Walsall opened the 2020-21 Sky Bet League Two season with a win and a clean sheet as Elijah Adebayo’s second half goal was enough to earn the victory against Grimsby Town.
After a fairly uneventful first half, Adebayo picked up where he left off from his last league game when he stabbed the ball home after 60 minutes from close range.
The Saddlers had chances put the game to bed and the visitors struck the post late on but Walsall held on to start the season off with a victory.
Darrell Clarke made seven changes to the team that started against Bristol Rovers in midweek.
Liam Roberts came back in for Jack Rose in goal while Dan Scarr and Cameron Norman replaced Zak Jules and Hayden White.
Callum Cockerill-Mollett made his first start of the season in place of George Nurse while Elijah Adebayo and Rory Holden replaced Emmanuel Osadebe and Caolan Lavery.
The Saddlers made a positive start and had a couple of opportunities in the opening 15 minutes. James Clarke’s header was caught by James McKeown before Liam Kinsella tried his luck with a well-struck half-volley that just crept wide.
Grimsby grew into the game and had a good spell of pressure late in the half.
The visitors had a chance on 36 minutes when a free-kick was cleared out to Danny Rose who unleashed a powerful shot but it was brilliantly blocked by Cameron Norman.
Neither keeper was seriously tested in the first half and it ended goalless.
The Mariners made a strong start to the second period and came close just two minutes into the half. Matt Green got the better of Clarke and burst into the area and let fly but Roberts did well to parry it away.
Walsall stepped it up from then on and had a great chance on 58 minutes when Alfie Bates lifted a lovely over the top to Adebayo who got a shot away but was denied by McKeown who was quick off his line.
He quickly got the better of McKeown though as he gave the Saddlers the lead two minutes later when Norman drilled the ball across goal and Adebayo poked the ball into the back of the net.
The Saddlers boss made two changes on 65 minutes as Caolan Lavery and Emmanuel Osadebe were introduced in place of Adebayo and Holden.
Lavery came close to doubling Walsall’s lead on 78 minutes when he had a header cleared off the line.
The Saddlers should have wrapped it up on the 90-minute mark. Osadebe skipped into the area but couldn’t find Lavery who would have had a tap in before Gordon had a shot that was pushed out into the path of the Northern Irish striker who then blazed over.
Ian Holloway’s side gave the Saddlers a scare as substitute James Tilley struck the post in added time but Walsall saw the game out.
Roberts; Norman, Scarr, J. Clarke, Cockerill-Mollett; Kinsella, Bates (Sinclair); Gordon, Holden (Osadebe), McDonald; Adebayo (Lavery).
Subs: Rose, Jules, Guthrie, Nurse