Match Report: Walsall 1 Oxford United 3 Match Report: Walsall 1 Oxford United 3

Match Report: Walsall 1 Oxford United 3

Here is our Match Report from Saturday afternoon's Sky Bet League One clash between Walsall and Oxford United.
Dean Keates' Saddlers returned to action at Banks's Stadium in desperate need of three points as they continued to sit in the League One relegation zone with just six games remaining.

Oxford United got the match underway, and the visitors started brightly, with forays forwards from Marcus Browne, James Henry and Cameron Brannagan inside the opening six minutes, but the Walsall defences stood firm to block all incoming efforts.

The visitors were awarded a free-kick in a dangerous position, seven minutes in, as Nicky Devlin felled Brannagan inches outside the box. Brannagan fired the set-piece goal-wards, sending the ball sailing across the face of goal and past the far post without incident.

The visiting side continued to press, with Luke Garbutt trying his luck from range in the eleventh minute, but Walsall shot-stopper, Liam Roberts had the effort covered and pushed the ball clear. Moments later, United were awarded a free-kick, which Garbutt sent into the area, but the Saddlers were able to clear the danger.

With just fifteen minutes on the clock, Ahmed Kashi became the first player to see his name added to the referee’s notebook as he picked up a yellow card for a foul on Josh Gordon.

A lengthy pause in proceedings followed, as a collision between Roberts and Jamie Mackie saw the later require treatment. After several minutes, the striker was able to continue.

Moments after the restart, with twenty-one minutes on the clock, Oxford took the lead as the ball was crossed into the box by Garbutt and Dickie headed home.

It took the Saddlers just five minutes to level the scores, as Nelson failed to deal with a ball into the area, allowing Andy Cook an easy prod home.

The hosts should then have fired themselves ahead in the twenty-ninth minute as a short corner routine found Jon Guthrie in space, just outside the six yard box, but the defenders effort sailed narrowly over the crossbar.

Walsall won a corner in the thirty-sixth minute, which was played into the box for Guthrie, who headed the ball back across goal for Isaiah Osbourne who was unable to direct a diving header on target.

In the thirty-eighth minute, George Dobson joined Kashi in the referee’s notebook as he picked up a yellow card for a foul on Browne.

The visitors were unlucky not to re-take the lead three minutes before the break, as a neat low ball in from Brannagan sailed across the face of the Walsall goal, with neither Browne nor Garbutt able to get a decisive touch on it to turn it home.

Seven minutes were added to end the first-half, as Browne fired an effort wide from an acute angle. With all seven minutes played, Oxford were reduced to ten men as a studded challenge on Zeli Ismail saw Marcus Browne dismissed. That would be the final act of the first-half, and the sides headed off for their half-time refreshments with the scores tied.

1 - 1

The sides returned unchanged following the break, and Walsall got the second-half underway. The hosts started the half brightly, winning a free-kick just two minutes in, which Dobson played into the area for Guthrie, who forced a save from Oxford shot-stopper, Simon Eastman.

Up at the other end, United won a corner themselves just a minute later, but the Saddlers defences stood firm, forcing Garbutt to put the ball out of play.

There was a brief pause to proceedings five minutes into the half, as a collision between Nelson and Gordon saw the latter requiring treatment, but he was soon up and able to continue.

Ten minutes into the half, the visitors were presented with a chance on goal as a cross from Josh Ruffels fell to Henry at the far post, but the midfielder was unable to keep his headed effort on target, glancing the ball wide.

With sixty-three minutes on the clock, Oxford reinstated their earlier lead thanks some good play from Sam Long whose cross was met by Garbutt who took a touch before firing past Roberts, into the bottom right corner.

The hosts set about looking for a second equaliser, with Eastwood doing well to deny Cook in the seventieth minute, before a low cross from Corey Blackett-Taylor was intercepted by Ruffels ahead of Ismail. The resulting corner was gathered by the United shot-stopper, before another corner was won a minute later, which was also dealt with by the Oxford defences.

The Saddlers opted to make the first substitution of the afternoon fifteen minutes from time, with Josh Gordon making way for Morgan Ferrier as their side looked to get back into the game.

Oxford responded by making a change of their own, with James Henry departing in favour of Gavin Whyte.

Whyte looked to make an immediate impact, racing down the right, before winning a corner for his side, ten minutes from time, but Garbutt’s ball in from the flag-kick was easily saved by Roberts.

The visiting side opted to make their final two substitutions in the eighty-third minute, with Ahmed Kashi and Jamie Mackie making way for John Mousinho and Jerome Sinclair. The Saddlers also chose to make a change to their line-up, with Cameron Norman taking the place of Zeli Ismail.

There was little further action of note, before we entered five minutes of added time. The Saddlers looked to find a breakthrough as time ran down, with Ferrier seeing an effort cleared off the line a minute into the five.

Andy Cook joined the ranks in the referee’s notebook in the ninety-fourth minute for a foul on Long.

With the game all but over anyway, Oxford ensured the game was put to bed in the ninety-fifth minute, with a ball over top finding Sinclair who fired home to ensure all three points would head home with his side.

Goalscorer, Jerome Sinclair then found his name being added to the referee’s notebook for his excessive celebration of the goal.

That would be the last act of the afternoon as time was called, with ten-man Oxford winning by three-goals-to-one. Another disappointing afternoon for the Saddlers who showed promise at times, but failed once again to make their chances pay.

1 - 3
Cook (26')

Dickie (21')
Garbutt (63')
Sinclair (90+5')
Attendance: 6,339 (1,462)
Referee: David Webb
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