Scunthorpe 0 Walsall 2 - Report and pictures

Walsall scored a goal in either half to do the double over Scunthorpe United, winning 2-0 at the Sands Venue Stadium.

After a 1-0 win in the reverse fixture back in September, the Saddlers masterminded another victory over the Iron in this Boxing Day clash.

A relatively even first half ended with a Wes McDonald opener. The winger created a moment of magic to race into the box on his own, nutmegging one defender before cutting in and curling an effort into the top corner.

The second half saw the home side dominate the ball and swing in several corners and crosses but Walsall stood firm in defence.

A counter attack then saw the Saddlers double their lead with Alfie Bates smashing home in front of the travelling supporters after a cross was cleared, earning him his first league goal for the club.

Darrell Clarke made three changes to the side that drew 3-3 away at Exeter on Saturday, starting in a 4-4-2 formation.

Mat Sadler, Bates and Rory Gaffney all came into the side.

First choice right-back Shay Facey missed out on the squad altogether while Zak Jules returned to the team on the bench.

Paul Hurst’s side also started in a 5-3-2 formation, making three changes.

The first 10 minutes was a quiet and scrappy affair as neither side relaxed on the ball. The first chance came for Lee Novak who lashed his first-time shot over the bar from the edge of the box.

The chances were still limited as the game ticked towards the 20th minute with Walsall’s only shot on target coming from distance from McDonald, which was easily saved.

The biggest chance of the game fell to the Saddlers after 26 minutes. A Bates corner was met by Caolan Lavery who had a free header but he directed it straight at goalkeeper Rory Watson.

Shortly after a Kevin Van Veen free-kick was superbly turned around the post by Liam Roberts.

As the game began to come to life, Lavery should have put Walsall ahead. Gaffney did well to knock down a high ball and a superb touch from Lavery put him through on goal. Watson did well to rush out and smother the striker’s attempt.

In the 43rd minute a moment of magic from McDonald put Walsall ahead. The winger raced at the Scunthorpe defence and nutmegged one player to get into the box. As he got towards the byline he cut back inside and curled a shot with his right foot which deflected and nestled into the top corner.

Novak went close to equalising at the start of the second half. The striker did brilliantly to cut inside in the box and fire towards goal but a superb block from Sadler deflected the ball past the post.

Levi Sutton then went close for the Iron. His shot from distance was destined to nestle into the Walsall net before Roberts pulled off an excellent save to tip it onto the crossbar.

Shortly after Abo Eisa flashed a cross across the face of Walsall’s goal, which was crying out for a tap in, but none of his team-mates reacted quickly enough.

Similar to his first effort, Sutton again let fly from distance and again his effort was deflected just past the post as Scunthorpe piled on the pressure.

As Walsall continued to defend resolutely, Liam Kinsella did exceptionally well to throw his body in the way to clear an attempt from Junior Brown.

Danny Guthrie came on just after 70 minutes, replacing goalscorer McDonald, meaning Walsall changed formation to 5-3-2 with Kinsella playing right-wing-back.

Van Veen had another chance shortly after with another free-kick. This time he curled it towards the bottom right corner and it fell the right side of Roberts’ post.

But it was Walsall who took advantage and doubled their lead in the 84th minute. Cameron Pring came flying down the left flank and crossed for the ball after getting to the byline. It was cleared only as far as Bates who smashed the ball home from the edge of the box in front of the travelling fans.

After four minutes of added time Walsall hung onto their two-goal lead to see out the win at the Sands Venue Stadium.

It’s now six unbeaten in the league for Darrell Clarke’s side with only one loss coming in their last 11 games in all competitions, sending the travelling support home happy on Boxing Day.

Walsall: Roberts, Clarke, Scarr, Sadler, Pring, Kinsella, Bates, Sinclair, McDonald (Guthrie 71), Lavery (Adebayo 87), Gaffney (Gordon 80).

Subs not used: Rose, K.Roberts, Jules, Holden.

Scunthorpe: Watson, van Veen, Perch, Novak, Gilliead, Sutton (Ward 83), McArdle, McGahey, Brown (Proctor 77), Eisa, Bedeau.

Subs not used: Collins, Butler, Dales, Butroid, McAtee.

Attendance: 3,842

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