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Match Reports

Report: Walsall 3-2 Wycombe

Wanderers edged out in five-goal thriller.

27 October 2018

Wanderers slipped to a narrow defeat at the Banks's Stadium as Walsall held on for a 3-2 victory on Saturday afternoon.

The visitors could have been two goals to the good when Craig Mackail-Smith headed a great chance wide and Paris Cowan-Hall rattled the crossbar, but were made to pay when Andy Cook glanced home a free-kick.

A slow start to the second period proved costly when Isaiah Osbourne tucked home the second, but Luke Leahy's own goal swung momentum the other way with Gareth Ainsworth's substitutes making the difference.

However, Dominic Gape unlucky turned the ball into his own net to make it 3-1 and it meant Alex Samuel's late strike - converting a rebound after Scott Kashket's penalty was saved - was in vain.
Gareth Ainsworth had two big decisions to make ahead of kick-off – whether or not to recall Dominic Gape and Craig Mackail-Smith after the pair were suspended and rested respectively in midweek – and he elected to bring Mackail-Smith back into the attack in place of Alex Samuel, but Bryn Morris retained his spot in midfield.

Walsall meanwhile handed a debut to former Chairboy Russell Martin in defence, looking to change their fortunes which had brought about just one win and one goal in five games.

On a freezing afternoon in the Midlands, neither side was particularly able to find their rhythm in the early stages, though a well-delivered Walsall corner looked threatening into a packed six-yard box, but Wycombe dealt with it well.

Then Mackail-Smith had the ball nicked off his toes as he got set to pull the trigger at the end of an excellent burst into the box from Fred Onyedinma, before Walsall again sparked a spell of pinball in the box with everything being channelled down their left hand side.

Wanderers’ first effort fell to Mackail-Smith and it was a glorious first touch which sent him into the area from Adebayo Akinfenwa’s flick on, but his low shot under pressure from the defender was gathered by the keeper.

Morgan Ferrier flashed a shot from distance straight at Ryan Allsop before Paris Cowan-Hall excelled at the other end, collecting a tricky pass but making the most of it with a forward surge which saw not one but two efforts saved by Liam Roberts.

From the resulting corner, Bryn Morris’s shot was blocked before Walsall broke at pace with the game now in full flow, and the Saddlers edging it narrowly due to their pace and threat down the left.

Onyedinma had a sight of goal on 21 minutes but lifted his shot over the bar from 20 yards, before Mackail-Smith headed a great chance wide when Cowan-Hall’s deep cross was nodded back into the middle by Akinfenwa, but his strike partner couldn’t convert.

They came even closer when Cowan-Hall thundered an effort against the angle of bar and post on 34 minutes, and moments later Onyedinma’s dangerous low cross from the byline was almost turned into his own net by a Saddlers defender.

But, having not taken those chances, Wanderers were made to pay. Michael Harriman tugged back Ferrier on the wing and an inviting free-kick was glanced home by Andy Cook six yards out, with a combination of the excellent delivery and suspect marking to thank.

Ferrier could have doubled the lead when he latched onto a long pass on the counter-attack but took one touch too many in the box, seeing the ball bobble out for a goal kick, but he was then involved again, dinking a teasing cross which Kieron Morris should have stuck away.

There was a break in play when the linesman pulled up with a groin problem, helping to take the sting out of the game before the break as Wanderers went in behind but well in the game.

With no changes at the break, Wycombe were caught cold and their challenge was made tougher just six minutes into the second period when Isaiah Osbourne tapped home. A low cross was allowed to travel all the way through to the back post and although Kane Wilson’s low shot was parried by Allsop, the right-back reacted quickest to square it to his team-mate who had an easy task six yards out.

Kieron Morris then drilled a low effort straight at Allsop as the Saddlers looked to put the game to bed, and the keeper then made a fine save to tip Luke Leahy’s cross-shot over the bar as it flew towards the top corner.

The Saddlers were looking too comfortable, so Gareth Ainsworth acted with a double change, introducing Scott Kashket and Alex Samuel in place of Paris Cowan-Hall and Craig Mackail-Smith.

Within moments, Bryn Morris’ flying effort from 30 yards deflected inches wide – though the ref somehow failed to spot the touch off a Walsall boot – and Onyedinma won a corner in the next move, taking on a vulnerable Kane Wilson who had been booked for a foul.

Akinfenwa’s header was cleared to safety and Morris curled over as the Blues fought their way into the ascendancy, but keeper Liam Roberts remained untested in the second period.

But it could’ve been game, set and match when Andy Cook outmuscled Adam El-Abd at the end of a long ball and cockily swaggered towards Allsop, bringing a superb reflex save when a simple tap home would have sealed the points. Ferrier smashed the loose ball into the top tier.

Wycombe’s final change arrived when Dominic Gape replaced Curtis Thompson in the middle, and their lifeline came moments later on 79 minutes. Akinfenwa’s clever forward pass caused panic down the Walsall defence – particularly with Samuel closing down quickly - and left-back Luke Leahy stretched to lift the ball beautifully over his own keeper, seeing it land in the back of the net.

Game on, then, and Onyedinma stroked a low chance into the arms of the keeper, needing to find more power to trouble him, though the keeper’s shanked kick was symbolic of the careless nature with which Walsall had find themselves dragged into a real battle from a comfortable position.

But they received their own stroke of fortune on 84 minutes to wrap up the points, when George Dobson raced unchallenged down the right wing and delivered a low cross which was diverted off the boot of Allsop and into the body of Gape, with the ball landing into the net for the second own goal of the game.

That took the wind out of the Chairboys’ sails, with Dobson and Samuel trading long-range shots, but the two-goal lead was now looking too big an ask to overturn for the visitors as four minutes were added on.

But they’re made of stronger stuff, and gave themselves a chance with another Onyedinma spark of magic. He darted into the box and drew a foul from the defender, and although Kashket’s penalty was well saved, Samuel drilled home the rebound to make it 3-2.

One late punt into the box from Allsop came to nothing and Walsall clung on for the win, with Wanderers left to rue a couple of sub-standard moments in a game that they looked capable of taking something from.

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