WALSALL 3-1 BRISTOL ROVERSThe Saddlers recorded back-to-back league wins for the second time this season after a comfortable victory over Bristol Rovers.
Eoghan O’Connell’s emphatic volley put the hosts ahead on the stroke of half-time, before second-half strikes from Simeon Jackson and Joe Edwards made it 3-0.
Rovers top scorer Matty Taylor pulled one back late on, but it proved nothing more than a consolation.
Jon Whitney’s men started the brighter without really troubling Joe Lumley in the visitors’ goal.
The game’s first real opportunity fell to the Pirates on 21 minutes, Billy Bodin with a curling right-footed strike which forced Neil Etheridge into a fine one-handed save.
The home custodian thwarted Rovers again shortly after, getting down quickly to parry Chris Lines’ low 20-yard free-kick.
Walsall threatened just past the half-hour mark, Matt Preston rising highest from Florent Cuvelier’s corner but directing his header harmlessly wide.
The Saddlers were doing plenty of probing and took the lead on the cusp of half-time.
A Cuvelier free-kick wasn’t dealt with by the Rovers defence, the ball dropping invitingly for O’Connell to lash an emphatic volley into the far corner for his first career goal.
Half-time: Walsall 1-0 Bristol Rovers
Darrell Clarke’s men threatened first after the break, Ollie Clarke scuffing a right-footed wide of Etheridge’s right-hand upright.
It was almost 2-0 on 51 minutes, when Erhun Oztumer raced onto Jason McCarthy’s pass and stood up a cross for Amadou Bakayoko, but he was unable to direct his header on target.
Rovers had a great chance to equalise shortly after, but Taylor – the Gas’ top scorer – fired straight at Etheridge when unmarked.
And the visitors were left to rue that miss, as the Saddlers made it 2-0 on 68 minutes.
Cuvelier’s long ball was missed by a Rovers defender, allowing substitute Jackson – who had only just come on – to send an exquisite lob over the advancing Lumley.
Walsall then made sure of the win with 16 minutes remaining, Edwards dispossessing Byron Moore before coolly finishing beyond Lumley for his second goal in as many games.
Rovers gave themselves a lifeline on 82 minutes, when Lee Brown’s left-wing cross was missed by Etheridge and nodded in by Taylor from close range.
Goalscorer Taylor headed over from a Lines free-kick in the final minute of normal time, but Walsall comfortably saw the game out to make it successive home wins.
Full-time: Walsall 3-1 Bristol Rovers
Team: Etheridge, O’Connor, Preston, O’Connell, McCarthy, Chambers, Osbourne, Cuvelier (Dobson 80’), Edwards, Oztumer (Makris 77’), Bakayoko (Jackson 65’).
Subs not used: MacGillivray, Laird, Morris, Roberts.
Attendance: 6,029 (1,991 Bristol Rovers supporters).