Walsall 3-2 Shrewsbury Town
15/10/2016 - 15:00
The Saddlers survived being pegged back twice to extend their winning streak to three in an entertaining, if unconvincing victory, over our Shropshire rivals at the Banks`s Stadium this afternoon.
An injury to top scorer Simeon Jackson meant that Amadou Bakayoko got his big chance, and he seemed intent on taking when he fired Walsall in front midway through the first half. Neat skill from Franck Moussa, saw the ball break to Ehrun Oztumer, who sent a perfect through ball into the path of Bakayoko. The young striker didn`t disappoint and fired past Jayson Leutwiler with ease for his first league goal for the club.
The lead was short lived, as on the half hour mark we gifted Shrewsbury an equaliser. Ian Black floated a harmless ball into the box, but a mix up in the Saddlers defence saw Adam Chambers and James O`Connor go for the same ball and looping off one of them. Somehow the goal was credited to ex Saddler Oli Lancashire, who`d only been on the pitch a few minutes in place of the injured Adam El-Abd, but in truth he was nowhere near it.
Three minutes before the break the Saddlers were back in front. Joe Edwards, on his return from suspension following his red card against Bolton, somehow found himself with acres of space in the box where he was able to, at the second attempt, pick out Kieron Morris to fire us into a 2-1 half time lead.
Despite the goals, the first half itself had been largely uneventful, being contested between two poor sides, of which we`d been slightly less bad. The moment that sparked the game into life was in itself quite innocuous. Bakayoko, whose tackling style I think it`s fair to describe as 'committed`, let Shrewsbury`s other ex-Saddler Ryan McGivern know he was there. McGivern rolled around like the Premier League Academy graduate that he was and, having received treatment, jumped back to his feet only to then be booked for something he said.
This was the catalyst for the rest of the afternoon; as moments later Moussa dispossessed Jack Grimmer and set up Oztumer for a chance he squandered when he really should have buried it. Grimmer and Abu Ogogo both remonstrated with the ref over Moussa`s challenge, and they too were both booked for dissent as the atmosphere went up a couple of notches.
Two minutes later the Saddlers were made to pay for Oztumer`s miss as a clanger from Neil Etheridge saw the Shrews claw level again. The Saddlers number one came for a corner and got nowhere near it, and in the ensuing melee, the ball was turned in by Junior Brown.
The visitors were now on top and looking the more likely winners, however McGivern then shot himself in the foot, or at least I assume that`s what had happened by the way he went down. Seconds later he was back on his feet and shoving Bakayoko in the chest to earn his second yellow and an early bath. For reasons I`ve not yet worked out, Bakayoko was also booked for this, and that would also prove crucial later on.
With a man advantage the Saddlers attempted to turn the screw, but a combination of good blocking from Shrewsbury who had suddenly decided to start defending, and wasteful finishing from Moussa, Morris and Oztumer meant this looked unlikely. However, with a defence as shaky as ours it was equally possible for the visitors to hit us on the break. When ex-dingle Sylvain Ebanks-Blake entered the fray with 6 minutes to go you just sensed he was probably going to go and score the winner.
He duly obliged too, stooping low to head an Oztumer corner into his own net to gift the Saddlers the three points. Celebrations spilled over with Bakayoko jumping into the crowd along with Moussa and James McCarthy. Unfortunately the ref decided Bakayoko was the instigator and sent him off too meaning the game finished 10 a side.
In the end it didn`t matter, if Jackson is fit for Tuesday it won`t matter then either as the Canadian international will surely be straight back in the side; it was an annoyance more than anyone else, especially as Moussa and McCarthy, neither of whom had been booked previously, didn`t even get a talking too.
Still, three wins out of three and only two defeats in ten in all competitions. Things are looking up, although we must start defending better or those fragilities at the back will really start causing us some problems.