Match Report


Sat 24 Oct 09

An improved second half display was enough to see the U's home as they recorded their latest home victory to keep up the pressure on the top two.

The U's had not been at their best in the first half, but they came out stronger, brighter and sharper after the interval to earn their sixth home win of the season.

It closes the gap to the top of the table to one point, to second place two points and created a six point gap to fourth as the U's continue to establish themselves in the upper echelons.

The U's made two changes from the team that had drawn against Wycombe a week earlier. Matt Lockwood came in for the suspended Marc Tierney at left back, whilst Josh Payne made his debut in the heart of midfield in place of the unwell Kem Izzet.

For the visitors, there was a late change ahead of kick off as the experienced Jamie Vincent picked up an injury in the warm-up and was replaced by Netan Sansara as the fans flocked into the ground.

There was an early scare for the U's though as the ball was played into the box and Troy Deeney almost got in, with John White getting across in the nick of time to clear the ball away for a corner.

Indeed, the Saddlers had a decent start to the game, but the U's had a great chance to take the lead on five minutes. Batth flicked on White's throw and it dropped to Wordsworth, who didn't connect cleanly with his shot, allowing Ince to collect safely.

Walsall then went close again, as the tricks of Till got him past Lockwood and his low cross found Bradley, whose flicked header went just past the far post.

It was an end to end game and a clever Platt flick put Odejayi into a decent position and his backheel was just short of finding the onrushing Lisbie before it was cleared.

The big Barnsley loanee had the ball in the back of the net on eight minutes after the visitors had struggled to clear a throw-in into the area, but his celebrations were cut short by a tight offside decision.

The Saddlers were playing well, but the two teams continued to trade changes. A good cross from White on fourteen minutes almost allowed Platt to get a header in on goal, but it was flagged offside just in the nick of the time from the visitors' perspective.

As the half wore on, both the U's players and supporters alike were getting increasingly frustrated by the referee on the East Stand side, with a host of offside decisions bring

Deeney looked like he might be in on goal with twenty minutes gone, but a great recovery tackle from Lockwood ensured that the U's maintained parity going into the second quarter of the game.

It was the visitors who were asking the questions, though, and Byfield's twisting run towards goal saw it finish with a shot that deflected behind for a corner.

The U's took the lead on 26 minutes when a ball fell to Platt twenty-five yards out, and his driven shot was flicked in by Lisbie who helped it just inside the post for his seventh of the season.

But the home side were in front for only a matter of seconds. Just 97 had elapsed before Byfield broke the offside trap and kept his calm to lift the ball over Williams and into the roof of the net.

The U's almost got their noses back in front, eleven minutes before the half time interval. A quickly taken throw in saw Wordsworth cross low to Odejayi and his lay-off to O'Toole saw the onrushing midfielder sidefoot his effort beyond the far post.

At the other end, Byfield dropped the ball back to the awaiting Bradley on the right hand side of the box, but Wordsworth did well to block the ball behind for a corner.

But whilst the visitors were causing danger around the area, the U's were defending bravely, and blocks from White and Batth left two Saddlers players floored in the area - the home support showing their frustration when their own attack was stopped in its tracks.

Both managers had their teams out early at the start of the second half, with the U's out for a good five minutes before the restart as Aidy Boothroyd looked for more from his side in the second forty-five minutes.

And it almost paid early dividends. From a free kick out on the right, Wordsworth fizzed a ball across the face of goal, but no player was able to get anything on it as it went past the post.

At the other end, a dangerous Richards cross saw Okuonghae make the decision to duck under the low ball and he was relieved to see Byfield flat footed as it went behind for a goal kick.

And Richards almost turned goalscorer two minutes later. The ball was swung over into the area and the left full back was in a central position to lift the ball over the bar from close range.

It was a hugely open game and not long after Richards shot, Odejayi brought the ball down in the area and hit a left footed shot towards goal that Ince did well to get down and collect.

A minute later and Platt turned provider, dropping the ball out to Lisbie on the right apex of the box. He could have taken a touch but, on the angle, he lashed in a volley that forced the visiting keeper into a fine save.

Some good play by White and Lisbie saw the latter venture into the box twelve minutes into the second half, but the ball just skipped away from him at the crucial moment to be cleared behind by Weston.

The resultant corner fizzed only inches past the far post and boss Boothroyd was left frustrated as the chance went begging.

But the manager was happy as the U's got their noses back in front from the penalty spot just after the hour mark.

Some clever approach play saw Payne burst into the area and Saddlers skipper Hughes was adjudged to have tripped his man, and Lisbie made no mistake from the spot.

The U's made their first change not long afterwards, as the returning Lockwood was replaced by Ifil for the final 28 minutes of the match.

The home side were on the front foot now and Odejayi was sent away down the right by the substitute Ifil to get into the danger area. He crossed low towards Platt, but it was turned behind for the corner.

The resultant set piece again caused trouble as Wordsworth's effort was palmed over the bar by Ince, who collected the second set piece comfortably.

Wordsworth was having a growing influence on the game and his low cross down the left was spilt by Ince with Platt lingering but collected at the second attempt.

The U's had the ball in the back of the net for a fourth time midway through the half, but for the second time it was disallowed as Odejayi was adjudged to have fouled Ince before Platt tucked home.

Payne was the second player to be replaced with 20 minutes to go, with Hackney introduced for the West Ham loanee and Wordsworth pushing into the midfield position.

Sansara had been having a difficult time against Lisbie but almost turned provider himself with fifteen left, sending over a dangerous cross with Mattis just missing his header in the middle of the box.

Odejayi then bullied his man off the ball and worked his way across the box but, reluctant to use his left foot, saw the opportunity fade away as the Saddlers closed him out.

Williams was then called into action with fifteen minutes remaining. The U's couldn't clear their lines and it came to Richards, who set himself to curl one towards the top corner, which the U's keeper acrobatically saved.

Deeney went into the book not long afterwards for a foul on Hackney, before Odejayi's blushes were spared by the offside flag.

The ball was crossed in from the left and Platt acrobatically volleyed towards goal. His superb effort was met by a fine save from Ince and, from close range, the U's loanee hit the post - but the linesman had lifted his flag before that.

Sansara joined Deeney in the book for a tug on Odejayi, before the U's introduced the pace of Gillespie in place of Platt, who was given a standing ovation by the home support.

The U's were looking to close out the game against a Saddlers side who were pressing them hard and, after Nicholls made a poor decision with a cross on the right, Gillespie attacked a through ball with Ince collecting his shot, again at the second time of asking.

The substitute went even closer a minute later, taking his time to compose himself and, from a tight angle, he smashed in a shot that cannoned off the crossbar and away to safety.

Odejayi then burst through onto a through ball from Okuonghae and, wrestling with Smith as it came back down to earth, he was just shy of beating Ince to the loose ball.

The U's were determined to hold onto their lead, with first Batth and then Gillespie providing important blocks on the edge of the box to ensure that the Saddlers didn't get a clear sight of goal.

Four additional minutes were signalled and Williams had to tip a cross over the bar at the start of that extra time, and again in the final minute.

The visitors had ramped up the pressure - but the U's held firm to record their latest home win under Aidy Boothroyd.

    Data provided by Press Association

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