Match Report: Walsall 0 Sheffield Wednesday 0 (Pens 2-4) Match Report: Walsall 0 Sheffield Wednesday 0 (Pens 2-4)
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Match Report: Walsall 0 Sheffield Wednesday 0 (Pens 2-4)

The Saddlers opened their 2020/21 campaign with a Carabao Cup clash with Sheffield Wednesday.
Walsall, under manager Darrell Clarke, have enjoyed a rare summer of stability as the majority of last season's mid-table securing squad whilst adding some key players over the course of pre-season.

With the Sky Sports cameras in attendance the Saddlers faced the Championship Owls Behind Closed Doors at Banks's Stadium and were looking to start their season on a high with a place in Round Two up for grabs.

The gaffer named a starting eleven made up of players who finished the 2019/20 campaign with loanee George Nurse the only new arrival in the side as he took his seat on the bench.

Sheffield Wednesday began the game brightly, seeing plenty of the ball in the early goings, but the Walsall defences ensured the play remained largely centred in the midfield area in the opening five minutes.

The Saddlers soon began to enjoy more time with the ball though, winning a free-kick in a dangerous position, seven minutes in, from which the side won a corner. The ball in from Rory Holden was flicked on by Caolan Lavery for Cameron Norman, who was unable to keep his effort on target.

The visiting side felt they should have been awarded a penalty in the tenth minute, as Moses Odubajo was pulled down inside the area, but the referee adjudged him to have been offside and play continued.

There was a brief pause in proceedings in the twelfth minute, allowing Holden to receive treatment following a clash in the centre circle, but he was soon back on his feet, albeit looking a little pained, and able to continue.

Walsall won another corner in the sixteenth minute, which the Owls were able to clear with ease before working the ball back up to the other end, where they struggled to get a shot away with the Saddlers continuing to work well in defence.

With twenty minutes on the clock, the visitors did find space in the Walsall area, but Barry Bannan's through ball to Odubajo found the defender in an offside position. The visiting side continued to press, with Fisayo Dele-Bashiru firing wide in the twenty-fourth minute.

As we headed into the second third of the game, a cross from Izzy Brown set Harris racing goal-wards, but his efforts were thwarted by Walsall shot-stopper, Liam Roberts who collected the ball before he could use it.

Both sides saw plenty of the ball as the game continued, with the defensive outfits of both working overtime to ensure there was no end product from either.
With thirty-seven minutes on the clock, the Owls looked to have got themselves into a good position, but Odubajo's left-footed strike from outside the box was blocked by the Saddlers defence.

A sliding tackle on Norman caused Barry Bannan to become the first player to see yellow, in the thirty-ninth minute, as the referee lost patience with him.

As we neared half-time, the Saddlers went close to opening the scoring, as a lovely ball over the top set Josh Gordon away, but the strikers effort on goal was saved at the near post by shot-stopper Cameron Dawson.

That would be the last real action of the first-half, with the referee signalling half-time after two additional minutes had been played, with the scores still tied at the break.

0 - 0

Both teams returned, unchanged, after the interval, and Walsall got the second-half underway. It was the visiting side who started the half the brighter though, with Harris sending a dangerous cross into the box just two minutes in. Fortunately for the Saddlers, Zak Jules was well placed to clear the danger and play continued.

The Saddlers began to test their opposition more as the game went on, winning a free-kick close to the corner flag in the fifty-fifth minute after a good spell of pressure in and around the Owls box, which saw Lavery closed down to block an effort. The Wednesday defences stood firm though and cleared the danger.

With fifty-five minutes on the clock, Julian Bรถrner became the second player to see yellow, as he picked up a booking for a foul on Gordon.

As we reached the hour mark, Wednesday went close with a lovely cross from Odubajo reaching Harris, whose effort, aimed for the top corner, sailed over the crossbar.

That would be Moses Odubajo's final involvement in the game, as he was replaced by Matt Penney as the Owls made their first substitution of the game.

The visiting side continued to press following the change, with the newly introduced Penney quick to get involved, as he picked up the ball on the edge of the area and forced a save from Roberts, who did well to push the behind. The resulting corner coming to nothing.

With sixty-six minutes on the clock, the visiting side opted to make their second change of the game, with Josh Windass replacing Adam Reach.

Three minutes later, the Saddlers also opted to make a change to their line-up, with Caolan Lavery making way for Elijah Adebayo.

Wednesday won a corner in the seventy-third minute, which was cleared by Adebayo, before Penney played the ball back in for Massimo Luongo who scuffed a left-footed effort narrowly wide of Roberts' upright.

Fifteen minutes from time, the visiting team again went close, as Penney fired an effort in on goal, but fortunately for the Saddlers, the shot sailed harmlessly over the crossbar.

Walsall soon had the ball up at the other end, where they won a corner. Holden swung a lovely ball in from the flag-kick which was met by the head of Gordon, but the strikers effort cleared the bar.

In the seventy-ninth minute, the Owls chose to make a third change to their line-up, with Fisayo Dele-Bashiru making way for Jordan Rhodes.

The visiting side soon had the ball in a dangerous position once more, with Brown playing in Penney, but the substitute could only nod his effort over the bar.

The Saddlers went close to taking a late lead in the eighty-fourth minute, but Gordon's effort from outside the area was blocked, before the resulting corner was cleared.

With eighty-eight minutes on the clock, Darrell Clarke handed a Walsall debut to George Nurse, bringing him on in place of Wes McDonald, as the prospect of penalties loomed.

Three additional minutes were added to end the half, but with neither side able to find a late winner, the game headed into the lottery of a penalty shootout.

Walsall were first on the spot, with Holden firing the first penalty into the bottom corner to give his side an early advantage.

Bannan then stepped up for the Owls, and fired into the opposite bottom corner to tie the scores.

Gordon was next up for the Saddlers, but his effort down the middle was saved by Dawson.

Windass took advantage of the mistake to put his side ahead.

Adebayo kept his side in it with an effort straight down the middle.

Harris followed up with a confident effort which sailed into the back of the net.

Alfie Bates was the man to step up and take the Saddlers fourth penalty kick, but his effort cannoned off the crossbar.

Brown stepped up to take the Owls fourth spot-kick, and duly scored, sending the Saddlers crashing out of the Carabao Cup in the first round.

Bates ❌
Peter WRIGHT (Merseyside)
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