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Walsall 0 Oxford United 1 - Report and pictures

By Liam Keen | Walsall FC | Published:

Walsall fell to defeat in the FA Cup second round after a late goal against Oxford United.

The Saddlers defended resolutely for the majority of the match as both sides created opportunities.

But in the 84th minute former Wolves winger James Henry was the first to meet a low cross and turn home.

Darrell Clarke made two changes from the side that drew 0-0 with Stevenage last week, starting in the 4-3-1-2 formation.

Rory Gaffney came into the side and started up front with Caolan Lavery, while Josh Gordon started in behind them, pushing Wes McDonald to the bench.

Mat Sadler also came back into the side, with Dan Scarr taking a spot among the substitutes.

James Hardy missed out on the squad altogether, with Gary Liddle taking his place on the bench.

Zak Jules failed to make the 18 for the second week running.

Karl Robinson made no changes to the Oxford side that beat Southend 4-0 in League One last week, starting in 4-3-3.

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The Saddlers started the game brightly and created the first chance of the afternoon. Gaffney did well to run in behind and pull the ball back to Gordon on the edge of his box, before his shot was blocked.

But The U’s looked a threat going forward, with much of the play coming through Tarique Fosu on the left wing.

With 20 minutes gone neither side had created a meaningful chance, but League One Oxford looked the more dangerous of the sides. Both full-backs were regularly getting space and swinging in crosses, with good defending from James Clarke and Sadler keeping the score level.

Shortly after, Walsall created the first big chance. An Alfie Bates corner was flicked on by Gordon at the near post. The ball landed at Gaffney’s feet and with his back to goal he tries an audacious back heel, which is blocked and eventually cleared.

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Walsall continued to defend resolutely but just after the 30 minute mark Liam Roberts was called into action to save his side. Oxford winger Fosu was released down the left and cut inside to shoot towards the far bottom corner, but Roberts got down well to turn the ball around the post.

Just before half-time Matt Taylor thought he had put the visitors ahead but after tapping the ball home from close range, the assistant flagged him offside.

And that was the last action of the half as both sides went into the break at 0-0.

Oxford almost made the perfect start to the second half, but were denied by an outstanding save from Roberts. Josh Ruffells ghosted in at the back post and had a header from point blank range, which was superbly parried by Roberts.

Chris Cadden then had a chance for the visitors after Henry chipped through for the full-back, who flashed his effort across goal.

Walsall then had a chance of their own. Lavery put in a cross from the right and Gordon, who was rushing in at the back post, turned his header just wide.

Taylor should have scored shortly after when a cross landed at his feet from five yards out, but the ball ricocheted off the striker and Roberts gladly claimed it.

The Saddlers then changed to a 5-3-2 after 55 minutes.

Oxford had a spell of dominance for the 10 minutes after the tactical change, but hearty defending from Walsall, with defenders putting their body on the line, kept the visitors at bay.

But Walsall grew back into the game as the game entered a quiet period.

As the game entered the 80th minute, substitute Elijah Adebayo had the chance to win it. He was sent clear on goal by Gordon but after failing to sort out his feet, a defender recovered to make a tackle.

In the 84th minute, the visitors finally made the breakthrough. Henry was the first to meet a low cross from Cadden and turn home in front of the visiting supporters.

Despite five minutes of added time, Walsall failed to fashion a clear chance in the closing stages and the visitors progressed to the third round.

Walsall: Roberts, Facey, Clarke, Sadler, Cockerill-Mollett, Holden, Bates (Guthrie 55), Kinsella, Gordon, Gaffney (Scarr 55), Lavery (Adebayo 74).

Subs not used: Rose, Norman, Liddle, McDonald.

Oxford: Eastwood, Cadden, Ruffels, Dickie, Rodriguez, Taylor (Mackie 87), Fosu, Forde (Moore 92), Mousinho, Henry, Sykes (Hall 65).

Subs not used: Stevens, Long, Agyei, Jones.

Attendance: 3,224 (1,375 away).

Liam Keen

By Liam Keen
Sports Reporter - @LiamKeen_Star

Sports journalist at the Express & Star, primarily covering Walsall FC and grassroots sport across the Black Country and Staffordshire. Got a story? Get in touch on 01902 319456.

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