WIGAN ATHLETIC 0
Neither team could break the deadlock on a blustery morning at Christopher Park as a chess-like game of midfield passing saw Latics lose a key piece when their trialist goalkeeper was sent off for handling the ball outside of his area with half an hour to go.
Latics bounced back well from last week’s 5-0 defeat to Rochdale and the experience of central defender Michael Wilson and midfielder Luke Ainscough gave the team stability.
John Doolan and Joe Parkinson’s side included three trialists from the start and Under 16 midfielder Josh Gregory who impressed on his first start in the Under 18s.
It took 24 minutes for the first open chance of the game when an overlap by right back Danny Leigh saw him sprinting through on goal to challenge Walsall goalkeeper Richard Jones.
Leigh made it to the ball and Jones couldn’t gather it as ran loose, with Latics’ defender claiming a penalty as he went to ground, but there was no giving from the referee.
Jones was tested again moments later when Latics’ trialist left back fizzed in a low cross to the front post for Gregory to attempt to turn in, only for the Walsall keeper to stand firm with a block.
Walsall had a goal disallowed with three minutes of the first half left after Latics’ ‘keeper pulled off a point blank save, only for Amadou Bakayoko to turn in the rebound but see the linesman’s flag at the same time.
The goalkeeper was less heroic 62 minutes in when a high ball from Walsall left back Rico Henry saw Latics’ defence caught out, allowing Bakayoko through the middle.
As the ball bounced off the turf, the ‘keeper was deceived and already out of his area attempting to meet it, realising at the last minute that he could neither head of kick the ball he reached out a hand to drag it from the air and gave the referee no choice but to send him off.
That meant that with just under half an hour left, centre back Sean Harrison was called off the bench to take his place between the sticks.
Harrison distributed the ball well in a game which would then see very few chances other than Bakayoko thumping the cross bar with 15 minutes left.
The centre back pairing of Wilson and Adam Anson was enough to see of Walsall’s aerial threat as Latics saw out the game with their first clean sheet of the season.
Latics: Trialist, Leigh, Trialist, Wilson, Anson, Lambert (Baxendale 88), Bannister (Harrison 62), Ainscough, Gregory (Foukamene 73), Trialist (Carey 90+4), Hamilton
Walsall: Jones, Ashmore, Henry, Kinsella, Rowley, Christorou, McKenzie, Delaney (Dawson 58), Bakayoko (R.Reid 85), Rush, A.Reid (Shakespears 76)
Unused Subs: Lovett, Probert