Express & Star

Plymouth 2 Walsall 1 - Report and pictures

A brilliant solo strike from main man Andy Cook was not enough to rescue Walsall from losing at Plymouth Argyle.


Cook, after his heroic hat-trick at Gillingham on Saturday, scored a goal Lionel Messi would have been proud of at Home Park, leaving several Green Army defenders in his wake before finding the net.

But that was after centre-halves Ryan Edwards and Niall Canavan had headed home for the hosts, leaving Saddlers boss Dean Keates frustrated with his side's failure to cope with free-kicks into the box.

The result means Walsall have won just one of their last eight League One matches.

They, unsurprisingly, stuck with the XI which was victorious at Gillingham at the weekend.

There was a place on the bench, though, for centre-half Dan Scarr, following his signing from Birmingham on a two-and-a-half-year deal - for an undisclosed fee.

Cook was again the focal point of the 4-4-2 formation, while fellow striker Morgan Ferrier was not in the squad because of a hamstring injury.

In the opening minutes of the clash, it was Plymouth who dominated possession as the rain poured down in Devon.

And they should have taken the lead in the 13th minute as Yann Songo'o, unmarked, headed over the bar from just a few yards out.

The Saddlers went close with a header of their own, Josh Gordon forcing a fine save from Kyle Letheren, but it was the Green Army who continued to have most of the ball.

They had another effort go too high - and it was another header, this time from Canavan near the penalty spot.

Headers were not working, so both sides proceeded to try their luck from range.

Ruben Lameiras sliced wide after a poor Walsall clearance, and Joe Edwards then scuffed one well off target at the other end. Wanting a piece of the action, Graham Carey volleyed the ball into row Z for Plymouth.

Neither team was able to come up with the required quality to break the deadlock.

Target man Cook barely touched the ball in the opening half an hour, as the Saddlers were losing the midfield battle. Matt Jarvis tried to make things happen down the left with some fancy footwork but to no avail.

To Walsall's credit, they were working hard and managed to get a corner on the stroke of half-time.

Luke Leahy curled it right to the feet of Jon Guthrie, but the defender, from point-blank range, somehow volleyed it towards the corner flag.

The Saddlers, although Keates did not make a change, began the second half with a bit more vigour.

Isaiah Osbourne, who had earlier picked up a booking for a late, sliding challenge, poked wide from inside the box.

But it was the Green Army who got the opener. They won a free-kick on the left flank, and Carey whipped the ball to Edwards who nodded past Liam Roberts at the back post. A powerful header, there was nothing Roberts could do to keep it out.

Walsall, realising they had to step things up to have a happy, long journey home, then displayed some urgency.

Jarvis caused some panic in the area and won a corner. Swiftly afterwards, Cameron Norman very nearly scored his first goal for the Saddlers.

In a very similar position to which Edwards scored from at the other end, he headed against the post.

That was an agonising miss for the visitors, and they were made to rue it as Plymouth doubled their advantage.

Keates's team failed once more to deal with a Carey set-piece, allowing Canavan to escape his marker and glance the ball past a despairing Roberts.

Smelling blood, the Green Army took off midfielder Antoni Sarcevic and replaced him with No.9 Ryan Taylor.

Walsall, meanwhile, made a double substitution, with George Dobson and Zeli Ismail replacing Edwards and Nicky Devlin. Liam Kinsella then went on for a tiring Jarvis.

The Saddlers were not performing well, but there was still time to turn things around.

All they needed was one chance to get back into the encounter - and they got a glorious one, but could not take it.

Cook found some space in the area, and met a well-weighted cross, but could only head the ball comfortably wide of the goal. That miss from the top scorer seemed to sum up Walsall's night.

But the mark of a top striker is not letting misses affect you, and Cook soon made up for it by giving the Saddlers hope.

It was a goal of real beauty. He weaved past several green shirts and fired through Letheren's legs with such style.

Unfortunately for Cook though, Walsall were unable to find a leveller in a frantic final few minutes.


Walsall (4-4-2): Roberts; Norman, Johnson, Guthrie, Leahy; Devlin (Ismail, 70), Edwards (c) (Dobson, 70), Osbourne, Jarvis (Kinsella, 75); Gordon, Cook

Subs not used: Dunn (gk), Scarr, Laird, Morris

Goal: Cook (82)

Plymouth (4-2-3-1): Letheren; Smith-Brown, Edwards, Canavan, Sawyer (c); Songo'o, Fox; Lameiras, Sarcevic (Taylor, 73), Carey; Ladapo

Subs not used: Macey (gk), Riley, Threlkeld, Wootton, Ainsworth, Jephcott

Goals: Edwards (54), Canavan (64)

Attendance: 8,446

Referee: John Busby (Oxfordshire)