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Rovers 3 Walsall 1

30 March 2019

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Rovers strengthened their grip on the Sky Bet League One play-off places with victory over Walsall after blowing them away with a blistering start.

First half goals from John Marquis (penalty), Mallik Wilks and Danny Andrew made for a comfortable afternoon at the Keepmoat Stadium.

The win saw Rovers move five points clear of seventh place with six games remaining.

Grant McCann opted to make no changes to the side who won 4-1 against Bristol Rovers during the week and Walsall manager Dean Keates also opted for no changes from his team that were beaten 1-0 by Barnsley on the previous Saturday.

On Tuesday, Rovers were 1-0 up again Bristol within three minutes and against Walsall they managed to go one better and as the clock ticked onto the fourth minute of the match Rovers already had a two-goal lead.

John Marquis scored his 22nd of the season from the penalty spot after Mallik Wilks was brought down in the box and less than 90 seconds later, Wilks had a goal of his own after an excellent run down the right gave him chance to cut inside and curl an effort beyond Walsall 'keeper Liam Roberts.

Then started a period of pressure for the visitors. Danny Andrew cleared a Zeli Ismail effort off the line, some last ditch defending from Andy Butler cleared a dangerous looking attack from the west midlands outfit and Walsall won a succession of corners all of which went close.

The Saddlers eventually capitalised on their pressure when a Luke Leahy corner ricocheted around the box until it fell to striker Josh Gordon who tapped it in from close range.

The game could not continue at that intensity and at 2-1 both sides seemed to settle in to the match. Rovers probably just edged the possession but certainly looked to carry a more attacking threat as Walsall's attacking opportunities failed to truly trouble Marko Marosi.

On the other hand, Rovers continued to keep Roberts busy. Danny Andrew's free-kick into the box required a smart stop by the saddlers shot-stopper, and Wilks also forced a save with his shot towards the near post.
James Coppinger was finding pockets of space between the visitor's defenders and provided a threat every time he picked up the ball. His cross to the back post was very close to finding Kieran Sadlier who only needed to nod the ball into an empty net.

Corners were certainly providing the visitors with their best opportunities and if not for a brave intervention from Marquis' head at the edge of the box Walsall may well have levelled the score just after the half-hour mark.

With five minutes of the first-half remaining, Andrew re-established Rovers' two-goal lead with a free-kick from 25-yards out. Like his earlier free-kick Andrew's effort missed both sets of outfield players but this time also went beyond Roberts and crept in at the far post.

The Saddlers almost hit back with an immediate response, Corey Blackett-Taylor headed a cross down into the six-yard box and Gordon saw his effort clawed off the line by Marosi while Isaiah Osbourne's follow-up found the bar.

No changes for either side at the break and it would be Walsall who struck first. The saddlers went forward in numbers, but Rovers managed to block the shot and launch a counterattack through Sadlier.

The winger's cross found Wilks whose effort curled just wide of the far post. Rovers continued to push with Sadlier and Tommy Rowe both seeing efforts go close while the best chance of the spell fell to Wilks who headed Sadlier's cross just past the bar.

Walsall went close to a second when Blackett-Taylor struck the ball goalward on the turn but excellent reactions from Marosi meant he was able to get down to his right and tip the effort around the post and he was in the way again when Ismail fired a thunderbolt effort on target.

Rovers went close with a few chances of their own, Coppinger, Sadlier and Wilks all had long range efforts sale just wide and while Rowe's first effort flew over the bar, his second required a excellent stop from Roberts.

With 10 minutes remaining, Coppinger was replaced by a man 22 years his junior in young Lirak Hasani who came off the bench to make his home debut.

Walsall had the best of the match's closing stages but were unable to take advantage of their numerous opportunities with Osbourne, Gordon, and substitute Cameron Norman all slashing their efforts wide and Rovers were able to see out the match with three goals and three points.


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