SHEFF UTD 1-2 WALSALL
Walsall secured their place in the Checkatade Trophy second round after beating Sheffield United, thanks to goals from Scott Laird and Amadou Bakayoko.
Laird’s 16th-minute tap-in put the Saddlers ahead before Bakayoko fired home a second on 66 minutes.
Paul Coutts pulled one back for United late on, but Jon Whitney’s side held on to make it back-to-back wins in Northern Group H.
The Saddlers sit top of the group with six points and are through with a game to spare.
After an uneventful, incident-free opening quarter of an hour, the Saddlers – searching for their first win at Bramall Lane since 2002 - took the lead on 16 minutes.
Reece Brown, under no pressure whatsoever, sliced his clearance horribly into the air and straight to Amadou Bakayoko inside the penalty area.
The forward – Walsall’s hat-trick hero against Grimsby in their Northern Group H opener - poked the ball across goal for the onrushing Laird to slam home from close range.
United had the chance to equalise ten minutes later, but David Brooks could only blaze wildly over after John Fleck’s cross had eluded Matt Done in the middle.
There was precious little goalmouth action in the remainder of a tepid first-half.
Erhun Oztumer had a left-footed shot deflected wide and also fired off target with an audacious attempt from 40 yards.
The visitors were rarely troubled defensively, although Blades captain Jack O’Connell did find the roof of the net with a deflected header from Mark Duffy’s set-piece on the stroke of half-time.
Half-time: Sheff Utd 0-1 Walsall
Burnley loanee Josh Ginnelly went close for the Saddlers on 56 minutes with a curling 20-yarder which Simon Moore parried.
Walsall should have made it 2-0 on the hour mark, but Bakayoko’s diving header from Ginnelly’s first-time cross was superbly kept out by Moore from point-blank range.
The Saddlers kept forcing the initiative and grabbed a second goal six minutes later.
Franck Moussa’s intelligent reverse pass found Laird, who crossed low for Bakayoko to calmly finish left-footed beyond Moore and into the bottom corner.
Chris Wilder’s side, unbeaten in their previous eight, gave themselves a lifeline with 12 minutes remaining when Coutts fired home from the edge of the box after a corner was only half-cleared.
United pushed for an equaliser in the closing stages, with Chris Basham having a goalbound strike well blocked by Joe Edwards, but Walsall stood firm.
Full-time: Sheff Utd 1-2 Walsall
Team: MacGillivray, Edwards, Laird, McCarthy, Dobson (Chambers 84’), Oztumer, Preston, Ginnelly (Shorrock 74’), Bakayoko, Toner, Moussa.
Subs not used: Etheridge, O’Connor, Butterfield, Roberts, Cockerill-Mollett.
Attendance: 2,619 (100 Walsall supporters).