Walsall 2 Oldham 1 - Report and pictures
A last minute goal from Erhun Oztumer saw Walsall register their first win of the new season with a deserved victory over Oldham.
In what was a clichéd game of two-halves, the Saddlers found themselves frustrated at the interval with Ryan McLaughlin putting the visitors ahead.
But Jon Whitney’s side were rampant after the break with Walsall creating chance after chance to claim all three points.
They pulled level in the 54th minute when Joe Edwards steered home from the edge of the box following a corner.
And after Amadou Bakayoko, Kieron Morris and Oztumer all went close, they finally grabbed the goal their second half performance deserved when Oztumer prodded home from close range.
In naming his starting line-up, boss Whitney handed a debut to centre-back Shaun Donnellan who was snapped up on loan from Albion on Friday.
It meant the Saddlers lined up in a 3-5-2 system with Donnellan joined by James Wilson and Jon Guthrie at the back and Erhun Oztumer partnering Amadou Bakayoko up front.
Oldham, under the guidance of manager John Sheridan, started in a 4-3-3 formation with ex-Walsall defender Anthony Gerrard at centre-half.
Both teams entered the clash looking to register their first win of the campaign with each side having lost on the opening day before crashing out of the League Cup in midweek.
It was the Saddlers though who started on the front foot with Whitney’s men twice coming close to breaking the deadlock inside the opening 10 minutes.
First, Nicky Devlin did brilliantly to burst his way past three defenders and into the box before teeing up Morris who saw his strike deflect wide.
Then from the resultant corner, debutant Donnellan rose highest only to power a header over the bar.
Slowly but surely, Oldham began to get a foothold on the game.
But it was Walsall who continued to look the more dangerous – with Whitney’s men again coming close in the 20th minute.
After Oldham had forced a free-kick wide on the right, the Saddlers broke at pace with Bakayoko slipping in Joe Edwards.
But under pressure from Gerrard and Peter Clarke, the midfielder hit a low drive straight at Ben Wilson.
Oldham’s front three of Craig Davies, Ryan McLaughlin and Aaron Holloway were causing Walsall problems.
It was Whitney’s men creating the goal scoring opportunities though and they should have broken the deadlock midway through the half when Luke Leahy sent an excellent low ball into the box.
Having initially started the move, Bakayoko looked to steer the ball home but sadly for Walsall the delivery proved just too strong for the onrushing striker.
Moments later and the home came even closer to opening the scoring – with Oztumer’s corner flicked towards goal by Joe Edwards only for Rob Hunt to hack the ball off the line.
For the opening half-hour, it Whitney’s men had looked the most dangerous side. Nevertheless, it was the Latics who broke the deadlock.
McLaughlin entered the box and looked to pick out Davies with a low ball. But the delivery seemed to miss everyone and somehow make its way into the corner of the net.
Walsall pressed for an equaliser in the closing stages of the half, but with Oldham’s midfield three expertly protecting their back four, the Saddlers couldn’t find any answers.
And that meant Whitney’s side walked off to boos at the interval, with the Saddlers lacking the width needed to break though the Latics defence.
Undeterred, it was the hosts who threatened first following the restart with Bakayoko powerfully heading over from a corner.
And that proved a warning for what was about to come with the Saddlers deservedly getting on terms just moments later.
After forcing yet another corner, Oztumer’s delivery was cleared but only as far as Edwards who emphatically drilled the ball home from the edge of the box.
Walsall were now dominating possession and they came a whisker away to taking the lead just past the hour when Wilson’s ball into the box was knocked back across goal by Leahy.
Despite being under pressure from a defender, Oztumer managed to get his head to the ball but the number 10 saw his effort sail inches wide.
Suddenly the Oldham goal was living a charmed life with Walsall creating chance after chance to take the lead.
First, a brilliant Devlin cross was met by Leahy whose half-volley was spectacularly clawed away by Ben Wilson.
Then Kieron Morris teed up Oztumer on the edge of the box with the creative schemer curling a strike against the post.
Walsall managed to keep the move alive though with Leahy seeing a strike blocked before Bakayoko side-footed wide with the goal at his mercy.
With the home crowd now right behind them, the chances continued to come.
And Walsall again came close when a low ball into the box was met by Morris who should have tapped home only for a defender to bravely fling himself in front of the ball to block.
But in the 89th minute the Saddlers finally found the goal their second half performance deserved.
Leahy’s long throw into the box was met by Wilson who flicked the ball towards goal.
And that header was collected by Oztumer who kept his composure to calmly slot home from close range.
Despite Walsall’s dominance, they were indebted to goalkeeper Mark Gillespie in stoppage time pulled off a brilliant save right at the death.
After Bakayoko had given away a free-kick on the edge of the box, substitute Tope Obadeyi met the resultant delivery but Gillespie was in the right place to spectacularly tip the ball over the bar.
Walsall: Walsall: Gillespie, Devlin, Guthrie, Wilson, Donnellan, Leahy, Edwards. Chambers, Morris, Oztumer (Jackson 90), Bakayoko.
Subs not used: L.Roberts, Kinsella, K.Roberts, Flanagan, Sangha, Kouhyar, Candlin.
Oldham: Wilson, Dummigan, Gerrard, Banks, Davies (Obadeyi 66), Holloway (Duffus 84), McLaughlin, Fawns (Wilson 66), Hunt, Fane, Clarke.
Subs not used: Kyeremeh, Edmundson, Mantack, Osei, Duffus,