Town were unable to respond to an Erhun Oztumer brace as they fell to a 2-0 defeat to Walsall at The County Ground this afternoon.
The Saddlers were able to strike first and take an early lead courtesy of Oztumer’s superb effort from 40-yards out inside the opening twenty minutes at SN1.
Despite attacking with plenty of intent and endeavour, the Reds were unable to find an equaliser before the half-time whistle.
Oztumer struck again shortly after the break to double Walsall’s lead and that completed the scoring with the guests seeing out the rest of the game to clinch the three points.
Town Head Coach Luke Williams was forced into making one change with Yaser Kasim replacing the injured Tom Smith.
Kasim, who was back in the side after serving a one-match ban, took his place in a holding midfield role alongside Anton Rodgers.
Proceedings got off to a slow start and it took 13 minutes for the first chance of the game to arrive. And it went the way of the hosts with Ellis Iandolo doing well to pick out Sean Murray, but the midfielder’s effort hit the body of a defender before sailing into the arms of Neil Etheridge in the Walsall goal.
The first goal of the game then arrived minutes later but it went the way of the visitors following a mistake from Darnell Furlong.
The defender was guilty of gifting possession to Erhun Oztumer who sent an audacious 40-yard lob over the head of Lawrence Vigouroux and into the back of the net to give the Saddlers an early lead.
Town did respond well to that set-back and came close to hauling themselves level as Nathan Delfouneso fired just over after being picked out perfectly by Rodgers.
Iandolo then tried to trouble the Walsall defence but his inviting cross failed to pick out a team-mate inside the area.
Town were inserting plenty of pressure on the visiting back-line but were unable to find a breakthrough with Iandolo bending wide before Rodgers saw his drive deflected into the arms of Etheridge.
Delfouneso was then picked out perfectly by Kasim at the back post on the stroke of half-time but was unable to prevent the ball from running out of play.
Town made a change at the break with Brad Barry replacing James Brophy in order to add some fresh legs.
However, they so nearly found themselves two goals down straight after the restart with Franck Moussa picking out Andreas Makris, but the striker could only plant his effort against the crossbar despite only being six-yards out.
But that proved to be a warning sign that Town failed to heed and they conceded a second just five minutes into the second-half after Oztumer volleyed home his second of the afternoon.
Walsall could and should have added a third just past the hour mark but Kieron Morris could only blaze way over despite being picked out perfectly by Oztumer.
Town then made a change with Luke Norris replacing the impressive Iandolo, and the fresh legs seemed to work with the Reds the dominant force in the closing exchanges.
It was proving to be a difficult task for the hosts to break down Walsall’s stubborn defence however, with both Delfouneso and John Goddard both blasting over while Rodgers warmed the palms of Etheridge.
Morris was a whisker away from wrapping up the win for the Saddlers at the other end, but he could only flash a shot inches wide.
Vigouroux then had to be alert to superbly keep out Oztumer’s volley and that proved to be the final action of a tame match.
TEAMS AND STATS:
SCORERS –Erhun Oztumer (16, 50).
TOWN –Vigouroux; Furlong, Thomas, Thompson (C), Brophy (Brad Barry 45); Rodgers, Kasim; Iandolo (Luke Norris 64), Murray, Goddard; Delfouneso.
Subs Not Used –Henry, Georgaklis, Evans, Ouldridge, Twine.
WALSALL –Etheridge; Edwards, O’Connor, McCarthy, Laird; Chambers (C); Morris (Josh Ginnelly 85), Oztumer, Toner, Moussa; Makris (Amadou Bakayoko 61).
Subs Not Used –MacGillivray, Dobson, Osbourne, Kinsella, Preston.
REFEREE –Darren England.
TOWN –Brad Barry.