Match Report: Walsall 3 Northampton Town 2

Here is our Match Report from Saturday afternoon's Sky Bet League Two clash between Walsall and Northampton Town.
Following a duo of away-days the Saddlers returned to Banks's Stadium this weekend where they faced Keith Curle's promotion-chasing Northampton Town in a bid to stretch their undefeated spell to three games.

Arriving at the clash on the back of a drab midweek draw with Newport County - which saw the Saddlers fail to hit a single shot on target - Darrell Clarke's side had an opportunity to return to the top half of the table.

Northampton Town got the match underway, but their early assault on goal came to nothing as a Nicky Adams cross, aimed for Paul Anderson, drifted harmlessly out of play in the second minute.

Walsall soon had the ball at the other end, but the Northampton defences were able to deal with a Shay Facey cross into the box, and they were quick to test the Saddlers defences, which were not found wanting as they expertly cleared a Charlie Goode cross.

With seven minutes on the clock, Town created their first real chance of the game, as Callum Morton raced into the area before firing a first-time effort narrowly over the crossbar.

The visiting side continued to press, winning a free-kick in a dangerous position, in the eighth minute. Adams played the set-piece into the penalty area, but Liam Roberts had it covered and claimed.

Morton continued to look dangerous for the visitors, collecting the ball on the edge of the area, in the eleventh minute, and again firing inches over the bar.

The Saddlers first half-chance of the afternoon arrived in the fourteenth minute, but after some good work from Elijah Adebayo, to work the ball into the box, Nathan Sheron failed to find the target with a left-footed effort which trickled out of play.

There was a brief halt to proceedings as we reached the quarter hour mark, whilst Andy Williams received treatment. It was soon determined that he would not be able to continue, and with seventeen minutes on the clock, the Cobblers were forced to make their first change of the afternoon as Matt Warburton took his place.

Walsall won the first corner of the match, eighteen minutes into the contest, as a Facey cross was turned out of play by Sam Hoskins. Stuart Sinclair swung the flag-kick into the area, but Dan Scarr's header on was cleared by the visitors.

With twenty-one minutes on the clock, Morton fired the visitors into the lead as he turned home an Adams cross from close range.

The Saddlers looked to respond quickly to falling a goal behind, but after some good work from Adebayo, Josh Gordon fired the hosts first real effort on goal of the game narrowly over the bar.

Roberts was called into action in the twenty-seventh minute; the Saddlers shot-stopper was alert to the danger and easily held an Adams free-kick.

The match settled into something of a midfield battle as it continued, but thirty-three minutes in, Walsall felt they should have been awarded a penalty, as Adebayo was felled by Watson inside the box, but the referee was unmoved by their appeals and play continued.

Town soon had the ball back at the other end, winning a corner for their efforts. The curling cross looked good, but Roberts remained alert and punched clear under pressure.

With thirty-nine minutes on the clock, Morton doubled his sides advantage, as he turned home a superbly placed cross from Anderson.

The Cobblers continued to see much of the ball as the remainder of the first-half was played out, including three additional minutes, but neither side was able to produce anything, and the sides headed off for their half-time refreshments with the visiting side leading by two-goals-to-nil at the break.

0 - 2

The teams returned unchanged following the interval, and Walsall got the action back underway. After a quiet opening few minutes, a mistake from Northampton 'keeper, David Cornell, was almost capitalised on by the Saddlers, as Adebayo pounced on a poor goal-kick and played the ball to Gordon inside the box, but Cornell redeemed himself by smothering the effort.

The Cobblers were quick to work the ball up to the other end, where Adams forced a corner, but Roberts was alert to Goode's headed effort from the flag-kick, and saved.

The visiting side continued to press, and were almost gifted a third as Facey played the ball across his own goalmouth, with Adams looking to pounce, but Zak Jules was alert to make a last gasp tackle to prevent the shot.

Ten minutes into the half, the Saddlers pulled a goal back, as a well-weighted cross came in from the right and found the head of Gordon, who duly nodded home.

Fifty-six minutes in, Darrell Clarke opted to make a double change to his line-up, with Zak Jules and Nathan Sheron making way for Wesley McDonald and Danny Guthrie.

There were again calls for a Walsall penalty in the fifty-eighth minute, as Adebayo went down under a challenge inside the box, but the official was unmoved and waved play on.

The hosts continued to press as they sought to draw level, and won a corner for their troubles in the fifty-ninth minute. The ball was played deep from the flag-kick, but the Cobblers defences were alert to the danger at the back-post and cleared.

In the sixty-first minute, Keith Curle opted to make his second change of the game, with Paul Anderson making way for Michael Harriman.

His side then won a corner, which was cleared by the Saddlers defences, ahead of Jordan Turnbull.

Sixty-five minutes into the contest, the Walsall manager opted to make his third and final change of the afternoon, with Stuart Sinclair giving up his place in favour of Rory Holden.

The visitors continued to probe, as they looked to regain their two goal cushion, but a sixty-sixth minute free-kick from Scott Wharton needed another touch to turn it home, before Morton found himself unable to reach the ball to tap home a minute later.

With sixty-eight minutes on the clock, Jordan Turnbull became the first player to see his name entered into the referee's notebook, as he saw yellow for a foul on Holden.

The Saddlers won a corner in the sixty-ninth minute, after shots from McDonald and Holden were both blocked, but the visitors dealt with the flag-kick well.

Northampton should probably have restored their two-goal lead in the seventieth minute, but Morton was unable to divert an Adams cross into the net to secure his hat-trick.

Sixteen minutes from time, the visiting side opted to use their third and final substitution, with goal-scorer, Callum Morton making way for Vadaine Oliver.

In the seventy-sixth minute, Lloyd Jones joined Turnbull in the referee's notebook, seeing yellow for a cynical challenge on Adebayo.

The resulting free-kick saw the Saddlers draw level, as Guthrie played curled the set-piece through the crowd and into the net.

The Saddlers continued to press, and could have taken the lead in the seventy-ninth minute, but McDonald's effort from inside the area was deflected wide, before Scarr headed narrowly wide of Cornell's upright from the resulting flag-kick.

Both sides piled on the pressure as they looked for a late winner, but it was the Cobblers who went closest, with an eighty-six minute cross from Hoskins being headed onto the crossbar by Warburton, though the offside flag was raised and the goal wouldn't have stood had he converted.

With two minutes of the ninety remaining, McDonald almost completed the Saddlers come back, as he latched onto a Holden cross, but the striker was unable to keep his shot down and the effort sailed over the bar.

Four minutes were added to see out the contest, and three minutes into them, second-half sub, Holden won it for the Saddlers with his first goal for the team as he fired a McDonald cross into the top corner.

In the dying seconds of the contest, Sam Hoskins became the third player to see yellow, as he picked up a booking for a foul on Holden.

That would be the final action of the afternoon, as the referee brought an end to the match with the Saddlers winning by three-goals-to-two. A superb display from Walsall who looked to be all but beaten at the break.

3 - 2
Gordon (55')
Guthrie (77')
Holden (90+3')
Morton (21')
Morton (39')

ATT: 4,541 (867)
REF: Ben Toner
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