Scunthorpe 1 Walsall 0 - Report
Walsall now sit just a point above the relegation zone in League One after a late goal from Ryan Yates saw them slip to defeat at Scunthorpe.
In what was an even encounter at Glanford Park, the Saddlers were unfortunate to come away without a draw with both teams lacking quality in the final third.
But a 76th minute Yates header – from Conor Townsend’s cross – won the points for a lacklustre Iron outfit who remain in contention for promotion.
With Rochdale drawing at home to Bradford and Wimbledon and Oldham also playing out a draw, Dean Keates’ side remain 19th in the table.
But they now just have a one point cushion to the relegation zone with only three games remaining.
When naming his starting line-up, boss Keates opted to revert back to both the team and system that secured a point in Walsall’s previous away outing at Oldham.
It meant the Saddlers lined up in a traditional 4-4-2 formation with Liam Kinsella coming in at right-back, Nicky Devlin moving to the right of midfield and Kieron Morris starting on the left.
The changes meant Erhun Oztumer and Florent Cuvelier both had to make do with a place on the subs bench with Julian Ngoy continuing to partner Ama Bakayoko in attack.
Scunthorpe, under the guidance of caretaker manager Nick Daws, lined up in a 4-2-3-1 system with Ivan Toney the lone frontman and Duane Holmes, Hakeeb Adelkaun and Josh Morris operating just behind.
Despite their position of sixth in League One, the Iron entered the game having ended a 10-match winless run by beating Charlton last weekend.
And they almost found themselves a goal down inside the first few minutes after Devlin did well to win a free-kick wide on the right.
Kieron Morris stood over the resultant set-piece and whipped in a dangerous ball which Bakayoko then headed over under pressure from Conor Townsend.
In what proved a frantic opening, Scunthorpe thought they had opened the scoring just moments later only for Ryan Yates to be judged offside after poking home from close range.
Despite the bright start, the game then settled down and proved something of a stalemate with the Saddlers doing well to stop Scunthorpe’s forward players from getting on the ball.
The home side – who had been wasteful and sloppy on the ball – did almost grab what would have been an undeserved lead in the 38th minute when Josh Morris curled a free-kick against the post.
But from that point, Walsall saw out the rest of the half on top with Keates’ men forcing a succession of corners and getting into some decent positions without testing Gilks in the Iron goal.
It was the Saddlers who continued on the front foot after the interval with Leahy hitting a rasping drive from inside the box that was beaten away by Gilks.
Scunthorpe had offered very little but they came to life just past the hour mark with Funso Ojo almost finding the bottom corner from 20-yards only to denied by an excellent diving stop from Liam Roberts.
Then from the resultant corner, Jordan Clarke rose highest only to see his header cleared off the line by Bakayoko.
Keates made his first change with 20 minutes - Oztumer replacing Ngoy.
But it was the hosts who threatened next with substitute Cameron McGeehan heading a Holmes cross wide under pressure from Jon Guthrie. Oztumer then curled a free-kick over from just outside the box.
Seconds later though the home side got their noses in front after forcing a throw deep in Walsall’s half.
The ball was worked to Townsend and he whipped in a cross that Yates planted into the corner of the net with a bullet header from eight-yards.
That goal was a hammer blow for the Saddlers who had worked hard to keep Scunthorpe at bay in what had otherwise been a very even game.
In a bid to add a fresh spark, Keates introduced Cuvelier and Justin Shaibu for Morris and Kinsella with 10 minutes remaining.
But while you couldn’t fault Walsall’s endeavour, they continued to struggle to create chances with the Iron holding onto claim all three points.
Walsall (4-4-2): L. Roberts, Kinsella (Cuvelier 81), Guthrie, Fitzwater, Leahy, Devlin, Chambers, Dobson, Morris (Shaibu 81), Bakayoko, Ngoy (Oztumer 71).
Subs not used: Gillespie, K. Roberts, Flanagan, Kouhyar.
Scunthorpe (4-2-3-1): Gilks, Clarke, Townsend, Wallace, Ojo, Toney (Novak 69), Morris, Adelakun (McGeehan 54), Holmes (Vermijl 93), McArdle, Yates.
Subs not used: Watson, Bishop, Hopper, Burgess.
4 After Nicky Devlin wins a free-kick on the right, Kieron Morris whips in a ball that Ama Bakayoko heads over.
6 A flowing Scunthorpe move ends with Ryan Yates tapping home from close range but he’s flagged offside.
9 Luke Leahy finds Bakayoko who then plays a first-time ball to Julien Ngoy. His shoot on the turn is then claimed by Matt Gilks.
25 Hakeeb Adelakun's wayward clearance falls for Ngoy who the sees a low drive blocked.
29 Liam Kinsella sends in a cross that Matt Gilks claims ahead of Ngoy.
38 Josh Morris curls a free-kick against the post from 25-yards.
51 The ball breaks for Luke Leahy in the box who sees a rasping drive beaten away by Gilks.
58 Townsend stands up a cross which Roberts claims under pressure.
60 George Dobson drives forward before then teeing up Bakayoko who sees a cross-come-shot claimed by Gilks.
63 Funso Ojo almost finds the bottom corner with low drive from 20-yards but Liam Roberts gets down well to tip the ball away.
64 From the resultant corner, Jordan Clarke sees a header cleared off the line by Bakayoko.
73 Cameron McGeehan heads a deep Duane Holmes cross wide at the back post.
75 Oztumer curls a free-kick wide from 20-yards.
76 Goal Scunthorpe. Yates heads in a pinpoint Townsend cross.