Date: 6th August 2016 at 7:34pm
Written by: @adamguestwfc

The Saddlers kicked off the new season in impressive fashion, with a comfortable opening day victory over the newly promoted AFC Wimbledon, at a sun baked Banks`s Stadium.

Six debutants lined up in Jon Whitney`s first team of the season, as Joe Edwards, James McCarthy, Simeon Jackson, Erhun Oztumer, were joined by the returning Florent Cuvelier and Isaiah Osbourne in making their full debuts for the Saddlers.

It was Oztumer who gave the home side the lead after just 7 minutes, when the pint sized player whipped a free kick over the wall and in off the far post after Jackson had been crudely brought down.

If we were looking dangerous upfront then we were appearing equally shaky in defence, with Tom Elliott proving a menace with his aerial threat that was leaving McCarthy and James O`Connor both looking vulnerable to the high ball. The confusion it generated almost resulted in a Dons equaliser, firstly with Chris Whelpdale firing wide, before an excellent double save from Neil Etheridge kept the Saddlers in front with Lyle Taylor and Andy Barcham both being denied; the later will be particularly disappointed with his effort as Etheridge saved with his leg whilst still on the floor after dealing with the first effort.

Their wastefulness in front of goal was going to prove costly, as the Saddlers doubled their lead 7 minutes before the break. Again it was a set piece that proved to be the Dons achilles heel, as they again failed to deal with an Oztumer free kick. This one was from out wide and caused havoc in the visitors penalty area with Jackson, who had already been off the field for treatment twice, eventually prodding the ball home from close range after McCarthy had been denied.

Injury concerns continued after the break with Etheridge twice requiring treatment, the first time after he`d almost dribbled himself into trouble before winning himself a free kick, before O`Connor succumbed to a knock and was replaced by Matt Preston. If anything this helped the Saddlers defensive shape as Preston`s physical presence helped neutralise the visitors direct approach.

It was another substitute however who would create the third goal, with Amadou Bakayoko, who had come on for Oztumer, producing good skill on the left flank before firing across goal for Jackson to tuck home from close range.

Unfortunately, there was going to prove to be a blot on the copybook when Rico Henry hauled down Taylor in the closing moments, allowing the Dons striker to pick himself up and fire in a consolation.

Conclusions; first our visitors, and I must admit I find AFC Wimbledon a difficult team to dislike. Their supporters have been through more than most with the MK debacle, and the joining in of the minutes applause for Joel Richards was a nice touch. They`ve got a bit about them and I think they`ll do ok this season.

For us; the positives have to be that we appear to have goals in the team, and it also felt like we won with something in hand, we certainly hadn`t gone through all the gears. However, if I was to knit pick, the lack of chances was mildly concerning. With the exception of a smart stop their keeper made from Kieron Morris I don`t remember him making a save; we`ll need to create more chances as the season progresses as we`ll struggle to maintain that shots to goals ratio over the course of a season. We also looked shaky at the back at times, but that cohesion will come the more the team gels together.

All in all, not bad for starters.

 

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