Match Report: Walsall 1 Grimsby Town 0

The Saddlers opened their 2020/21 League Two campaign at home to Grimsby Town.
After facing two cup games in four days last week the Saddlers finally arrived at their League Two season-opener where they were pitted against experienced manager Ian Holloway and his Mariners.

Walsall got the action underway, and the side began the game brightly, winning two corners inside the opening four minutes, with Rory Holden seeing an effort from outside the area blocked.

The Saddlers continued to look the stronger of the two sides as the game continued, winning a third corner ten minutes in, before a lovely cross from Rory Holden presented James Clarke with a chance on goal, but the captains headed effort was easily saved by Grimsby Town's shot-stopper, James McKeown.

With thirteen minutes on the clock, the Saddlers again found themselves in shooting range, as some good work from Wes McDonald resulted in a clearance finding Liam Kinsella on the edge of the area, but the midfielder was unable to direct his effort on target and the scores remained tied.

The hosts continued to dominate, seeing plenty of the ball as the game continued as Grimsby struggled to really get going, though they did show signs of improvement as the game progressed, with Owura Edwards and Sean Scannell combining well, though they were ultimately unable to test Liam Roberts in the Walsall goal.

The Saddlers soon had the ball back at the other end though, with Holden finding space to shoot from the edge of the box, but his tame effort was easily saved by McKeown.

As we reached the half hour mark, the Saddlers again went close, as a cross from Cameron Norman found Elijah Adebayo in space, but the strikers headed effort took a deflection off a defender, allowing McKeown to make the save.

Grimsby created their first real chance of the game, thirty-two minutes in, as Scannell played in Matt Green, whose right-footed effort from the centre of the box was easily saved by Roberts, shortly after Edwards saw a thirty-five yard effort sail wide of the post.

The Saddlers were soon back on the attack, with Adebayo seeing a headed effort from close range miss the mark.

Grimsby continued to grow into the game, and went close again in the thirty-sixth minute, as Danny Rose crossed a dangerous ball into the box, but Norman was alert for the Saddlers and got his body in the way to block the ball behind for a corner, which came to nothing.

There was a brief halt to proceedings in the fortieth minute, allowing Duncan Idehen time to recover following a knock to the head, and Walsall manager, Darrell Clarke to have a strongly worded, motivational chat with his team. Idehen was soon back to his feet and play resumed.

With forty-four minute on the clock, Callum Cockerill-Mollett and Owura Edwards became the first two names added to the referee's notebook as each saw yellow, Callum for a foul and Owura for his reaction to said foul.

Three additional minutes were added to end the first-half, but neither side was able to make use of them and the teams headed off for their half-time refreshments with the game still tied.

0 - 0

Both teams returned unchanged following the break, and Grimsby got the second-half underway. The visiting side began the half brightly, with Green firing an effort goal-wards just two minutes in, but Roberts was alert to the danger and turned the effort behind for a corner, which came to nothing.

Town continued to look the more dominant side as the game continued, with Green doing well to hold up play in the fifty-second minute, allowing George Williams a shot at goal, but Roberts remained alert between the sticks and held the effort well.

Walsall began to see more of the ball as time ebbed on, winning a corner, which came to nothing, in the fifty-third minute, before Josh Gordon saw a left-footed effort from outside the box whistle just wide of the left post, two minutes later.

The visitors soon had the ball back at the other end, winning a corner, which Williams swung into the box for Ludvig Öhman, whose headed effort sailed high and wide.

Walsall were quick to get back on the attack, with Alfie Bates playing in Adebayo with a ball over the top, but the strikers effort was fired straight into the waiting arms of McKeown.

Mere seconds later, in the sixtieth minute, Adebayo was presented with another chance to open the scoring, and this time was successful. A low ball across the box from Norman being bundled home to put the Saddlers ahead.

With sixty-six minutes on the clock, the Saddlers opted to make a double change. Goalscorer, Elijah Adebayo and Rory Holden the two men to make way, as Caolan Lavery and Emmanuel Osadebe took to the field.

In the sixty-ninth minute, Duncan Idehen became the third player to see yellow, as he picked up a booking for a late challenge on Osadebe.

Twenty minutes from time, the visiting side opted to make a double substitution, with Matt Green and Danny Rose making way for Montel Gibson and fifteen year old, Louis Boyd.

The sides settled into something of a midfield battle as the match continued, but in the seventy-seventh minute, the Saddlers went close to doubling their advantage as a cross from Osadebe had to be turned behind by McKeown. The resulting corner almost seeing the Saddlers in again, but Lavery's headed effort was cleared off the line by a well-placed Preston.

With seventy-eight minutes played, Grimsby chose to make their third and final change of the afternoon, with George Williams departing in favour of James Tilley.

The Saddlers following suit just three minutes later, as Alfie Bates made way for Stuart Sinclair.

Walsall almost doubled their advantage in the eighty-second minute, but a well-placed cross from McDonald was turned wide at the back post by Gordon, moments after Clarke fired wide following a flag-kick.

Grimsby set out to grab a late equaliser as we entered the final five minutes of the game, but Edwards effort from outside the box was blocked. The side continued to press, winning a corner three minutes from time, but the Walsall defences stood firm to ensure nothing would come of it.

As four minutes of additional time were shown, the Saddlers almost put the game to bed, but Gordon's effort from the edge of the area was saved by McKeown, before Lavery fired  a follow-up effort inches over the crossbar.

Two minutes into stoppage time, the visiting side almost ensured they would take something from the game, as Tilley created space to get a shot away, before drilling his effort into the post.

That would be the last real action of the game. The Saddlers winning their opening match of the 2020-21 League Two campaign by two-goals-to-one. A good overall display from the boys from the Bescot, one which they'll hope to replicate many times over as the season continues.

1 - 0
Adebayo (60')

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