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Match Reports

MATCH REPORT WALSALL - PRE-SEASON

29 August 2020

JOHN Brayford's first half goal ensured that Albion drew their away friendly with Walsall behind closed doors. The skipper was in the right place at the right time to prod home when the home side failed to clear a corner putting the Brewers back on level terms after Josh Gordon had given the home side a tenth minute lead with a clinical finish.

After successive games against Championship opposition in the shape of Stoke City and Coventry City, it was a trip to the Banks' Stadium and the League Two Saddler's that provided a different test for Albion.

As he did against Coventry, academy graduate Ciaran Gilligan was handed another start in the midfield as boss Jake Buxton rang the changes to look at the options in his side. Ben Garratt began in goal. Ben Fox lined up at right back with Colin Daniel at left back and Brayford and John-Joe O'Toole at centre back. Gilligan was joined in midfield by Joe Powell and Stephen Quinn whilst Luke Varney started in attack flanked by Steven Lawless and Charles Vernam.

Boss Jake Buxton was happy enough with another good workout for his side having rested some of his key players to protect them from injury with the season just six days away. "The message before the game was to try to get hold of the ball a bit more and make sure that we took the game to Walsall and dictated the game. I think especially in the second half, we showed glimpses of it in the first half, we controlled the game. The only disappointing thing is proabbly the lack of clear cut opportunities for us in the seconnd half. That will come though.

"We have a couple of niggles at the moment but we protected some of the lads today by not playing them. We need a couple of additions before the window closes and we are working towards that to support the squad that we have already got.

Despite dominating the opening exchanges Albion found themselves behind on ten minutes. From a free kick wide on the right. close to the bye-line Alfie Bates whipped a low ball into the middle and GORDON held off a challenge to turn and fire low beyond Garratt.

But the Brewers were behind for less that five minutes, BRAYFORD tapping home a simple finish from close range when Joe Powell's corner fell nicely for him inside the six-yard box.

In an open encounter Walsall were close ro regaining the lead on 20 minutes, Caolan Lavery breaking the offside trap to deliver a wickedly teasing centre that Rory Holden, on the stretch, contrived to guide over the bar from close range.

Having already scored once, Gordon fancied his chances for a second when he managed to get himself one on one with Daniel on the edge of the area but with the angle always against him his rising drive cleared the crossbar.

Varney limped gingerly from the action on 34 minutes giving another academy graduate, Tom Hewlett, the chance to impress leading the line.

Albion began to look lively with Fox and Lawless combining well down the right to send in a telling cross that was scrambled away for a coner before Wes McDonald brought the first half to a conclusion with a speculative effort from 25 yards that was always rising and never threatening Garratt's goal.

Half time: Walsall 1-1 Burton Albion

When Albion returned for the second half there were a couple of changes with neither O'Toole or Lawless appearing for the restart, trialists Owen Gallacher and Simon Dawkins coming on. Gallacher slotted in at left back as Daniel moved inside to replace O'Toole whilst Dawkins, the ex-Derby and Aston Villa wide man, was a direct replacement for Albion's summer signing from Livingston.

Albion nearly benefitted from a stroke of luck on 53 minutes when a routine ball into the box was chested back to keeper Liam Roberts by Dan Scarr but the keeper ended up having to scramble the ball around the post at the expense of a corner as Scarr played it back to him blind.

On the hour mark it was another double change for the Brewers as Neal Eardley and Jevan Anderson were introduced to the game. Eardley's arrival signalled a switch into the middle for Fox as Quinn exited the pitch and with Albion now lining up in a 4-2-3-1 formation Anderson moved into the back four as Daniel reverted to left back and Gallacher pushed further forward on the left in place of Vernam.

The substitutions for both sides disrupted the flow of the game to a certain extent but it was Albion who came close to breaking the deadlock with ten minutes to play, Powell swinging in a free kick that Roberts half cleared giving the lively Hewlett chance to set up Fox for a low drive that was gathered by the keeper at the second attempt.

Walsall went close a minute later with a headed effort that drifted just wide of the goal with Garratt at full stretch before a sharp turn on the edge of the box from Hewlett generated just enough time and space for a fizzing effort that just went over.

Neither side really threatened late on but it had been another good workout for Buxton's side with the season less than a week away.

And Albion are next in action when the Carabao Cup returns on Friday evening with the Brewers entertaining Accrington Stanley with the game at Rotherham United on Tuesday having now been postponed due to the game being so close to Friday night's game.


Albion: Garratt; Fox, Brayford, O'Toole (Gallacher, 46). Daniel; Quinn (Eardley, 60), Gilligan, Powell; Lawless (Dawkins, 46), Varney (Hewlett, 34), Vernam (Anderson, 60).
Substitutes: Hawkins, Hart, Armitage.


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