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Match Reports

MATCH REPORT: Walsall 1 - 2 United

Report from the Sunday afternoon away game

29 December 2019

Both Carlisle United and Walsall went into this festive fixture in search of the points to give their respective runs of good form a winning boost following what had been a steady few weeks of football for all concerned.

United were without Jarrad Branthwaite, who picked up a niggle during the Saturday training session, but Jack Iredale was available again and he stepped up into his recognised left back position.

Harry McKirdy was the other change with him coming in for Canice Carroll.

It was an all-action encounter and an early throw for the Blues was flicked on by Hayden, but Sagaf was closed down on the edge of the area before he could open things up.

Carlisle came again when Scougall got the ball to McKirdy inside the Walsall half. A stepover was followed by a low cross but that came off Bates and Roberts took it into his chest.

The Saddlers then attacked with Facey on the right flank when he overlapped to take the ball under control. A deep cross was chested down by Gordon but Hayden stepped in to sweep it to safety.

A run and delivery from Thomas had Hope interested at the other end, but he'd checked hs initial run as he looked to stay onside.

McKirdy sent a shot high as he dropped a shoulder on the right wing, with Carlisle in the ascendancy, but Hayden had to react as Walsall broke from the clearance. Lavery had the first touch and Gordon had to be tackled as he tried to bundle his way through.

Excellent defending from the Blues kept the hosts at bay on 15 minutes when Facey found Holden in a good area. He fed it to Lavery, and Collin was superb as he made the initial block. Lavery looked to be set to pop the parry into the waiting net but Gethin Jones had other ideas as he lunged in to make a stunning goal-saving tackle.

It was Iredale who was next to provide a strong piece of defending when he shadowed Lavery after Holden had beaten the offside trap with a crossfield run. A cut back invited the nippy striker to shoot but United's left back was there to get his body in the way.

Carlisle turned Walsall once more, as it remained a nip and tuck game, with Thomas rifling a pass to the unmarked McKirdy. He volleyed a cross into the mix but Roberts jumped off his line to grasp it.

Facey somehow got past two defenders to get a cross in midway through the half but Collin dived long to make a clearing punch. A corner followed, and a blocked header from Clarke fell free in the six-yard box. Wes Mcdonald stretched to get there but his close-range attempt whistled over the bar.

It was a good spell for the hosts and a Gordon header was deflected over by Hayden as the pair contested a deep cross. Lavery then had another downward header from a quickly taken throw blocked and Collin was sharp as he stepped forward to claim it as it spun high into the air.

A 28-yarder from Sagaf was straight at Roberts, as United continued to look dangerous, and Thomas was stopped in his tracks when he went for it from the edge of the box.

The Blues fashioned a great chance on 33 minutes when Thomas was picked out by Iredale with his back to goal. Hope called for it, and he took a touch before putting his laces through it. It took an unfortunate ricochet off Scougall and that diverted the ball behind.

A flighted free kick from the halfway line caught the home defence napping and Webster wheeled away with his head in his hands as he guided a header on the run over the crossbar.

Lavery did the same at the other end whan an inswinging corner skipped off the surface in front of him. It came at the striker quickly and he couldn't keep it under control.

United had to defend their lines in time added on for the first half but they stood strong with blocks from Webster and Hayden preventing any sniff of a shooting opportunity.

The Saddlers were on the front-foot immediately after the break, and Hayden had to head behind when a Guthrie cross curled at the front post. More good work kept the delivery from the set piece at bay.

But it was Carlisle who took the lead when Sagaf broke with the ball at his feet from inside his own half. He sprayed it forward to Thomas, who angled his run towards the area. A low shot was parried by Roberts, but Loft challenged, and that brought Thomas into play once again. He left the keeper with no chance as he registered his fifth of the season with a blistering strike.

Thomas almost made it two for the day when he came at the sprint in support of Loft. A measured through ball from the big forward brought another firm shot, but Roberts got down smartly to beat it away.

The Carlisle winger was suddenly seeing more of the ball and he sent a thunderous drive high and wide after he'd cut in from the right flank to make room for the shot.

There was an almighty scramble in the Carlisle box as a corner spun up from an awkward bounce close to the goal line. Clarke tried to make it count, as did Adebayo, but the blue line stood strong.

But the Saddlers were back on terms moments later when Adebayo started and finished a good move. He rode two challenges as he ran in from the right wing, and he then slipped it to McDonald who was disappointed to see his initial shot smash down off the underside of the bar. Adebayo had followed the shot and he had the relatively simple task of tapping it into the waiting net.

Walsall were reduced to 10-men with 13 minutes left to play when McKirdy left Clarke rooted to the spot with a deft touch. The home captain tugged the Carlisle man back and the referee wasted no time in producing the red card.

The resulting free kick from Thomas hit the wall and bent just wide, and there was controversy moments later when an offside flag went up as Hope was dragged to the floor. The referee appeared to talk to his assistant, who eventually raised the flag, or another home defender would have received his marching orders.

It was head in the hands time for United on 83 minutes when Thomas put an excellent cross into the box. All it needed was a touch, but the home side were able to get it away.

A free kick from Thomas followed, and Hayden was a whisker away as he made it his own. He was on the stretch and his close-range volley went over the target.

The final sting in the tail came in time added on as a throw was flicked on at the near post. Harry McKirdy kept his eye on it and he left the stopper with no chance as he looped a fantastic match-winning header into the roof of the net.



Walsall - Adebayo (71)

Carlisle United - Thomas (52), McKirdy (90)



Walsall - Cockerill-Mollett (83)

Sent off - Clarke (77)

Carlisle United - Hayden (48)



Walsall - Roberts (gk), Sadler, Clarke (c), Lavery (Adebayo 66 (Jules 78)), Gordon, Holden (Hardy 66), Guthrie, Bates, Cockerill-Mollett, Facey, McDonald. Subs - Rose (gk), Norman, Gaffney, Perry, Jules.

Carlisle United - Collin (gk) (c), G Jones, Hayden, Webster, Iredale, Sagaf, M Jones, Scougall (Loft 46), Thomas (Olomola 90), Hope, McKirdy. Subs - Gray (gk), Mellish, Charters, Bridge, Birch.


Match officials

Referee - Ben Toner
Assistant Referee 1 - Abbas Khan
Assistant Referee 2 - Matthew Bristow
Fourth Official - Billy Smallwood


Attendance - 4,794 (376 away fans)

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