Walsall 2 Fleetwood Town 0: MATCH REPORT

Ash Eastham
Ash Eastham

Fleetwood Town's faint hopes of a late surge for the play-offs faded further away with a 2-0 defeat at relegation battling Walsall.

With Peterborough and Doncaster losing three points would have reignited Town's promotion hopes and left them three points off sixth spot.

But two lapses of concentration in the second half in set-piece situations saw relegation battling Walsall take the points.

Fleetwood Town boss Joey Barton made two changes for the clash.

Ross Wallace returned from his two match suspension to replace Nathan Sheron with Jason Holt taking Lewie Coyle's spot.

Given Walsall's precaurious position at the bottom of the table the onus was on the hosts to attack.

That they did in the opening exchanges though a lack of end product and a lack of confidence in the final third explains why they have found themselves in the relegation dog fight.

Harry Souttar was a rock in the heart of Town's central defence once again early doors but he could only clear to the unmarked Zeli Ismail at the back stick.

Though Ismail wanted too much time on the ball and Town recovered to thwart the Walsall man.

Souttar was on hand to make a vital interception and stop Ismail shooting after he got the better of James Husband.

It was an intervention the Cod Army behind the goal approved of as they chanted the Stoke City loan stars name.

After absorbing that early pressure Town found some joy on the counter with a Burns cross from the right just cleared with Hunter looming.

Frustration built in the home stands as the Saddlers could not make their dominance pay with chances.

Again the hosts wanted a touch too many in the final third and shouts of 'hit it' echoed in the stands.

Ismail danced around the box but when he eventually got his shot off Ash Eastham was on hand to block the strike.

And though up the other end Town's chances were few and far between the calibre of their attackers shone through with right-back Burns forcing Liam Roberts into a fine fingertip save to tip his set-piece away.

And Walsall came close having taken the advice from the stands.

Souttar cleared a corner but only into the path of Joe Edwards just outside the box.

He did not dwell on the ball and his first time effort flew over the bar.

The home faithful had voiced their frustrations towards referee Eddie Ilderton but it was Town's turn to feel aggrieved as the half drew to a close.

Hunter tumbled as his shirt was tugged back in the box by Dan Scarr as he tried to find the space to shoot.

But Hunter was left incensed as the referee waved away his claim.

Walsall came out fighting at the start of the second half.

Ismail's cross turned shot was collected by Cairns at the second attempt before Town were undone by a cross from the left.

George Dobson's ball flew over a host of static yellow shirts with Morgan Ferrier nodding home in the 54th minute.

It could have been two moments later as Josh Gordon found himself one-on-one with Cairns.

Cairns had spotted the danger and closed down the Walsall man, blocking his strike to clear the danger.

Gordon saw another effort go wide but the Saddlers smelt blood and went for the kill.

Leahy nodded a Kinsella cross back across goal with Scarr on hand to poke the ball through Cairns' legs.

You'd normally expect the Town shot-stopper to clear efforts like that but the Walsall men were queuing up with the defence at sea.

Cairns showed his class moments later to tip away Leahy's set-piece.

Barton refreshed his side sending Ryan Rydel on for his debut in midfield in place of Ross Wallace as Ashley Nadesan came on for Paddy Madden.

Rydel made an immediate impact whipping the ball in from the left to Ched Evans but he nodded wide at the back stick.

Rydel tried his luck from distance but his effort flew over the bar as Barton gave another of Simon Wiles' U18 side a debut.

Northern Ireland international Barry Baggley came on for Ash Hunter as Town tried to find a way back.

They should have set up an interesting finish as James Husband's set-piece fell sweetly for Ash Eastham.

But the skipper scooped the ball over from close range when the defender should have found the net.

Gordon could have wrapped it up late on but he fired wide having been released by a loose midfield pass by Town.

In the second half Walsall simply wanted it more than Town as their play-off hops continue to fade away.

Walsall: Roberts, Edwards, Leahy, Dobson, Guthrie, Devlin, Ismail, Kinsella, Ferrier (Laird, 69), Gordon, Scarr. Subs: Dunn, Fitzwater, Norman, Osbourne, Oteh, Blackett-Taylor.

Fleetwood: Cairns, Burns, Eastham, Souttar, Husband, Holt, Sowerby, R Wallace (Rydel, 72), Hunter (Baggley, 82), Evans, Madden (Nadesan, 72). Subs: Jones, Coyle, Nadesan, Biggins, Sheron, Baggley, Rydel.