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AN INDEPENDENT LOOK AT WALSALL FOOTBALL CLUB

Match Report: Walsall 0 Southend United 1

Walsall were back in action on Saturday afternoon.
Arriving at Saturday afternoon's clash with Southend United on the back of an FA Cup elimination at the hands of Bristol Rovers and a late EFL Trophy tragedy against Oxford United, Darrell Clarke's Saddlers now have only one competition to worry about.

With thirty-five league games still to play the Saddler will have plenty of opportunity to get themselves within reach of the prized places between now and when we reach the business end of the campaign.

Southend United got the match underway, and they almost opened the scoring just two minutes in as Brandon Goodship found himself through on goal, but Walsall shot-stopper, Liam Roberts was alert to the danger and made the save.

The Saddlers were quick to work the ball up to the other end, where Caolan Lavery forced a save from the Southend 'stopper, Mark Oxley, who did well to turn the ball behind, with the resulting corner coming to nothing.

There was a pause in play just three minutes in, whilst Elijah Adebayo received treatment, having taken a knock to the head, but he was eventually able to return to action.

With eight minutes played, the Saddlers went close again, as Wesley McDonald cut inside and fired goal-wards from outside the box, but after fluffing his first attempt, Oxley gathered at the second time of asking. The wind-assisted goal-kick which followed, almost causing problems at the other end, but fortunately Roberts was able to gather.

The hosts continued to press, with Rory Holden and Alfie Bates combining well in the ninth minute, with the latter forcing Oxley to concede a corner, which in turn lead to another flag-kick, as Shaun Hobson turned the ball out of play. Holden played the ball into the box, where it was met by Callum Cockerill-Mollett, but the defenders headed effort sailed wide.

The pace slowed a little as the game continued, with both sides enjoying time on the ball, but eighteen minutes in, Roberts was called into action as Timothee Dieng fired goal-wards. The initial effort was parried by the shot-stopper, and Dieng followed up with another effort from a tight angle, which Roberts was again able to save.

The visiting team continued to enjoy a brighter spell, winning a free-kick in a dangerous position in the nineteenth minute. Former Saddler, Jason Demetriou, delivered a good ball into the box, but none of his teammates was able to get a decisive touch and the ball continued out for a goal-kick.

The game settled into something of a midfield battle, but Southend created another opportunity to open the scoring in the twenty-sixth minute as some patient build-up play allowed them to get the ball to James Olayinka in shooting range, but he was unable to keep his shot down, sending the ball soaring over the crossbar.

As we reached the half hour mark, United won a corner as a low cross from Terrell Egbri was poked behind. A short spell of treatment for Olayinka followed, but he was soon able to continue and the flag-kick was punched behind by Roberts, with the resulting corner came to nothing.

The game once again settled, with both sides seeing plenty of the ball, without testing their opposition.

Five minutes before the break, a foul by Bates on Egbri saw the visiting side awarded a free-kick in a dangerous position. The ball in from Demetriou picked out Dieng, whose glancing header was turned behind by Roberts. The resulting corner once again coming to nothing.

With forty-three minutes on the clock, Harry Lennon became the first player to see yellow, as he picked up a booking for a foul on Adebayo. The free-kick which followed saw Oxley punch clear.

Four minutes were added to end the first-half, but there was little further action of note, and the sides headed off for their half-time refreshments with the game still goalless.

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HT
-
WALSALL
0 - 0
SOUTHEND

The teams returned unchanged after the break, and Walsall got the action back underway. The second-half started slowly, with the Saddlers seeing plenty of the ball early on, though they were unable to test their opponents, though Holden did see an effort blocked in the fiftieth minute.

A series of fouls and free-kicks followed, the best of which saw the Saddlers with a set-piece twenty-five yards from goal, but Cameron Norman failed to beat the wall and Southend cleared.

The Saddlers continued to probe as they looked to open the scoring, and as we reached the hour mark, Holden and McDonald combined well to get the ball into the box, but there was just a little too much on the cross for Lavery who was unable to get a touch.

Southend soon had the ball at the other end of the field, but a swift counter attack saw Adebayo set Lavery away, with the ball eventually finding Bates on the edge of the area, but his effort on goal sailed narrowly wide.

With sixty-four minutes on the clock, the Saddlers opted to make their first change of the afternoon, with Caolan Lavery making way for Jake Scrimshaw.

The visiting side also took the chance to make a change to their line-up, as John White was replaced by Emile Acquah.

Walsall won a corner as the action got back underway, but nothing would come of it, and the game settled again.

Just five minutes after making their first change of the game, the Saddlers chose to make their second, with Callum Cockerill-Mollett departing in favour of Mat Sadler.

The home side continued to look the more likely to open the scoring, despite chances being few and far between. McDonald firing narrowly wide in the seventy-second minute after putting on a good display as he cut inside and fired goal-wards from twenty-five yards.

With seventy-four minutes on the clock, Walsall manager, Darrell Clarke opted to make his third and final change of the game, as Liam Kinsella made way for Emmanuel Osadebe.

Southend brought Roberts into play in the seventy-seventh minute, as Ashley Nathaniel-George played Goodship in, but the Walsall shot-stopper remained alert and pushed the curling effort away from his goal.

Back at the other end, the Saddlers won a corner as Tom Clifford turned a Norman shot behind. The ball in was good, but Oxley was well placed to deny Scarr, before the Southend defences scrambled clear a Scrimshaw follow up.

The end-to-end action continued, with Nathaniel-George working his way into the Walsall box before firing straight into the waiting arms of Roberts.

In the eighty-first minute, Norman was fouled by Clifford inside the area, resulting in the Saddlers being awarded a penalty. Adebayo stepped up to take the spot-kick, but the strikers right-footed effort hit the crossbar.

With eighty-three minutes on the clock, Alfie Bates joined Lennon in the referee's notebook as he picked up a yellow card for a foul on Egbrl.

The Saddlers continued to press as they looked for a late winner, but Lennon blocked Osadebe's effort on goal, before a Holden shot from outside the box was also blocked.

Up at the other end, Olayinka went close for Southend, but after weaving his way past two defenders, his shot on goal sailed inches over the crossbar.

Walsall were quick to work the ball back to the other end, but Oxley remained alert in the United goal and denied Osadebe, before a Dan Scarr header sailed wide.

With eighty-eight minutes on the clock, Southend found the breakthrough. Nathaniel-George picking out Acquah in space, with the substitute turning a low effort home to all but guarantee his side three points.

The visiting side followed the goal by making their third and final change of the afternoon, as Terrell Egbri made way for Kazaiah Sterling.

Four additional minutes were added to end the match, during which time Alfie Bates felled the recently introduced Sterling, earning him a second yellow card.

That would be the last real action, as the Saddlers saw out the remaining few seconds with ten men on the pitch, but could not create any further chances to level the scores. Southend running out one-goal-to-nil winners, picking up their first clean sheet since January. A  disappointing afternoon for the Saddlers who failed to take any of their numerous chances.

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FT
-
WALSALL
0 - 1
SOUTHEND

Acquah (88')
VENUE
Banks's Stadium
REFEREE
Carl Brook

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