Match Report: Walsall 3 Doncaster Rovers 0

Reece Wabara takes on Andy Taylor
Reece Wabara takes on Andy Taylor

Paul Dickov has a huge job on his hands.

Not only does he have to get the players on track and putting in some consistent performances, he’s also got to win back the fans who have been more than vocal about their team’s manager on social media platforms following Saturday’s misery.

Dean Furman takes on Romaine Sawyers.

Dean Furman takes on Romaine Sawyers.

A lacklustre, dour and rather damp squib showing in Walsall isn’t easily forgiven or forgotten by the fans - and that’s something that has no doubt added to the strain of the massive job ahead which Dickov ultimately faces.

The heat is cranking up on the Rovers chief and he needs a result against Scunthorpe United on Saturday to dampen the flames.

When displays like Saturday’s at Banks’s Stadium happen, it’s easy to forget the good work Dickov has actually done for the club.

He was instrumental in keeping the likes of James Coppinger, Richie Wellens and Paul Keegan when the trio looked to be exiting the Keepmoat.

Dean Furman in flow

Dean Furman in flow

Now, he needs those players to come to the forefront and help in rallying the troops come Scunthorpe. On top of that, he needs results and he needs them quickly.

Prior to the meeting, Dean Smith’s side had recorded just one win in nine attempts in this season’s League One.

Maybe for that reason Doncaster underestimated Walsall.

Dickov did insist that he and his players knew the threat the Saddlers possessed but judging by their performance in the Midlands, that - in all honesty - was questionable.

If the Rovers contingent are underestimating opponents, then that needs to be addressed quickly - and there’s no better time than during this week’s training.

Dickov will have been envious of how Smith’s men shaped up. Their 3-0 success was well-deserved, it boasted pace, vibrancy, creativity and - more importantly - goals.

They began with a bang in front of their home faithful. It took just 45 seconds for Anthony Forde to try his luck twice on goal only to see both efforts well blocked by Doncaster.

Meanwhile, Rovers looked out of sorts as their passing game eluded them and Walsall were in a mood to punish, particularly down their right-hand side.

Ex-Doncaster duo James Baxendale and James O’Connor combined brilliantly to put Cedric Evina and Kyle Bennett on the backfoot from the off.

Doncaster offered some hope of an attacking threat through Harry Forrester, who sat in just behind lone striker Theo Robinson, but his usual bright spark was dimmed slightly due to not being 100 per cent match-fit.

If Rovers were to get anything out of the game, Forrester still looked the likely suitor.

In the other direction, Romaine Sawyers was a thorn in the side all afternoon.

Doncaster just could not cope with Walsall’s free-roaming forward who dictated the play beautifully for the hosts and in turn set up wideman Baxendale from a free-kick for the Saddlers’ first half opener.

Rovers had, before the goal, been dealt a blow when Jed Steer had to be substituted following a hip problem after collecting an aerial ball on the half hour.

That saw Slovakian shot-stopper Marko Marosi enter the fray but little did he know that he would be in for a harsh Doncaster debut which involved picking the ball out of the back of the net on three occasions.

Fortunes were favouring Walsall as Smith had luxury in his side - mostly from top scorer Tom Bradshaw who returned from injury and led the line brilliantly.

The striker’s energy and urgency in his play could have won his side a penalty following a coming together with Evina minutes after the restart, but referee Stuart Mathieson waved away the lively protestations.

Their tails were up as Walsall sensed another goal was on the horizon - which ultimately happened in the 57th minute.

After Bradshaw had seen an effort rise over the bar, he made no mistake when connecting with Sawyers’ delivery from the right to hammer home for 2-0.

Dickov faced an uphill task and having already introduced Richie Wellens into the midfield in place of Bennett, even the club’s talisman could do little about the fire in Walsall’s bellies as they went in search of a third.

Richard O’Donnell was largely anonymous in the home side’s goal. Not through a poor performance but because of the lack of a clinical edge in Doncaster’s attacks.

A speculative strike from distance by Theo Robinson and a low, curling effort from Forrester was about all Rovers could muster as their League One counterparts were rampant.

It was Forde who would be the tormentor-in-chief, capping off a vibrant performance with a well-taken set-piece which a despairing Marosi saw crash in off the post and into the bottom corner for 3-0 in the 64th minute.

It could have been more for the hosts too as they peppered Rovers’ goal in the closing stages before Smith’s side settled for three goals to the good and their second win of the domestic campaign.

Walsall: O’Donnell 6, O’Connor 7, Butler 7, Taylor 7, Downing 7, A.Chambers 7, Flanagan 6 (Clifford 55, 6), Baxendale 8, Forde 8, Bradshaw 8 (Grimes 83, 6), Sawyers 9 (Manset 83, 6). Subs: MacGillivray, Benning, J.Chambers, Cook.

Rovers: Steer 5 (Marosi 30, 5), Evina 5, Wabara 5, McCullough 5, McCombe 5, Keegan 5 (Peterson 66, 5), Furman 5, Coppinger 5, Bennett 5 (Wellens 55, 5), Robinson 6, Forrester 6. Subs: Wakefield, De Val, Lund, Ferguson.

Yellow cards

Walsall: O’Connor

Rovers: Evina, Furman




Theo Robinson had a thankless task up front for Rovers during a time in his career where he must be feeling the pressure following a barren goal-scoring run of 10 games. Still, the attacker chased everything down, worked hard and tried everything he could to engineer some sort of fight back for Doncaster.


James Baxendale’s opener not only saw Paul Dickov having to re-write his half time team-talk but it also gave Walsall the platform to rally after the break - which they did to devastating effect. Baxendale was obviously keen to impress against his hometown club and former team and he did that in style with a powerful effort in first half injury time.


Rovers’ inconsistent performances need to be addressed sooner rather than later. Doncaster have yet to really get into their stride in League One and the harsh realities of this division appear to be hitting Rovers hard. Inconsistencies will be punished in this league and Dickov, his staff and his players need to work on that if they are to challenge for play-off honours.


Dean Smith

“There were a lot of good performances out there and it’s difficult to pick out one player.

“We controlled the game and played at a good tempo, pressed well and scored some good goals. We also defended well and our two centre-halves [Andy Butler and Paul Downing] were excellent.”

Paul Dickov

“We started quite well and after 25 minutes took control, but the goal we conceded in injury time was amateurish. We gave away a stupid free-kick.

“We have been good on our travels. Maybe some of my players thought they were a good team overnight. We must work harder and get the basics right. You have to have desire every single time you go out.”


Stuart Mathieson appeared to get on the wrong side of the home support, particularly when waving away a penalty appeal from Tom Bradshaw early in the second half.