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Oldham 1 Walsall 3 - Report

It has taken longer than boss Matt Taylor would have ideally liked but Walsall’s season finally has momentum.

SPORT COPYRIGHT EXPRESS AND STAR STEVE LEATH 19/10/2021..Oldham Athletic FC V Walsall FC.  W: Jack Earing scores.  V O:.
SPORT COPYRIGHT EXPRESS AND STAR STEVE LEATH 19/10/2021..Oldham Athletic FC V Walsall FC. W: Jack Earing scores. V O:.

Last night’s 3-1 win at Oldham means the Saddlers have taken eight points - half of their total tally for the campaign - from the last four matches.

And at last they now have a victory on the road, courtesy of Jack Earing and George Miller’s first-half goals and Emmanuel Osadebe’s late nerve-settler at an unseasonably warm Boundary Park.

It wasn’t perfect. Walsall’s continued inability to defend set pieces made the finish far more frantic than necessary after Hallam Hope was allowed acres of space to head home midway through the second half to pull it back to 2-1.

But the big picture remains markedly more positive than a month ago and victory was sealed when Osadebe ran through to score his first league goal of the season five minutes from time.

The win saw the Saddlers pull five points clear of the bottom two and they are now just four points adrift of the top seven in a season which in real terms has barely begun.

Oldham might only out of the drop zone on goal difference but Keith Curle’s team had kept four clean sheets in five matches prior to last night.

Joss Labadie

Most pleasing for Taylor, in that respect, was the ruthlessness displayed by his team. Earing and Miller’s goals came from the visiting team’s only two real chances of the first half.

Walsall’s team featured two changes from the one which started Saturday’s 0-0 draw at Leyton Orient, both in attack with Wilkinson and Tyrese Shade replacing Brendan Kiernan and Kieran Phillips in wide areas.

Oldham made one change, Alan Sheehan replacing Carl Piergianni at the heart of defence. Sheehan also took the captain’s armband but his evening lasted only 10 minutes before he was forced off by injury.

By then his team should really have been ahead, Jack Stobbs whipping in a vicious cross from the right but Zak Dearnley was unable to keep his finish down, lifting the ball over from no more than eight yards out.

Walsall threatened only sporadically in the opening half-hour, Shade thumping a left-footed effort wide of the target after good work by Conor Wilkinson, the most eye-catching player in green, down the right wing.

Oldham appeared to be finding some rhythm as the half progressed, Davis Keillor-Dunn sending a half-volley straight at Carl Rushworth.

But almost out of the blue it was the Saddlers who took the lead. Latics keeper Jayson Leutwiler looked set to claim a cross from the left wing comfortably until suddenly, Wilkinson reaching the loose ball and keeping his cool to roll it into the path of Earing, who hit a firm finish inside the post, a faint touch from the goalkeeper not enough to keep it out.

Hayden White

Having gone ahead, the visitors nearly handed the advantage straight back to the hosts when Dylan Bahamboula’s weak finish somehow got away from Rushworth, with Manny Monthe required to dive in and clear the loose ball.

The moment felt even more important when the Saddlers led by two at the break. One of their brightest moves of the half saw the ball fed to Osadebe on the edge of the box and though his effort was blocked, the ricochet ran kindly to Miller who took full advantage by turning and firing a low finish under Leutwiler.

Oldham introduced Faysal Bettache off the bench at the break and he almost got the hosts back into it with an excellent slide-rule pass but Rushworth was alert and quickly off his line to gather it, just in front of Hope.

The latter was howling for a penalty as the midway point of the half approached and he and Hayden White both ended up on the floor after tangling in the box.

George Miller scores

Hope was then denied by Rushworth, who turned his header wide. But from Jamie Bowden’s resulting corner the keeper was left with no chance, Hope stooping unmarked at the far post to direct the ball into the bottom corner.

Emmanuel Osadebe nearly restored the two-goal advantage in spectacular fashion when he raced to the edge of the box and thumped a shot off target. Yet it was the hosts who now had momentum and the crowd at their backs and there were again appeals for a penalty when substitute Harry Vaughan went down under the challenge of Monthe, referee Ross Joyce unmoved.

Walsall rode the storm and with five minutes remaining any remaining nerves were soothed when Osadebe pounced on slack defending and finished coolly past Leutwiler.

Teams

Saddlers (4-2-3-1): Rushworth, White, Monthe, Menayese, Ward, Earing, Labadie (Perry 88), Wilkinson, Osadebe, Shade (Kiernan 64), Miller Subs not used: Taylor, Leak, Khan, Rose (gk).

Oldham (3-4-3): Leutwiler, McGahey, Sheehan (Hope 10), Clarke, Stobbs (Vaughan 62), Bowden, Whelan, Couto, Davis, Dearnley (Bettache HT), Bahamboula Subs not used: Hope, Da Silva, Edwards, Turner, Rogers (gk).

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