Walsall started 2021 with a defeat against Carlisle United at the Banks’s Stadium.
A goal in each half by Omari Patrick and Josh Kayode saw the visitors earn all three points on a frustrating afternoon for the Saddlers.
Darrell Clarke made four changes to the side that started against Scunthorpe United on Tuesday.
Liam Roberts, Mat Sadler, Alfie Bates and Stuart Sinclair came in for Jack Rose, George Nurse, Jake Scrimshaw and Danny Guthrie.
It was a really scrappy start to the game as both sides struggled to get a foothold.
The Saddlers had a penalty appeal waved away when Josh Gordon went down in box after 25 minutes.
Carlisle opened the scoring a minute later when good build up play involving Lewis Alessandra and Taylor Charters saw Patrick receive the ball and arrow the ball into the back of the net with a powerful strike.
Walsall found it difficult to find their fluency against a determined Carlisle side as they looked to respond.
The Saddlers’ first effort on goal came through Wes McDonald who tried his luck from distance and his effort moved in the air but just swayed wide of the near post.
Walsall started to enjoy more of the ball later in the half but went in behind at the break.
Clarke’s side looked to respond in the second half and had a good opportunity on 52 minutes when McDonald managed to wriggle his way through three Carlisle defenders to skip into area before he got a shot away but Paul Farman was equal to it.
The Walsall boss made a triple change on the hour mark as he introduced Nurse, Guthrie and Scrimshaw in place of Sadler, Bates and Sinclair.
Carlisle had a great chance after 71 minutes after Jack Armer’s cross wasn’t claimed by Roberts and fell to Charters whose shot was blocked on the line by Dan Scarr.
They doubled their lead just six minutes later when the ball was played across the box to Kayode whose first time shot trickled into the net.
The Saddlers continued to push to try and force a grandstand finish but couldn’t find a way past Carlisle’s stubborn defence.
Roberts; Norman (Osadebe 80’), Scarr, Clarke, Sadler (Nurse 60’); Sinclair (Guthrie (60’), Bates (Scrimshaw 60’), Kinsella; Gordon, Adebayo, McDonald
Subs: Rose (GK), Lavery, White