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EFL Trophy Match Report: Walsall 0 Oxford United 1

The Saddlers played host to Oxford United on Tuesday evening.
Meeting in Southern Group D of this season's Papa John's Trophy, the Saddlers and group-topping U's were looking to take their place in the Second Round as they did battle at Banks's Stadium.

Oxford United got the match underway, and they were quick to test Walsall shot-stopper, Jack Rose, with a Liam Kelly effort from range, but the man between the sticks was able to gather at the second time of asking.

The visiting side maintained the early tempo, winning a free-kick in a dangerous spot, twenty-five yards from goal, in just the fourth minute, from which Robert Hall attempted to find the target, but his effort sailed over the crossbar without troubling the 'keeper.

The Saddlers were presented with their first half-chance of the game in the fifth minute, as a foul on Jake Scrimshaw earned the side a free-kick in a promising spot, but the opportunity went begging as the Jack Nolan's ball in failed to beat the wall.

Oxford soon had the ball back at the other end, Hall and Joel Cooper combining to present the latter with a chance from range, but the Saddlers defences were on hand to block the effort.

Cooper looked to turn provider a short time later, setting striker Sam Winnall through on goal, but Rose remained alert in the Walsall goal and palmed the out for a corner, which was played by Kelly to James Henry whose curling effort sailed wide of the upright.

The visitors continued to look the more likely to open the scoring as the game continued, with Michael Elechi unlucky not to see a teammate get on the end of a lovely pass across the face of goal in the twelfth minute.

The frenetic pace slowed a little as the game wore on, with a series of fouls and free-kicks reducing the tempo somewhat. The most promising of which saw Rose gather a Hall effort.

With twenty minutes on the clock, the Saddlers won their first corner of the evening, as a Scrimshaw effort deflected behind off Nico Jones, but Cooper was well placed to clear the danger for the visitors.

The teams settled into something of a midfield battle as the game continued, with neither side creating anything much going forwards as they cancelled each other out.

As we reached the half hour mark, Kelly and Jordan Obita combined to create a chance for the latter, but his effort on goal failed to test Rose as it sailed wide of the far post.

The Saddlers saw the best chance of the game go begging in the thirty-second minute, as a corner kick was whipped into the box by Jack Nolan, finding the head of Caolan Lavery whose flick goal-wards collided with the crossbar, with Rose then saving a Cooper effort at the other end after a swift counter-attack.

With thirty-five minutes on the clock, Joel Cooper received the first yellow card of the game for a foul on Callum Cockerill-Mollett.

Four minutes later, the visiting side looked almost certain to open the scoring, as Winnall fired goal-wards from point-blank range, but Rose pulled off a superb stop to keep the scores tied.

Back at the other end, Scrimshaw failed to make the visitors pay after Jones and Elechi failed to clear the ball ahead of him, as the forwards effort sailed narrowly wide of the far post.

The end-to-end action continued, with Winnall firing over as he got on the end of a Cooper cross.

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 back to their respective changing areas with the scores level.

-
HT
-
WALSALL
0 - 0
OXFORD

Oxford opted to make their first change of the evening as the sides returned from the break, with Jordan Obita sitting out the second-half, as Daniel Agyei took his place before Walsall got the action back underway.

The second-half got off to a slow start, but six minutes in, the Saddlers won a corner, which Winnall was able to head clear.

With fifty-three minutes on the clock, United won a corner at the other end, as a cross from the recently introduced Agyei deflected goal-wards, forcing Rose to turn the ball behind. The Saddlers defences were able to clear the in-swinging cross though.

Callum Cockerill-Mollett became the second player to pick up a booking, as he saw yellow for a foul on Agyei in the fifty-fifth minute.

As we reached the hour mark, the Saddlers won a free-kick close to the corner flag, allowing the ball to be played into the box, where it fell to Cockerill-Mollett at the back post, but a deflection ensured only a flag-kick would come from the effort, and United were able to clear that with ease.

Oxford created a chance themselves shortly after, as Agyei worked the ball to Hall on the edge of the area, but the striker was unable to keep his effort on target, sending the ball narrowly wide.

Agyei and Hall continued to cause problems for the Saddlers, with the former forcing a corner in the sixty-fifth minue, which Walsall were able to clear, before the latter tried his luck from range, forcing Rose to make another save.

Walsall manager, Darrell Clarke opted to make a double change in the sixty-ninth minute, with both Stuart Sinclair and Jack Nolan departing as Danny Guthrie and Rory Holden entered the fray. His Oxford based counterpart, Karl Robinson also took the opportunity to make a second change to his line-up, with Sam Winnall making way for Derick Osei Yaw.

The game settled back into something of a midfeld battle, with little on show from either side, as a series of fouls and free-kicks ensued, slowing the pace.

With seventy-six minutes on the clock, Emmanuel Osadebe joined those in the referee's notebook as he picked up a caution for a foul on Kelly.

Ten minutes from time, Lavery went close after putting on a good display to run the ball from the centre circle to the edge of the area, but could only fire wide.

In the eighty-first minute, both managers opted to make the last of their three available substitutions. Walsall replacing Emmanuel Osadebe with Wesley McDonald for the run in, whilst, for Oxford, Joel Cooper made way for Leon Chambers-Parillon.

Four minutes from time, the Saddlers won a corner as they looked to grab a late winner, but Dan Scarr was unable to head the flag-kick home.

Seconds later, their visitors had more luck, as Osei Yaw cut inside and curled an effort passed Rose to all but guarantee Oxford would advance through to the next round as group winners.

Three minutes were added to end the match, during which time Chambers-Parillon forced a save from Rose as he looked to extend his sides lead, before McDonald fired over at the other end.

United went on to win a late corner, but nothing would come of it and the game was brought to an end with Oxford's one-goal lead intact to all but end Walsall's EFL Trophy hopes for another season.

-
FT
-
WALSALL
0 - 1
OXFORD

Osei Yaw (87')
VENUE
Banks's Stadium
REFEREE
Carl Brook

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