WALSALL FC 3 - V - 1 STAFFORD RANGERS
Report written by Ross Lascelles - Staffordshire University
The first chance of the game fell to the Saddlers in the 4th minute, with Milan Butterfield finding space for a shot at the edge of the box only for his curled effort to sail over the crossbar.
Rangers replied with a chance of their own 3 minutes later. Striker Kyle Perry took the ball under control with his chest before firing a left foot volley over the bar.
Walsall went close again just a minute later, once again through Butterfield. The midfielder rose highest out of everyone in the box to meet Jordon Sangha’s corner from the right, but his header was blocked and rolled narrowly wide of the near post.
The hometown side very nearly bagged themselves a bizarre goal in the 18th minute as Mitchell Tolley gave the ball away cheaply in the centre of the park to Walsall’s young player of the year Adamou Bagayoko who spotted Adam Whitehouse off his line and went for goal, but the Rangers keeper spared himself an embarrassing moment as he managed to get back and claim the effort comfortably.
The first clear cut opportunity of the half went the way of Stafford Rangers, but Izak Reid’s shot rebounded of Brandon Ganley’s legs after a flick on put him beyond the Walsall centre backs with only the keeper to beat.
Rangers squandered another chance 2 minutes later, this time coming from a James Bowen long throw from the left which found Matthew Bailey at the far post. His header was palmed away by Brandon Ganley diving to his right.
Tobias Hayles-Docherty nearly opened the scoring for Walsall just after the half hour mark. He cut in from the left side of the penalty area but Whitehouse got down smartly at his near post to deny the youngster.
The deadlock was eventually broken by the Saddlers in the 35thminute to culminate a strong 10-minute spell for the home side in which they controlled possession and had Rangers penned inside their own half. Bagayoko slipped through a smart ball to Butterfield rushing into the box from midfield and he expertly sneaked a right foot finish past Whitehouse into the bottom right corner to give his side the lead.
The visitors threatened an equaliser a few minutes before the break as another edge of the box volley from Reid left Ganley scrambling towards his left-hand post but it was Walsall who went in at half time with the upper hand, after a first half in which both sides had good chances.
The second half began and Walsall came charging out of the blocks. Just 5 minutes after the restart, they doubled their lead after Bagayoko’s pass from the left found Hayles-Docherty in the penalty area. His first-time right foot shot beat Whitehouse at his near post to give John Ward’s side some breathing space.
6 minutes later things got even worse for Rangers as Walsall tripled their lead. Provider turned scorer Bagayoko got in front of his man to meet Jordon Sangha’s low free kick and once again beat Whitehouse at his near post as the home side threatened to run riot.
Neil Kitching’s side went close to getting one back immediately after. A long ball from defence went straight over the Walsall back 4 to find the chasing Reid. He nodded over Ganley who had come off his line to meet the ball but Walsall captain Korey Roberts rushed back to make a crucial goal mouth clearance.
The visitors made a spirited effort to get themselves back into the game. In the 70th minute, Izak Reid found space for a cross from the right-hand side and picked out substitute Kris Taylor on the edge of the box but a block from Butterfield prevented the ex-Saddler from scoring against his former club.
Another chance went begging for Rangers immediately after. Taylor was again involved as he floated in a cross from the right with Walsall defender Dan Vann meeting it to turn the ball narrowly wide of his own goal.
The pressure from the visiting side was rewarded a minute later as a dangerous ball in from the left found Reid who’s looping header nestled in the bottom corner to give the travelling fans hope of a comeback.
However, Walsall ultimately held on to clinch the Senior Cup and cap off a fantastic season for the young side.