On a day where Oxford had their family day with over 1,000 away supporters and on a day where a group of Walsall fans started a protest against our owner Jeff Bonser you may have felt it was going to be the visitors taking home all three points however credit needs to be given to Jon Whitney and his players for doing the talking on the pitch and gaining a very important win.
Whitney made three changes from the side which had lost to Plymouth on New Years Day – Liam Roberts came in for Gillespie, Kory Roberts came in for the departing James Wilson and George Dobson came in for the departing Zeli Ismail.
Goals from Bakayoko and Oztumer was enough to get victory but Liam Roberts became a man yesterday and proved why the club have held onto him for so long – Gillespie has just lost his number 1 jersey for the remainder of the season.
In the opening fifteen minutes both teams were cancelling each other out with only the odd chance between them. Oztumer and Leahy linked up well from a free kick which saw the ball find Jon Guthrie but it seemed to hit him and just fell to no one.
Oxford then came at us with Obika heading the ball towards goal which Liam Roberts did fantastically well to tip over the bar. This was the start of a memorable afternoon for our young keeper.
After twenty minutes it was the away side that started to get on top and Walsall would have gone in at the break behind if it wasn’t for Liam’s Roberts.
James Henry found his way into the box and a fierce strike from close range was somehow saved by Roberts. Seconds later another cross found Wes Thomas head and many expected a goal however Roberts somehow clawed it away.
The Saddlers somehow got their heads in front. Oztumer again found Leahy whose ball across the box eluded everyone but Bakayoko and he calmly slotted it in from close range.
Moment after half time the Saddlers were 2-0 up. Leahy once again involved, his hoof ball upfield found Oztumer and he managed to worm his way past the Oxford defence and lob the keeper. The keeper should have done much better but the Saddlers were in a comfortable position.
Mowatt pulled one back for the visitors as he blasted a free kick past Roberts from the edge of the box.
Oxford came at us but resolute defending and fantastic goalkeeping kept the score at 2-1. Somehow Roberts tipped a Henry shot heading for the top corner out for a corner to cap off an outstanding afternoon for him.
The Saddlers now stretch the gap to four points from the drop zone with trips to Charlton and Blackburn coming up – it was an important three points!
On eight minutes around two hundred Walsall fans left the game to meet other fans outside reception to protest against owner Jeff Bonser. The protest organiser Olly Beckett asked the fans to leave just after five and to do it all again after the next home game.
There was an emotive atmosphere around the stadium yesterday following Thursdays meeting and knowing a protest was happening outside – if it gets three points and everyone singing from the same hymn sheet again – I think we will all take it.