FA Cup Match Report: Walsall 1 Bristol Rovers 2

Walsall and Bristol Rovers faced-off in the First Round of this season's Emirates FA Cup on Saturday afternoon.
With a place in the Second Round up for grabs, both sides were keen to secure the win as they met at a sadly deserted Banks's Stadium as the recently re-introduced Covid-19 restrictions continue to forced football to be played behind closed doors.

Following a minutes silence, Walsall got the game underway and just four minutes into the contest, Zak Jules became the first player to see yellow, as a pull back on Brandon Hanlan earned him a caution.

Bristol Rovers were a little unlucky not to open the scoring a minute later, as former Saddler, Erhun Oztumer dragged an effort inches wide from close range, when he really ought to have scored.

The Saddlers soon had the ball up at the other end, winning a free-kick in a promising position in the ninth minute, as Elijah Adebayo was fouled by Max Ehmer. Rory Holden played a good ball in from the set-piece, which found Mat Sadler free at the back post, but the Walsall captain scuffed his effort, sending the ball wide.

The visiting side created another chance at the other end, three minutes later, as a poor touch from Sadler gifted the ball to Oztumer, who picked out Sam Nicholson whose low effort sailed narrowly wide of the mark.

The Rovers players felt they should have been awarded a penalty, as we reached the quarter hour mark, as an Alfie Kilgour header looked to them to have potentially connected with a Walsall hand, but the referee was unmoved by their appeals and waved play on.

The visiting side continued to press, and were it not for a late block from Cameron Norman, they would probably have opened the scoring in the sixteenth minute, as a Hanlan effort looked almost certain to find the target.

With twenty minute-four minutes on the clock, some good work from Adebayo saw the Saddlers win a corner, from which Holden found the head of Dan Scarr, but Rovers shot-stopper, Anssi Jaakkola was well placed to save.

Walsall continued to enjoy a brighter spell, with Wes McDonald putting in some good work to find his way into the Rovers area to get on the end of a Holden cross, but his effort on goal was poor and the ball sailed high and wide.

The game became something of a midfield battle as it continued, with a series of fouls and free-kicks slowing the tempo.

With thirty-three minutes on the clock, some good play from Hanlan earned his side a corner kick, which was played back across goal by Kilgour and onto the head of Jack Baldwin, who duly nodded home from close range.

The Saddlers looked to respond quickly to falling a goal behind, winning a corner at the other end in the thirty-fifth minute, but Jaakkola was on hand to deny Scarr another headed effort.

The hosts continued to press, winning another corner moments later, as a Sadler effort from a free-kick was deflected behind, but the flag-kick came to nothing.

With thirty-nine minutes on the clock, Rovers doubled their advantage, as Oztumer picked out Hanlan on the edge of the area, with the striker curling a right-footed effort through the crowded box and into the far corner.

The Saddlers again looked to respond quickly, but Caolan Lavery was unable to keep a forty-first minute headed effort on target, as he got on the end of a cross to the back post from Holden.

As we entered two additional minutes, a trip on McDonald inside the box could have seen the Saddlers awarded a spot-kick, but the referee allowed play to continue with nothing given. The Saddlers went on to create another chance moments before the break, as Holden slipped the ball through for Adebayo, but Jaakkola kept his sides two-goal lead intact as the whistle sounded.

-
HT
-
WALSALL
0 - 2
ROVERS

The sides returned unchanged following the break, and Bristol Rovers game the action back underway, and the second-half started much as the first had, with an early booking as Alfie Kilgour picked up a yellow card for a foul on Adebayo just two minutes in.

The Saddlers, with much to do to get back into the game, started the half on the front foot, with Norman firing goal-wards from distance just two minutes in, but his effort sailed wide of the target.

Rovers were almost gifted a third, in the fifty-second minute, as an Ali Koiki cross was deflected goal-wards, but the delivery connected with the crossbar and the Saddlers defences were able to clear the danger.

The visiting side continued to press, and Hanlan should have done better in the fifty-fourth minute, as he beat Sadler to get a shot away, but he sliced the effort, sending it wide.

Rovers continued to test the Walsall defences, winning a free-kick in a dangerous position, in the fifty-seventh minute, which Oztumer curled goal-wards, forcing Saddlers shot-stopper, Liam Roberts to make a save.

With fifty-eight minutes on the clock, Walsall manager, Darrell Clarke opted to make a double substitution, with both Mat Sadler and Stuart Sinclair departing early, as Callum Cockerill-Mollett and Alfie Bates entered the fray.

Just five minutes later, the Saddlers bench rolled the dice, making their third and final change of the afternoon, as Jake Scrimshaw took the place of Elijah Adebayo.

Walsall began to enjoy a brighter spell as the game wore on, winning a series of corners, which saw a Lavery header cleared off the line and Scarr saw an headed effort turned behind.

The flurry of corners continued, as Scrimshaw saw an effort saved before a curling effort from McDonald was tipped over by Jaakkola, with Luke McCormick conceding another flag-kick moments later. None of which came to anything though.

The hosts continued to press, with Holden playing the ball through to Lavery in the seventy-second minute, with the latter beating his man before seeing his effort ricochet off the post.

The Bristol bench opted to make their first change of the afternoon in the seventy-third minute, as Ed Upson made way for Ben Liddle to make his Gas debut.

Walsall continued to pressure the Rovers defences, with Scrimshaw seeing an attempt blocked in the seventy-fourth minute. The resulting corner again coming to nothing, as Cockerill-Mollet's effort sailed wide.

Fifteen minutes from time, the visiting side opted to make a second change to their line-up, as Sam Nicholson made way for Josh Hare.

Six minutes from time, the Saddlers were awarded a free-kick in a dangerous position, but Bates' delivery into the box failed to find a teammate, as the Rovers defences cleared.

With eighty-six minutes played, the Gas opted to make their final change of the game; Zain Westbrooke the man to make way as he was replaced by Josh Grant.

Three minutes from time, the Saddlers pulled a goal back, as Bates turned a free-kick onto the head of Lavery, in the centre of the box, with the striker finding the bottom corner.

Six additional minutes were added to end the game, with the Saddlers winning a series of free-kicks in promising positions early on, but ultimately Lavery turned the ball wide.

With ninety-four minutes on the clock, Anssi Jaakkola joined those in the referee's notebook, as he saw yellow.

That would be the final action of eventful afternoon, with Bristol Rovers progressing into the second round of the FA Cup, as Walsall fell at the first hurdle as they repeatedly failed to find the target, despite a multitude of opportunities to do so.

-
FT
-
WALSALL
1 - 2
ROVERS
Lavery (87')

Baldwin (33')
Hanlan (39')
VENUE
Banks's Stadium
REFEREE
Ross Joyce
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