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Match Reports

WORK EXPERIENCE MATCH REPORT: WALSALL 3-1 BRISTOL ROVERS

24 January 2017

Mike Kay's match report...

After last week's vital 4-1 win at home to table toppers, Sheffield United, Walsall welcomed Bristol Rovers who had lost their last five games away from home and showed how inconsistent the results were, with odds in favour for the Saddlers. 

The last time the visitors came to the Banks's Stadium, the Saddlers were rampant with a result of 6-1, also marking Dean Smith's first win when he was in charge of the Saddlers at the time. 

Before kick-off Walsall sat 14th in the table whilst the visitors were 9th, the atmosphere was tense before kick-off but as soon as it got closer, all 1,991 Rovers fans were in full spirit as though the match had already started. 

If Walsall were to win, this would mean back to back victories and they could move up a couple of places to the exact middle of the table, whilst if Rovers won they could have gone up to at least 8th in the table minimum. 

The home team made the more positive start over the visitors with a corner on the 10th minute but it equated to nothing with the Rovers defence standing strong against the potential opportunity. 

It was not until the 20th minute when Rovers got on the attack and Billy Bodin showed a piece of skill to strike the ball with a curling shot to the far right of the goal only for Walsall keeper Neil Etheridge to make an impressive save. 

Just two minutes later, Rovers' Lee Brown committed a foul to get the first and only yellow card of the game. 

The second chance Rovers got came from a free-kick outside the box from a Adam Chambers foul, Chris Lines' fizzing 20 yard free-kick was cancelled out again from Etheridge with an even more impressive save, which was well applauded from both sets of fans. 

Walsall's next opportunity was a corner kick on the 35th minute when defender Matt Preston won a header towards goal but it went wide and out for a goal kick. 

It looked as though it would end up as a draw but with one minute into first-half added time, the Saddlers had a free kick that the Rovers defence couldn't deal with and the ball fell to on loan defender Eoghan O'Connell, who hit it on the volley to score into the bottom right-hand corner to make it 1-0 to the Saddlers. 

HALF-TIME 

The second half started quickly and on the 48th minute Ollie Clarke shot wide and another opportunity was missed by Darrell Clarke's men. 

Just one minute later the match was delayed because of an injury to Billy Bodin, forcing Rovers into their first substitution with Luke James coming on. 

It could have been 2-0 to the Saddlers in the 51st minute when the little magician Erhun Oztumer sprinted onto a well weighted Jason McCarthy pass and crossed the ball to Amadou Bakayoko but his header was off target. 

Rovers made their second substitution of the game, replacing Daniel Leadbitter for Byron Moore on the 55th minute, and two minutes later Rovers' Matty Taylor had a shot from outside the box but safe hands Etheridge denied him - a great opportunity for 1-1. 

The first substitution for the Saddlers came in 65th minute with Simeon Jackson replacing Amadou Bakayoko. The substitution by Walsall manager Jon Whitney proved decisive when Simeon Jackson latched onto an Adam Chambers through ball and dinked it over Rovers keeper Joe Lumley from outside the box to make it 2-0 to the Saddlers on the 68th minute. 

Walsall decided to push more and more to make sure of the win and in the 73rd minute, Byron Moore couldn't get the ball from out of his feet and Joe Edwards - who was on the front cover of the matchday programme - stole the ball from him and slotted home past Lumley to make it 3-0. 

Rovers' third and final substitution came one minute later with Ryan Broom replacing Rory Gaffney, and in the 77th and 80th minutes, Walsall made their final substitutions with Andreas Makris and George Dobson replacing Erhun Oztumer and Florent Cuvelier. 

At this point Rovers started to push forward and a consolation goal came when Lee Brown's cross came into the box with Saddlers Keeper Etheridge missing the ball and it was Gas top scorer Matty Taylor there again to score with an header. 

FULL-TIME 

The final whistle blew and Walsall were 3-1 winners, leaving Bristol Rovers with another loss away from home and more disappointment back home down on the M5. 

The Saddlers have now recorded back to back wins, with the result moving them up one spot in the table to 13th with 37 points and a goal difference of -2.

The loss for the visitors meant they dropped down to 10th in the table. 

Attendance: 6,029 (Bristol Rovers - 1,991).

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