Wycombe Wanderers 1 Walsall 0 - Report and pictures
Walsall are four points from safety in League One with just two games left to play following a 1-0 defeat at Wycombe.
Former Saddlers Player of the Year Jason McCarthy came back to haunt his former side with the defender netting a stunning free-kick to seal the points at Adams Park.
In what was a crunch relegation six-pointer, both teams struggled to create clear-cut chances with so much at stake.
It was Wycombe who deserved the points though with Adebayo Akinfenwa twice going close before McCarthy opened the scoring.
In truth, Walsall created very little with Josh Gordon and Joe Edwards having half chances.
And the result means the Saddlers will now be relegated if they lose at home to Peterborough on Saturday.
Following an underwhelming display against Southend on Good Friday, O’Connor opted to ring the changes for the trip to Adams Park.
Scott Laird, Joe Edwards, Isaiah Osbourne, Cameron Norman and Josh Gordon were all given recalls with Zeli Ismail, Corey Blackett-Taylor, George Dobson, Liam Kinsella and Andy Cook the men to make way.
It meant the Saddlers lined up in a traditional 4-4-2 formation with Luke Leahy and Norman the wingers while Aramide Oteh joined Gordon in attack.
Wycombe also lined up in a 4-4-2 system with Adebayo Akinfenwa partnered by Alex Samuel up front.
After a cagey opening 10 minutes, it was Walsall who created the game’s first chance after a monster long throw from Norman was only half cleared.
The ball then fell for Edwards who was perfectly poised on the edge of the box.
But while the midfielder connected with the ball well, his effort sailed the wrong side of the post.
Wycombe responded with Akinfenwa guiding a free-kick from McCarthy over the bar.
But as the clock ticked past the 20 minute mark, you could see why both teams were struggling at the wrong end of the table with little quality on show.
Midway through the half though, the hosts - and Akinfenwa - had two good chances to open the scoring.
First the striker glanced a header inches wide after a long free-kick was pumped into the box.
Then after collecting a cross, the former AFC Wimbledon man spun Connor Johnson before sending a strike into the arms of Chris Dunn.
Those chances though proved to be the only real efforts of the first-half with both teams lacking quality in what, overall, had proved an uninspiring opening 45 minutes.
It was Walsall who threatened first following the re-start with a deep Edwards’ cross headed over by Leahy.
Akinfenwa then rolled a cross right in front of the goalline but there was nobody on hand to tap it home.
It was in the 54th minute that the hosts opened the scoring with the goal arriving after Johnson had fouled Akinfenwa just outside the box.
McCarthy stood over the free-kick and then curled a wonderful strike that nestled into the back of the net.
O’Connor switched Cook for Oteh in response to the goal. Zeli Ismail then replaced Norman.
Adams Park was now very tense with Chairboys fans knowing they were on the brink of a crucial victory.
But Walsall did little capitalise. Gordon - who in fairness led the charge - saw a tame strike from just inside the box easily claimed by Ryan Allsop.
Substitute Corey Blackett-Taylor also sent in a dangerous corner which nobody gambled on.
Yet again though, the quality from Walsall simply wasn’t there with Wycombe holding on to claim a deserved win.
Wycombe (4-4-2): Allsop, McCarthy, Harriman, El-Abd, Jombati, Gape (Bloomfield 60), Thompson, Freeman (Tyson 60), Samuel, Kashket (Cowan-Hall 85), Akinfenwa.
Subs not used: Ma-Kalambay, Jacobson, Stewart, Bean.
Walsall (4-4-2): Dunn, Devlin, Scarr, Johnson, Laird, Norman (Ismail 70), Osbourne, Edwards, Leahy (Blackett-Taylor 73), Gordon, Oteh (Cook 61).
Subs not used: Roberts, Guthrie, Kinsella, Dobson.