MATCH REPORT: Walsall 0 Fleetwood 1

Uwe Rosler
Uwe Rosler
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Cian Bolger’s bullet header was once again enough to clinch all three points for Fleetwood at Walsall.

Bolger nodded in Cameron Brannagan’s precision corner from the left in the 22nd minute to help Fleetwood pick up their first ever three points at the Banks’s Stadium and keep their grip on second-spot in the League One table.

Fleetwood boss Uwe Rosler made four changes from the side that lost 4-2 to Bolton on Saturday.

Godswill Ekpolo was given his first start since the 2-1 defeat at Port Vale on the right of a back three with Ash Eastham injured.

Cameron Brannagan started on the left of a midfield three with Markus Schwabl also returning to a central midfield role and Ash Hunter starting up front.

They came in for Devante Cole who limped off on Saturday with striker David Ball and right wing-back Victor Nirennold moving to the bench and midfielder Bobby Grant joining Hunter up front and McLaughlin back at right wing- back.

It was Walsall who started the stronger with the Town defence’s confidence shaken in the opening stages from unusually conceding four against Bolton at the weekend, Town had clearly been stung by conceding those four goals but after the rawness wore off they returned to their usual impeccable standards.

Walsall looked strong as they bombed forward on both wings but with Town crisply passing the ball across the pitch it just needed a moment of magic from Grant to ignite their attack.

Grant attempted the spectacular as he tried to catch Etheridge off guard with a fizzing effort from wide on the left but the impressive shot-stopper was on hand to tip it over his bar.

But Town took the lead from the subsequent set-piece, just like Bolton punished them in the air on Saturday it was Town’s turn to use a simple but effective routine to devastating effect.

With Schwabl and Hunter causing a nuisance in the six-yard box Brannagan whipped the corner from the left into the path of the on-running Bolger who drove in to nod the ball in in 22nd minute to calm any lingering nerves in the Town camp.

But it far from knocked the stuffing out of a Walsall side that had won their previous six league games in a row with Bolger the hero at the other end this time as he just nicked the ball away from George Dobson’s feet in the six-yard box as he was about to pull the trigger from an angle on the right with Laird failing to capitalise on Town’s inability to clear the subsequent set-piece as he sliced the ball wide of the right stick.

Town looked more of a danger as the half progressed with Brannagan latching on to McLaughlin’s inswinging cross from the right but his curling effort was thwarted by a diving save by Etheridge.

Fleetwood should have doubled their lead just before the break as another Branggan set-piece cause chaos in Walsall’s box. The on-loan Liverpool midfielder’s delivery was second to none as he whipped the ball from just outside Town’s half on the right up towards Bolger at the back stick, he nodded the ball back across with Godswill nodding the ball onto the bar before Hunter’s follow up was just cleared off the line.

The home crowd were boiling at the break over due to a number of dubious decisions from referee Trevor Kettle as they let off some steam at the official as he walked back into the dug out.

In the second half Hunter looked hungry for a goal as he chipped the ball into the side netting before forcing Etheridge into palming his left footed fizzer onto the post as Fleetwood searched for a second.

But after a brief purple patch at the start of the second 45 it was all Walsall as they bombarded Town’s box with Bolger nodding everything away.

With 20 minutes remaining Rosler reshuffled with Brannagan the man to make way for top scorer Ball who joined Hunter up front with Grant slotting back to his usual left sided midfield role.

Walsall continued to press in the closing stages of the game but Bolger and company ensured Town recovered from conceding four goals to pick up another clean sheet and another three points despite Erhun Oztumer curling a set-piece that was controversially awarded for an apparent Godswill foul on Laird just around the left stick.

Walsall even sent keeper Etheridge to try and nab an equaliser from a last gasp corner but even with all 22 players in Town’s box they managed to stand firm and bounce back with a win.

Fleetwood: Cairns, McLaughlin, Godswill, Bolger, Davies, Bell, Dempsey (Glendon, 85), Schwabl, Brannagan (Ball, 69), Grant, Hunter. Subs not used: Neal, Reid, Davis, Nirennold, Maguire.

Walsall: Etheridge, Edwards, Laird, O’Connor, McCarthy, Dobson (Makris, 73), Chambers, Jackson (Bakayoko, 68), Oztumer, Osbourne, O’Connell (Preston, 36). Subs not used: MacGillivray, Morris, Randall, Moussa.

Referee: Trevor Kettle.

Attendance: 3890 (Away 142)