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Match Report: Walsall 1 Bristol Rovers 2
Here is our Match Report from Saturday's League Two clash between the Saddlers and Bristol Rovers.
As their unbeaten run was brought to an end by Newport County last weekend, the Saddlers played host to Bristol Rovers on Saturday afternoon and looked to get back to winning ways at the expense of Joey Barton's side.

Walsall got the match underway, and the hosts created the first chance of the game moments later, as George Miller worked the ball to Kieran Phillips, whose effort from just outside the area sailed wide of goal.

Bristol Rovers saw much more of the ball as play continued, though they struggled to create much to trouble the Walsall defences, until the ninth minute, when shot-stopper, Carl Rushworth was called into action to deny Harry Anderson, with some help from Manny Monthe. The resulting corner resulted in Cian Harries firing wildly over the crossbar.

Another corner followed for the visiting side in the thirteenth minute, as Hayden White knocked the ball out of play, but nothing would come of the opportunity as the Saddlers continued to limit Rovers' chances.

The travelling team continued to look dominant as the game continued, but eighteen minutes in, the Saddlers should have opened the scoring, as Rushworth picked out Phillips, who beat his man before playing the ball into the path of Brendan Kiernan, who fired over when he looked almost certain to score.

Bristol soon had the ball back at the other end, where they were awarded a free-kick in a dangerous spot after Phillips felled Harries. Antony Evans looked to find the back of the net from the set-piece, but Rushworth was alert to the danger and made the save.

With twenty-five minutes on the clock, Jack Earing became the first player to receive a caution, as he was booked for a poor challenge on Harvey Saunders.

Thirty-two minutes into the contest, the Saddlers found the breakthrough. Phillips picking up the ball on the left, before cutting inside and firing past former Walsall scholar, James Belshaw, in the Rovers goal.

Walsall continued to enjoy a brighter spell following the goal, and six minutes after it, could have doubled their advantage as Earing looked to get on the end of a low ball into the area, but Belshaw was alert to the danger and claimed ahead of him.

Five minutes before the break, Rovers won a corner as Anderson combined with Brett Pitman to set up Sam Finley, whose effort on goal was deflected over the bar by Walsall captain Stephen Ward, but nothing would come of the flag-kick.

The visiting side felt they should have been awarded a penalty in the forty-third minute, as Kilgour was felled inside the area, but the referee was unmoved by their appeals and waved play on.

Three additional minutes were added to end the first-half, as Anderson struck the side-netting with a long range effort.
 
The visiting side continued to press, with Saunders seeing a low cross claimed by Rushworth one minute into added time, but they were ultimately unable to get back on level terms before the break, and the sides headed off for their half-time refreshments with the Saddlers leading by one-goal-to-nil.

HT
WFC
1-0
BRFC
 
The teams returned unchanged following the break, and Bristol Rovers got the action back underway. Both sides settled back into the game well, with Walsall creating the first real chance of the half just four minutes in, as Kiernan crossed the ball in for George Miller, whose headed effort sailed narrowly wide of the upright.

Rovers soon had the ball back up at the other end, where Anderson forced a save from Rushworth at the near post, winning a corner for his side in the process. Nothing would come of the set-piece.

There was a brief halt to proceedings in the fifty-second minute, allowing Earing to receive treatment, but it was soon determined he would be fine to continue and play resumed.

The visiting side continued to press after the re-start, winning another corner kick as Evans saw a shot deflected behind. The flag-kick was floated into the box by Rovers captain, Paul Coutts, but the Walsall defences were alert to the danger and cleared.

In the fifty-seventh minute, Connor Taylor became the second player to see yellow, as he was cautioned following a foul on Miller.

As we reached the hour mark, the Saddlers were presented with an opportunity to double their advantage, as Phillips fired goal-wards from close range, but Harries blocked the effort to deny him a second.

Seconds later, the Saddlers opted to make their first change of the afternoon, with Brendan Kiernan making way for Emmanuel Osadebe.

With sixty-five minutes on the clock, Walsall should have extended their lead, with Monthe playing a lovely ball into the path of Miller, whose effort on goal was saved by Belshaw, who did well to get to the ball.

The hosts then won a free-kick on the edge of the area, as Phillips was fouled by Cian Harries, who received the games third yellow card for the offence. Earing stepped forth to take the set-piece, but his effort on goal failed to test Belshaw as it sailed high over the crossbar.

In the sixty-ninth minute, Bristol Rovers opted to make their first change of the afternoon, with Glenn Whelan making way as Aaron Collins entered the fray.

One minute later, Walsall followed suit, with Kieran Phillips departing the game in favour of Zak Mills.

A further change to the Rovers line-up followed in the seventy-third minute, as Antony Evans made way for Junior Brown.

There was another brief pause in the action in the seventy-fifth minute, allowing Osadebe to receive treatment, and it was soon determined that he would be unable to continue, so Walsall used their third and final change of the game to introduce Rollin Menayese in his place.

With seventy-nine minutes on the clock, Rovers equalised. The team winning a flag-kick as Ward turned a Brown header behind, which was swung in towards the far post where Taylor was waiting to turn the ball home.

The game settled following the goal, with neither side really able to create much of note as they largely cancelled each other out.

In the eighty-sixth minute, Tyrese Shade joined those named in the referees notebook, as he picked up a yellow card for a foul.

With ninety minutes showing on the clock, Bristol opted to make their third and final change of the afternoon, with Harvey Saunders making way for Sion Spence.

That would turn out to be a perfect substitution from the visitors, as they won a corner, which Spence turned home from close range one minute into five added, to put his side ahead for the first time in the game.

That would be the final action of note, and the game was brought to an end with Bristol Rovers winning by two-goals-to-one. A poor second-half from the Saddlers, seeing them lose all three points.

FT
WFC
1-2
BRFC
Phillips (32') 
 
Taylor (79')
Spence (90+1')
REFEREE
Sebastian Stockbridge
AT / ATT
5,434 (1,075) - Banks's Stadium
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