cross in just two minutes after his arrival, forcing Devlin to make a crucial header to turn the ball away.

Twenty minutes from time, the home side chose to make their third and final change of the afternoon, introducing Charlie Wyke in place of Lewis Morgan.

With seventy-one minutes on the clock, the Black Cats took the lead, as a neat move from Will Grigg saw the former Saddler race towards goal before firing into the bottom corner from eighteen yards out.

Two minutes after the goal, Walsall opted to make their first change of the afternoon, as they looked to get back on level terms. The returning Andy Cook taking the place of Corey Blackett-Taylor for the run-in.

The game settled somewhat after the goal, with the sides cancelling each other out in midfield, but ten minutes from time, Leadbitter went close with a right footed effort from outside the box, but a well placed body ensured the strike came to nothing.

With just two minutes of the regulation ninety to play, the Saddlers opted to make their second change of the afternoon, replacing Joe Edwards with Aramide Oteh.

Four additional minutes were added to end the game, during which time, Liam Kinsella went close to rescuing a point for the Saddlers with a header goal-wards from inside the box, but McLaughlin was able to keep the ball out, before Cook saw a right footed effort blocked.

Walsall continued to press until the last as they looked to take a point from the game, but Gordon was unable to turn Ismail’s late cross home, as a defensive body blocked his shot. That would be the last action of note, as Sunderland held on to their slender lead to take all three points. The Black Cat’s first victory over the Saddlers in four attempts this season.

A poor afternoon for the Saddlers, with results elsewhere seeing Dean Keates side tumble into the relegation zone for the first time this season.

2 - 1
Cattermole (33')
Grigg (71')
Gordon (4')

Attendance: 34,647 (647)
Referee: Alan Young
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