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Match Report: Walsall 3 Exeter City 1

Here is our Match Report from Saturday afternoon's Sky Bet League Two clash between Walsall and Exeter City.
Arriving at this weekend's match on the back of last weekend's two-all draw with Port Vale and with a four-game unbeaten streak in their pocket, Darrell Clarke's Saddlers played host to promotion-chasing Exeter City at Banks's Stadium.

Nicky Law got the match underway, but after just two minutes, there was a pause to proceedings, allowing Cameron Norman to recover from an early knock.

Just seconds after the re-start, Walsall took the lead, as a Josh Gordon cross in from the left was parried by Exeter City goalkeeper, Lewis Ward, allowing Rory Holden to collect and slot the ball home.

The visiting side looked to respond quickly, winning a free-kick in the sixth minute, for a tug on Randell Williams' shirt, but Walsall were first to Williams' cross and cleared the danger. City continued to press, and were rewarded with an eighth minute corner, which Williams swung in, but again, the Saddlers were alert to the danger, and a second attempt at playing the ball in was thwarted by an infringement of the offside rule by Aaron Martin.

The Saddlers were able to work the ball back up to the other end as we passed the ten minute mark, and after some good build-up play from Caolan Lavery and Holden, Wes McDonald drew a fine save from the City shot-stopper, with a curling effort aimed for the top corner.

Walsall continued to test the City defences as the match continued, with both Gordon and McDonald seeing thirteenth minute efforts blocked.

The hosts were unlucky not to double their advantage in the sixteenth minute, as the ball fell for Lavery just five yards from an open goal, but the striker lifted the ball over the bar when he really should have scored.

The Saddlers continued to enjoy a bright spell, but again saw an effort sail over the crossbar in the nineteenth minute, as Holden fired over from the edge of the area.

Exeter were finally able to break in the twenty-third minute, with Matt Jay putting in some good work to play in Nicky Law, but Walsall shot-stopper, Liam Roberts was alert to the danger and cleared.

Walsall soon had the ball back at the other end, winning a corner as Jayden Richardson turned the ball out of play, but the visiting side were able to clear.

With twenty-eight minutes played, the Saddlers won a free-kick in a dangerous position, for a foul by Brennan Dickenson on Holden. Danny Guthrie swung the ball in towards the back post, where it was met by Dan Scarr whose headed effort flew narrowly over the bar.

Thirty-two minutes into the contest, Jayden Richardson became the first player to see his name entered into the referee's notebook, as he picked up a yellow card for a foul on Cameron Pring.

The visitors soon had a chance to draw level, as Williams and Law combined to play in Jay, but the midfielders effort was blocked. Moments later, back at the other end, Holden saw a shot from outside the box blocked.

Exeter won a corner in thirty-eighth minute, as a low cross from Law was turned behind, but the Saddlers were alert to the danger, and won a corner of their own at the other end just a minute later, which was dealt with by the City defences.

Four minutes before the break, Guthrie saw an effort on goal blocked behind for a corner, but again the visiting defences dealt with the pressure. Two minutes later, City won a corner up at the other end, which the Saddlers defences were equal to.

One additional minute was added to end the first-half, but neither side was able to create anything further of note, and the teams headed off for their half-time refreshments with the Saddlers leading by one-goal-to-nil.

WALSALL
1 - 0
EXETER

Exeter opted to make a change ahead of the second-half, with Nigel Atangana sitting out the remainder of the match, as Jake Taylor took his place before Walsall got the action back underway.

Taylor looked to make an immediate impact as he played a good ball through to Richardson just a minute after his introduction, but the Saddlers defences were alert to the danger and cleared.

There was a brief halt to proceedings in the forty-ninth minute, allowing Stuart Sinclair to receive treatment for an injury, but he was soon up and able to continue.

With fifty-one minutes played, Exeter drew level with Jay and Williams combining to set up Ryan Bowman, who headed home from close range.

The Saddlers looked to respond quickly to the Exeter goal, with Gordon firing inches over the crossbar in the fifty-fifth minute.

There was another stoppage in play following the effort, whilst goalscorer, Bowman received treatment after landing heavily. He was soon up and able to rejoin the action.

The game settled a little as it continued, with both sides enjoying time on the ball without really creating much in terms of forward momentum, though McDonald did fire narrowly over from range as we reached the hour mark.

With sixty-three minutes on the clock, Exeter thought they had taken the lead as Bowman converted a Williams cross, but after consultation with the linesman, the goal was ruled out.

The Saddlers soon had the ball back at the other end, where Gordon saw another effort blocked.

With sixty-eight minutes played, Walsall opted to make a double change to their line-up, with Caolan Lavery and Stuart Sinclair making way for Elijah Adebayo and Liam Kinsella.

Just three minutes after his introduction into the game, Adebayo made his mark, as he connected with a cross from Norman and headed home to restore his sides earlier lead.

City responded to the change by making their two final changes of the afternoon, in the seventy-third minute, with Nicky Law and Brennan Dickenson departing in favour of Pierce Sweeney and Alex Fisher.

With seventy-five minutes on the clock, Danny Guthrie became the second player to see his name entered into the referee's notebook, as he picked up a booking for a foul on Richardson.

Four minutes later, Walsall manager, Darrell Clarke followed suit and made his final change of the afternoon, replacing Danny Guthrie with Nathan Sheron for the final ten minutes.

The game settled a little as we raced towards it's conclusion, with both sides enjoying spells on the ball, without troubling their opposition defences.

With eighty-seven minutes on the clock, Josh Gordon joined those in the referee's notebook, seeing yellow for a foul.

The Saddlers saw a late chance to double their advantage a minute from time, as McDonald played Gordon in, but the striker was unable to find the target from outside the box.

Five additional minutes were added to end the match, but the Saddlers needed only two of them to put the game to bed, with Gordon winning the ball in midfield before before taking on Ward in the Exeter goal. The goalkeeper was able to save, but the ball came back to Gordon who set Adebayo up for a tap in.

Following the goal, Ryan Bowman joined the ranks to be shown the yellow card. That would be the last action of the afternoon though, as the referee called an end to the contest with the Saddlers winning by three-goals-to-one.

A good display from Walsall, who should probably have extended their early lead before the break, but who continued to press late into the game to ensure all three points remained in the Black Country.

WALSALL
3 - 1
EXETER
Holden (3')
Adebayo (71')
Adebayo (90+2')
Bowman (51')


ATT: 5,521 (638)
REF: Tom Nield

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