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Sutton United 0 Walsall 1 - Report

Walsall closed the gap on the top half of League Two even further after a sublime free-kick from substitute Tyrese Shade handed them a narrow win away at Sutton United.

SPORT COPYRIGHT EXPRESS AND STAR STEVE LEATH 30/10/2021..Sutton United FC V Walsall FC.  W: Brendan Kiernan V S: Joe Kizzi.
SPORT COPYRIGHT EXPRESS AND STAR STEVE LEATH 30/10/2021..Sutton United FC V Walsall FC. W: Brendan Kiernan V S: Joe Kizzi.

In an end-to-end first half both sides had chances, with only some last-ditch defending keeping the score at 0-0.

But the second half was devoid of quality for the opening 20 minutes, as neither side could keep hold of the ball.

That was, until Shade stepped up. The winger had been on the field for only eight minutes when he curled in a free-kick from 25 yards and found the bottom corner.

Walsall had to withstand some Sutton pressure for the rest of the half but the defence stood firm to make it six unbeaten and hand the Saddlers a win in their first competitive meeting with Sutton.

Matt Taylor made one change to his side but stuck with the 4-2-3-1 formation.

Brendan Kiernan came into the team as Conor Wilkinson was unexpectedly left out of the squad. Alfie Bates made the bench as his replacement in the 18.

Zak Mills, Liam Kinsella and Rory Holden continued to miss out through injury and did not travel.

Stephen Ward

Matt Gray made two changes to his side after their midweek win over Colchester. They started in a 4-4-2 formation.

Jonathan Barden and Enzio Boldewijn dropped out of the side as former Walsall loanee Will Randall and Ben Wyatt came in.

With the travelling Saddlers supporters making all the noise in a packed-out away end, the first chance of the game came for the visitors. A long ball from Stephen Ward was chested down by George Miller and sat up nicely for Kiernan. The winger unleashed a half-volley down the throat of goalkeeper Dean Bouzanis, who dealt with it.

Miller was then released in behind the Sutton defence but as he chested the ball and raced through on goal, he snatched at his attempt and blazed well over the bar from 20 yards.

In an end-to-end game the hosts then should have scored. David Ajiboye did well down the right flank, twisting and turning, and delivered a low cross for Alistair Smith. The midfielder took the shot first time, inside the box, but lashed just wide of the far post.

Some nice wing play from Kiernan saw him then swing in a dangerous cross that was spilled by Bouzanis, but no Walsall player was on hand to capitalise. Randall, on the opposite wing for Sutton, then had a shot deflected wide after cutting inside. Most of the play for both sides was coming from dangerous attacks on the flank.

Again, Sutton should have scored after 15 minutes, but this time from a corner. Captain Rob Milsom swung in a dangerous set piece, which was attacked by Ben Goodliffe, but his header was blocked inside the six-yard box among the scramble of bodies.

A poor Walsall corner from Jack Earing resulted in a swift counter-attack from the hosts. Eventually, Isaac Olaofe was played in but his low strike from 20 yards was fired just wide of the post.

Brendan Kiernan

Some ill-discipline from Walsall in midfield allowed Sutton to bypass them and race into the Saddlers half, once again creating another chance. This time the ball was worked from right to left and Randall curled an effort just wide of the top corner.

A flowing Walsall move almost saw Joss Labadie convert from an Emmanuel Osadebe cross, but a fine save from Bouzanis denied him. It would not have counted anyway, as Osadebe was then adjudged to be offside.

Moments later, Ward got into the same position as Osadebe and reached the byline on the left side. His dangerous cross was put behind for a corner, which again resulted in a Sutton counter-attack which Walsall, this time, dealt with appropriately and stopped any attempt on goal.

After Ward gave away a free kick on the left side, Sutton were able to swing in a cross that was headed back across goal by Joe Kizzi. With goalkeeper Carl Rushworth stranded, Goodliffe was arriving at the back post to tap home but Ward made amends for his error by making a goal-saving tackle.

Despite several opportunities for both sides, and perhaps the best falling to Sutton, the sides entered the break drawing 0-0. The biggest concern for Walsall was how easily the hosts were able to bypass their midfield and spring attacks with little resistance.

As the teams emerged for the second half, the first big chance came courtesy of a wonderful run from Hayden White. The right-back powered down the flank and danced beyond three Sutton men to reach the byline. He was inside the box with the goalkeeper bearing down on him and his low cross was blocked.

Aside from that, the game hit a lull by the hour mark. Walsall were struggling to make the ball stick in midfield and in the final third, while Sutton were relinquishing possession quickly with some harmless long balls forward, to the frustration of the home supporters.

A poor decision from referee Carl Boyeson almost cost the Saddlers shortly after, to the dismay of manager Taylor. Substitute Shade was clearly fouled as his shirt was being pulled, but play continued and as Sutton broke forward a deflected shot from Ajiboye almost wrong-footed Rushworth.

But in the 66th minute Walsall took the lead. With the ball finely poised 25 yards out and in a central position, Shade stepped up to curl a beautiful low effort into the bottom corner in front of the travelling supporters.

Carl Rushworth in the air

Walsall had their tails up after the goal, with their supporters making all the noise, and they almost found a second minutes later. Miller was battling to bring the ball down as he raced into the box and just as he was about to let fire, the ball was stolen off his foot.

Once again Ajiboye was causing problems on the right flank and after he entered into the area his powerful effort smashed off the crossbar.

The hosts were beginning to pile on the pressure and create chances, with a good block from White the first defence against an effort from substitute Donovan Wilson.

Walsall changed to a back five in the closing minutes of the game when Ash Taylor was introduced, replacing Kiernan.

There were some heart-in-mouth moments as Sutton continued to swing crosses into the box - including a late chance for Tobi Sho-Silva - but Walsall were resolute in defence and held on for the win.

The result moved them ever closer to the top half and the play-offs, as Taylor’s side continued their spell of good form.

Walsall: Rushworth, White, Menayese, Monthe, Ward, Labadie, Earing, Phillips (Shade, 58), Osadebe (Perry, 84), Kiernan (Taylor, 86), Miller.

Subs not used: Rose, Bates, Leak, Khan.

Sutton: Bouzanis, Kizzi, Rowe, Goodliffe, Wyatt, Milsom, Smith, Randall (Boldewijn, 71), Ajiboye, Olaofe (Wilson, 76), Bugiel (Sho-Silva, 86).

Subs not used: House, Davis, Korboa.

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