Walsall 0 Rochdale 0 - Report

Walsall endured a frustrating afternoon as a lack of confidence in the final third saw them play out a goalless draw with Rochdale.

SPORT COPYRIGHT EXPRESS AND STAR STEVE LEATH 20/11/2021..Walsall FC V Rochdale FC .  W: Otis Khan V R: Alex Newby..
SPORT COPYRIGHT EXPRESS AND STAR STEVE LEATH 20/11/2021..Walsall FC V Rochdale FC . W: Otis Khan V R: Alex Newby..

The Saddlers were watched by a 6,100-strong crowd at the Banks's Stadium, with the attendance boosted by the club's annual School Partners programme.

But they were unable to give the young supporters anything major to cheer as they failed to convert a couple of clear-cut chances and, otherwise, displayed poor decision-making.

Rochdale had opportunities of their own, most notably hitting the crossbar, but a draw was a fair result.

Neither team could lay claim to dominating proceedings and while Walsall grabbed a welcome fourth clean sheet of the season, they will certainly want to improve in an attacking sense.

Matt Taylor's lot sit 15th in League Two with 21 points from 17 matches.

The much-anticipated trip to former manager Darrell Clarke's Port Vale comes next, on Tuesday, and fans will be hoping for a brighter all-round performance.

Report

Walsall brought Conor Wilkinson straight back in from a calf issue as they made three changes from the 3-1 defeat to Harrogate Town.

Joss Labadie, as expected, returned to skipper the side after serving a one-match ban, and in a more surprising move, winger-by-trade Otis Khan started at right-back in place of the suspended Hayden White.

Rochdale, meanwhile, were captained by ex-Saddlers defender Eoghan O'Connell.

Walsall did look a little open on the right flank in the early stages – Khan not being in his natural position and Wilkinson, in fairness, not the most defensive-minded. On the ball, the hosts appeared a touch tentative, too.

Still, they had a golden opportunity to take the lead inside the first 20 minutes.

Wilkinson released George Miller with a perfectly-weighted through-ball but the top scorer, in a one-on-one, could only fire his shot straight at the onrushing Jay Lynch.

Labadie's follow-up from around 20 yards was then, frustratingly, blocked by a Dale defender.

That was a let-off for the visitors, who were struggling to offer much going forward.

The Saddlers duly began to apply more pressure. Tyrese Shade pulled an effort wide from long range before Miller, on the volley, forced another sharp stop from Lynch.

It seemed they were building towards an opener, but after a series of stoppages for fouls and clashes of heads, that momentum was brought to a halt.

Wilkinson flashed one over after Shade's inviting cross from the left before the half-time whistle.

Walsall could take heart from the fact they looked pretty steady defensively.

They also had a strong-looking bench – Liam Kinsella, Brendan Kiernan and Kieran Phillips among the substitutes – to turn to if needed.

However, with a little more belief, it seemed that Rochdale were there for the taking.

The Saddlers were still lacking intensity at the start of the second period.

They won a succession of corners, but nobody was able to meet any of Khan's deliveries. And whenever they got into the final third, their decision-making was either incorrect or too slow.

So, it was not a surprise to see Taylor make a switch on the hour mark, with Phillips replacing Shade.

A chance arrived right after that change. The ball bounced around the box and Labadie met it on the volley but, once again, Dale were let off the hook.

Walsall then began to get overrun in midfield. Emmanuel Osadebe, in particular, looked very leggy as the away side surged up the pitch and created chances.

Corey O'Keeffe had two opportunities to grab a goal but, fortunately for the Saddlers, saw the first fly narrowly over.

The second then cannoned off the crossbar as Walsall survived a series of attacks by the skin of their teeth.

Aiming to address the slide and perhaps find a winner in the last quarter of an hour, Kiernan was brought on for the tiring Osadebe.

Kinsella was given a few minutes towards the end and, ultimately, it would finish goalless.

The Saddlers will happily take the clean sheet, but they were short of conviction throughout at the other end.

You would imagine that Taylor will be putting them through some shooting practice in training ahead of the trip to Vale.

Teams

Walsall (4-2-3-1): Rushworth; Khan, Menayese, Monthe, Ward; Labadie (c), Earing (Kinsella, 89); Wilkinson, Osadebe (Kiernan, 73), Shade (Phillips, 62); Miller

Subs not used: Rose (gk), Taylor, Leak, Perry

Rochdale (3-4-3): Lynch; Taylor, O'Connell (c), Dorsett; O'Keeffe, Morley (Dooley, 46), Kelly, Keohane; Andrews (Odoh, 73), Beesley, Newby (Grant, 86)

Subs not used: Coleman (gk), Broadbent, Cashman

Attendance: 6,144 (358 Rochdale fans)

Referee: Sam Purkiss

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