Match Report: Walsall 1 Forest Green Rovers 1

Here is our Match Report from Saturday afternoon's Sky Bet League Two clash between Walsall and Forest Green Rovers.
Darrell Clarke's Saddlers arrived at the match on the back of last weekend's well-earned if unspectacular victory over Northampton Town and in search of a second win of the season.

Josh Gordon got the first home game of the season underway, but the game was paused just four minutes in, before either side had built up any real momentum, as Gary Liddle picked up a knock, which required treatment before he was able to re-join the action. An early worry for Darrell Clarke and his team.

Walsall enjoyed plenty of possession as the sides began to settle into the game, and just eight minutes in, could have opened the scoring as a Stuart Sinclair looked to play Gordon in, but the former Leicester City man was unable to make a clean connection with the ball, sending his effort wide of the upright.

The Saddlers continued to press, but a tenth minute through-ball from Liam Kinsella caught Gordon offside, allowing Forest Green Rovers a spell on the ball. The home side soon won back possession though and again set about finding an opener, with Elijah Adebayo darting into the box before firing a cross Gordon's way, but Farrend Rawson was alert to the danger and was able to get there ahead of the Walsall man, to clear.

The match settled a little following that chance, with Rovers beginning to see more of the ball, whilst not really causing any issues for their defensive counterparts.

The Saddlers won the first corner of the match with twenty-two minutes played, as a free-kick from Kinsella was turned behind by Rovers shot-stopper, Lewis Thomas. The flag-kick was played neatly into the box, but Joseph Mills met it at the near post and cleared.

Walsall won a second corner two minutes later, as Nathan McGinley put a James Clarke ball out of play. The ball was swung into the box, with Mills able to clear, but there was another halt to proceedings following the set-piece, whilst Gordon received treatment for a head injury picked up during the play. The corners kept coming for the hosts, with an Adebayo effort deflected behind in the twenty-sixth minute, but the flag-kick came to nothing.

With twenty-seven minutes on the clock, Aaron Collins became the first player to find his name added to the referee's notebook, as he saw yellow for a dangerous high foot.

The Saddlers continued to dominate, with Adebayo firing in a right-footed shot from distance in the thirty-first minute, though Thomas was able to make a comfortable save.

The visiting side again began to see a little of the ball as we raced into the final ten minutes of the half, but failed to take advantage as their move culminated in Collins firing wide from the edge of the area.

The home side were soon back in control, with Cameron Norman delivering the ball into the box for Kinsella, but the midfielder skied his first-time volley, with the ball falling to Adebayo who saw a headed effort easily saved.

As we neared the break, the Saddlers should have opened the scoring, as Kinsella cut inside before seeing a superb effort from the edge of the box deflected by Matt Mills, which allowed Thomas to make the save.

There was then another brief delay whilst Rawson received treatment for a head injury, with the stretcher being brought out to him as five additional minutes were shown to have been added by the officials.

The match eventually got back underway, as Farrend Rawson headed off under his own power. His side winning a penalty before the replacement could be introduced, as Collins was brought down inside the area, by Clarke. Before the spot-kick was taken, Forest Green introduced Liam Kitching in place of their injured defender.

Rovers captain, Joseph Mills stepped up to take the spot-kick and duly converted, slotting a left-footed effort into the bottom right corner. He then picked up the games second yellow card, for a foul.

That would be the last real action of the half, as Forest Green Rovers headed into the break, a goal to the good. A disappointing end to the first-half for the Saddlers, who had looked by far the more likely of the two sides to open the scoring through much of the opening forty-five.

0 - 1

The two sides returned unchanged after the break, and the visitors got the action back underway. The teams took a little time to settle back into the game, but five minutes into the half, the visitors won a free-kick in a dangerous position, which Joseph Mills took. The initial delivery was deflected wide, falling to James Morton who delivered the ball back into the box where McCoulsky met it with his head, though he was unable to direct his effort goalwards and the Saddlers cleared the danger.

With fifty-two minutes on the clock, Cameron Norman became the third player to see yellow, as he picked up a booking for a foul on Morton.

The visiting side continued to look the brighter, winning a corner in the fifty-fourth minute, from which their club captain played a neat one-two with Carl Winchester before his eventual cross into the box was blocked.

Darrell Clarke, clearly unhappy with what he was seeing, opted to make a double substitution in the fifty-seventh minute. Mat Sadler and Gary Liddle the two men to make way, as James Hardy and Rory Holden took their places.

The game settled into something of a midfield battle as it continued, with both sides enjoying time on the ball, without creating anything to really test their opposition.

With sixty-seven minutes on the clock, debutante, James Hardy went close to levelling the scores, with a neat turn on the edge of the area, which allowed him to get a shot away, but the effort sailed over the bar without troubling the man between the sticks.

Sixty-eight minutes in, the visiting bench opted to make their second change of the afternoon, as Aaron Collins made way for Matt Stevens.

In the seventy-first minute, Matt Mills joined the ranks in the referee's notebook, as the defender took one for the team, preventing Adebayo racing through on goal.

The resulting free-kick was played into the box by Hardy, where Gordon was unlucky not to get a touch on it ahead of Thomas who was able to parry the effort, averting a goal.

Dan Scarr became the next player to find his name being added to the referee's notebook, after tangling with Thomas at the back post. The Rovers 'keeper requiring treatment before eventually continuing.

The Saddlers used the break in play to make their third and final change of the afternoon, with Cameron Norman making way for Caolan Lavery.

Forest Green Rovers followed suit, making their final change of the day in the seventy-seventh minute. James Morton departing early as Ebou Adams entered the fray.

The hosts won a free-kick in a dangerous position, which was taken moments after the change had been made, but Lavery was unable to make his first contribution to the game a scoring one as his effort sailed high over the crossbar.

The Saddlers continued to press as they sought an equaliser, which they almost found ten minutes from time as Hardy fired an effort in on goal from six yards out, but the acute angle made the shot difficult and Thomas was able to get enough on it to tip the ball over the bar.

Hardy was then tasked with taking a free-kick won by Stuart Sinclair, but the effort was fired straight into the wall and the visitors were able to clear the danger.

With eighty-six minutes on the clock, the Saddlers finally found the goal they had been looking for, as a Holden cross into the box found Gordon, who attempted an ambitious over-head kick which clipped the post, allowing Hardy to turn in the rebound to secure a debut goal, which drew his side level.

As in the first-half, five additional minutes were added to end the second-half, as both sides set about the task of securing a late winner, but neither side were able to create anything further and the referee blew the full-time whistle with the scores tied at one-goal-apiece. The Saddlers a little unlucky not to have taken more than a point from the match, with sixteen shots under their belts, but only one converted, and a poor defensive effort to blame for their visitors goal.

1 - 1
Hardy (86')
J.Mills [P] (45+6')
Attendance: 5,205
Referee: Seb Stockbridge
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