Walsall 5 Grimsby 2 - Report and pictures
An outstanding hat-trick from Amadou Bakayoko saw Walsall thrash Grimsby in the Checkatrade Trophy – on a night that saw Saddlers record their lowest ever attendance at the Banks's Stadium.[gallery]
Controversial changes that have allowed Premier League and Championship sides to enter under-23 teams into the tournament meant a crowd of just 1,022 supporters purchased tickets for the tie.
Walsall's previous lowest attendance came back in November 2012, when 1,782 fans watched an FA Cup first round defeat to Lincoln.
Those in attendance saw an impressive performance from Jon Whitney's side with Bakayoko producing three excellent finishes and Kieron Morris and Maz Kouhyar also on target.
Whitney named as strong a starting XI as possible with Neil Etheridge, Andreas Makris and Simeon Jackosn on international duty and the likes of Franck Moussa and Florent Cuvelier injured.
It meant there were starts for Craig MacGillivray, Liam Kinsella and Callum Cockerill-Mollett who stepped in at left-back with Rico Henry not in the squad.
In what was a strange and subdued atmosphere, Grimsby started the brighter of the two sides and took the lead as early as the fifth minute.
A deep free-kick was delivered to the back-post and nodded across goal where an unmarked Andrew Boyce was able to sweep home from close range.
It seemed as if Walsall's players – as well as the fans – were boycotting the tie with the Mariners dominating the opening stages.
Zak Mills, Omar Bogle and Luke Summerfield all tried their luck from distance as Paul Hurst's side continued to control proceedings.
Slowly but surely, Whitney's men began to grow in stature with the lively Bakayoko doing well to get to the byline before cutting the ball back to Cockerill-Mollett.
The young defender looked to arrow a strike into the far corner but his effort was expertly blocked by Josh Gowling.
Minutes later and the Saddlers were level with Erhun Oztumer slipping through Bakayoko who fired past James McKeown for his first professional goal.
Whitney's side now had a spring in their step and they took the lead in the 38th minute through another well-worked Bakayoko goal.
Liam Kinsella was alert to intercept a loose pass with the midfielder then driving at goal before playing in the forward who coolly slotted the ball past the on-rushing McKeown.
Four minutes later and the striker was celebrating his hat-trick with his third goal the pick of the bunch.
With one touch the forward managed to control the ball and turn away from Gowling before then curling an unstoppable strike past the Mariners' keeper.
The second half began with Oztumer curling a delicious free-kick which looked destined to find the target but instead brushed the side netting.
Craig MacGillivray then produced a brilliant point-blank save to keep out Craig Disley's shot after the ball bobbed around the Saddlers area following a corner.
Walsall extended their lead on the hour mark when a well worked move saw Oztumer play-in Joe Edwards.
The defender cut the ball back to Morris who simply side-footed home for his third goal in as many games.
Ten minutes later and Grimsby pulled a goal back.
Substitute Tom Bolarinwa did brilliantly to battle his way to the byline and then deliver a low cross which Luke Summerfield converted.
Almost immediately, the Saddlers restored their three-goal cushion with Kouhyar controlling a long ball before calmly firing past McKeown for his first Walsall goal.
And Whitney's men went on to see out the game comfortably in what was an all-round impressive display.