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EFL Cup: Walsall 2-0 Swindon Town

Walsall progressed to the second round of the Carabao Cup after a late win over League Two rivals Swindon.

SPORT COPYRIGHT SHROPSHIRE STAR STEVE LEATH 09/08/2022..Walsall Fc V Swindon FC W: Danny Johnson scores.
SPORT COPYRIGHT SHROPSHIRE STAR STEVE LEATH 09/08/2022..Walsall Fc V Swindon FC W: Danny Johnson scores.

It took until the 80th minute for the Saddlers to take the lead when substitute Danny Johnson slotted home a penalty.

Just two minutes later Timmy Abraham finished from close range after a Johnson shot was saved into his path, to continue Walsall’s winning start to the season and see them progress to the next round.

Michael Flynn abandoned his back five and made six changes as he switched to a 4-2-3-1 formation following the league win over Newport.

Peter Clarke, Brandon Comley, Liam Kinsella, Andy Williams and Johnson all dropped to the bench, while Taylor Allen was serving his one-game suspension.

Liam Bennett, Jack Earing, Flynn Clarke, who was making his Saddlers debut, Tom Knowles, Douglas James-Taylor and Abraham all came into the side.

There was a familiar face in the Swindon team, too, in Tyrese Shade who spent last season on-loan at Walsall.

Walsall's Timmy Abraham celebrates

Having lost all three encounters against Swindon last season, conceding 10 goals and scoring just one, Walsall made a much brighter start this year as they pressed with intent and moved the ball quickly in attack.

Walsall were missing the final ball, however, and the first big chance fell to the visitors. A counter-attack saw Jonny Williams release Shade and his powerful effort was tipped over the bar by Owen Evans.

Abraham did have the ball in the net for the Saddlers after 15 minutes but it was ruled offside in a very tight call.

The home crowd was getting frustrated with referee Thomas Parsons as he consistently gave niggling fouls, particularly in the midfield battle.

But the supporters were almost cheering when Abraham was released but as he closed in on goal he pulled his shot wide with his left foot.

Clarke should have had a clear sight of goal when a clever Abraham dummy, from a Hayden White pass, put the young midfielder in on goal. But his first touch was heavy and goalkeeper Lewis Ward collected the loose ball.

At the other end, Tomi Adeloye fired at goal but Evans was equal to it, before Ronan Darcy raced forward and had a chance to shoot, but passed instead and the chance fizzled out.

Walsall striker Timmy Abraham and Swindon Town's Cian Harries

On the stroke of half-time, Walsall should have taken the lead. Bennett did exceptionally on the left to swing in a dangerous cross for James-Taylor. The young forward, on the stretch, headed over from two yards.

That glaring effort was the last major action of the half as both teams entered the break goalless, after a fairly even first half.

The second half saw a change of shape for Walsall, who switched a 5-3-2.

The first chance came when Bennett, who was now playing as a right-wing-back, whipped in a teasing cross for Knowles, who header over on the stretch.

An injury to White just five minutes into the half meant Comley had to replace him, and the midfielder slotted into the centre of defence, as Donervon Daniels moved to the right of the back three.

A sustained spell of Swindon pressure saw them look after the ball well in Walsall’s half, but the back five stood firm to withstand the onslaught.

After an hour, Flynn introduced deadly striker Johnson in an effort to find that elusive goal.

It almost came, too, when an Earing shot from the edge of the box was blocked and fell to Abraham from close range, but he misjudged it with the goal gaping and the chance was lost.

Knowles then won the ball in his own half and raced forward. A pacey solo run saw him shoot from the edge of the box but he flashed wide.

Johnson then came close with a chipped effort from a tight angle that flashed across goal.

Walsall's Tom Knowles up against Swindon Town's Ricky Aguiar

After 76 minutes Walsall were awarded a penalty when youngster Ronan Maher was bundled over by Harrison Minturn, who was sent off for his last man foul, despite the officials taking their time to give it. Johnson stepped up to finish with just 10 minutes remaining.

Walsall were on the up and just two minutes later they secured a second when a Johnson shot was spilled to Abraham, who finished from close range.

The Saddlers were on top in the closing stages and looked likely to add to the scoreline. They controlled the remaining minutes and secured their 2-0 win, to send them into the second round of the competition.

Walsall: Evans, White (Comley, 51), Daniels, Monthe, Bennett, Earing, F. Clarke (Maher, 70), Knowles, Hutchinson, James-Taylor (Johnson, 61), Abraham.

Subs not used: Przybek, P.Clarke, Kinsella, Williams.

Swindon: Ward, Clayton, Harries, Minturn, Aguiar, Shade, Williams (Dworzak, 62), Darcy, Cowmeadow (Dabre, 69), Parsons, Adeloye (Massey, 75).

Subs not used: Brynn, Hart, Fox, Kanu.

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