Carlisle 0 Walsall 0 - Report

Walsall ended their 2020/21 League Two season with a drab goalless draw away at Carlisle.

The Saddlers made the 185-mile journey to Cumbria with little to play for with relegation already out of sight. The hosts, equally, could not reach the play-offs and the game lived up to its standing.

Both sides had a handful of chances throughout and Walsall goalkeeper Jack Rose made the two best saves of the game from close-range.

Overall, though, the game had little intensity and neither side was able to find a way through as they shared the points.

Brian Dutton made two changes to his side and played a 4-3-3 formation.

Young defender Tom Leak came into the side, alongside striker Caolan Lavery. Dan Scarr missed out on the squad altogether and was replaced by Stuart Sinclair who made the bench after his return from injury.

Wes McDonald also dropped to the bench while Rory Holden, Derick Osei Yaw and Callum Cockerill-Mollett were not involved. Assistant manager Mat Sadler once again concentrated on his coaching role and was not in the squad.

Chris Beech made three changes to his side and stuck with his preferred 4-2-3-1 formation.

Goalkeeper Paul Farman came in, alongside Jon Mellish and Gime Toure.

Star striker Lewis Alessandra was dropped to the bench while midfielder Callum Guy made his 50th appearance for the Blues.

Defender Aaron Hayden was due to start but injured himself in the warm-up. Rod McDonald took his place in the team and Lewis Bell came onto the bench.

The hosts started the game brightly and saw plenty of the ball in the opening stages. A half-chance fell to Joe Riley who fired his effort wide from 20 yards.

Walsall were falling into the trap of consistently fouling Carlisle and allowing them to swing set pieces into the box. Nick Anderton should have scored when he was found at the back post from a Jack Armer cross, but his headed effort from five yards was straight at goalkeeper Rose.

A swift counter-attack, however, saw Emmanuel Osadebe racing through the middle and attempting to feed Tyreik Wright, but the ball was cut out at the final moment. A free-kick was then met by Leak but his header fell well wide.

Wright almost turned provided when he brought down a wonderful dinked free-kick by Sam Perry and, from the right of the box, he crossed low across goal. It was begging for a touch but Lavery was just short of meeting it.

With the Saddlers starting to grow into the game an effort by Lavery from 25 yards swerved in the air and almost caught out Farman, who managed to recover and get a hand on it.

After 25 minutes the best chance of the game fell to Armer, who should have scored. With Wright switching off defensively the Blues defender arrived at the far post but his diving header from five yards was parried superbly by Rose.

At the other end Max Melbourne then dinked a ball in for Josh Gordon who raced towards goal and then curled his effort wide.

Carlisle again should have scored from some slack Saddlers play. Perry lost the ball to Toure on the edge of his own box and the United man was in, but once again Rose pulled off a brilliant save to deny him. Mellish then blasted the rebound over the bar from 10 yards.

Walsall were switching between 4-3-3 and 4-4-2 during the first half with Osadebe’s position determining the system. Often he was picking the ball up centrally and with his forward runs and passes he was creating problems, but with half-time approaching the Saddlers were struggling with their final ball.

In the end the first half ended 0-0 with neither side breaking the deadlock.

An early header flew wide from Leak as the second half got underway.

Osadebe then almost inspired the first goal with a marauding run into the box. After almost over-running the ball he reached it before Farman and cut back for Lavery but with the goal gaping McDonald intercepted it.

As the game ticked beyond the hour mark it had entered a slump. Neither side was particularly threatening going forward and there were few chances to speak of. Walsall, also, were playing more of a traditional 4-4-2 by this point, with Osadebe on the left wing.

The introduction of McDonald, though, meant Osadebe was able to move more centrally again in a position he often threatens more in.

The best chance of the second half fell to Melbourne shortly after when, unmarked at the back post, he directed a headed effort over the bar from Osadebe’s free-kick.

With five minutes remaining Jack Nolan came on for his first appearance since February 16, in Dutton’s first game in charge. Cameron Norman also replaced Hayden White as Walsall chased a winner.

A handful of half-chances came and went, including a sliced shot from Liam Kinsella that flew over the bar.

Walsall could and should have scored an injury time winner when substitute Joe Willis played a lovely ball through to Lavery who only had the goalkeeper to beat. He got the ball stuck in his feet and the chance was lost.

That was then the last action of the game as Walsall left with a point. The Saddlers finished their League Two season 19th in the division - their lowest Football League finish in 100 years.

Teams:

Walsall: Rose, White (Norman, 86), Leak, Clarke, Melbourne, Kinsella (Sinclair, 91), Perry, Osadebe (Willis, 91), Wright (Nolan, 86), Lavery, Gordon (McDonald, 67).

Subs not used: Roberts, Bates.

Carlisle: Farman, Tanner, McDonald, Anderton, Armer, Guy, Riley (Scott, 59), Mellish (Charters, 79), Kayode, Patrick (Dixon, 79), Toure (Alessandra, 67).

Subs not used: Norman, Devine, Bell.

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