Reilly and Jakubiak on target in Central League Cup victory
December 11, 2018
Gavin Reilly opened the scoring early and Rovers should really have been well ahead at the break, but failed to clear from a corner and found themsevles level after the first 45 minutes.
They rightly restored their lead through Alex Jakubiak’s composed finished and looked to put the game to bed through Sam Matthews’ curling effort, but an Alexis Andre-Jr error allowed Walsall back in for a potentially nervy finish.
However that was quashed in the final minutes as Reilly grabbed his brace and sealed victory for Rovers.
Manager Chris Hargreaves went into the game with a very strong side at his disposal which included five first-teamers – Tom Broadbent, Tareiq Holmes-Dennis, Sam Matthews, Gavin Reilly and Alex Jakubiak (seven if you include fringe players Rollin Menayese and Luke Russe).
Rovers got off to a shaky start within seconds of the kick off, as the fitness-seeking Holmes-Dennis paid a lax back pass to Broadbent who was forced to haul his man to the ground on the edge of the area – thankfully the free kick was wasted.
The hosts, armed with a strong frontline, soon got their first opportunity of the game and it fell to Reilly, with Holmes-Dennis’ cross falling kindly to the striker but the bobbly surface hindered his strike as the ball went wide.
The Scotsman had another chance not long after, this time getting his head onto Jakubiak’s drilled cross but he was again unable to find the target.
Holmes-Dennis was frequently getting down the left flank and causing Walsall problems and the game almost had its first goal when one of the former Huddersfield man’s cross very nearly deflected in, but the keeper did really well to scramble it away despite pressure from Jakubiak.
It was all Rovers in the opening stages and they broke the deadlock after just 12 minutes, Luke Russe clipped an exquisite ball over the defence for Reilly who controlled expertly and volleyed calmly past the keeper.
The ascendancy continued and Matthews went close on 15 minutes after Cam Hargreaves had cut through the midfield excellently and laid the ball off to the right, Matthews looked to bend the ball into the far corner with his favoured left foot but a slight deflection took it just wide.
A good chance fell to Jakubiak on 23 minutes, as Matthews once again looked to bend a strike into the left corner, the keeper parried it into the path of Jakubiak but the striker lashed his shot well wide.
It seemed only a matter of “when” and not “if” the second goal would come and Menayese nearly found it as he rose highest, unmarked to met Hargreaves’ corner but didn’t find the connection that surely would’ve resulted in a goal.
Despite the air of inevitably in Rovers’ second goal it continued to elude them past the half-hour mark, Matthews going close again after Reilly had set him on the edge of the area but his shot across the face bounces just wide.
Just moments later and the second really should have come as Reilly got in behind down the right and to the by-line and cut the ball back to Hargreaves, the midfielder more or less had an open goal but got underneath his shot and it flew over the bar.
Typically, despite hardly having a sniff all half, Walsall took advantage of Rovers’ inability to finish and found themselves an equaliser against the run of play.
The visitors swung in a corner that wasn’t dealt with and after ricocheting around the box, Walsall’s Tom Leak managed to stab the ball home via an Alexis Andre-Jr palm.
The chances continued to be squandered at the other end, Holmes-Dennis again marauding down the left with purpose and digging out a great cross that fell to Matthews in a prime position, but the winger’s connection was poor and bounced into the welcoming arms of the keeper.
The dominance resumed after the interval but so did the frustration as Matthews rattled the crossbar with a fine effort from the edge of the box.
However in what would’ve been a cruel and injustice turn of events, Walsall almost found the game’s next goal, as their No.9 chased down a long ball that was under the control of Menayese, but the centre-half was clearly tripped yet not awarded the foul but Andre-Jr was able to save one-on-one.
Rovers finally got their deserved second goal as Jakubiak danced past a series of challenges just inside the box before shifting the ball onto his left and slotting home into the bottom corner.
The Saddlers were able to break on occasion with purpose and had Rovers stretched just before the hour mark, as their No.7 was played in between Broadbent and Menayese, with the latter cutting the winger down right on the edge and receiving a booking for his troubles.
Hargreaves Snr. made his first change of the game, withdrawing Holmes-Dennis after a decent 60 minutes or so under his belt and replacing him with Connor Jones.
Seconds later, Broadbent went into the book for dissent.
As the final 10 minutes approached, Jakubiak’s days work was completed as he was replaced by Cameron Ebbutt.
Matthews then got the goal he had long been knocking on the door for and his performance merited, a beautiful guided curling effort from the edge of the box right into the bottom left corner.
With that goal seemingly about to set up a manageable final stage of the game, a moment of madness from Andre-Jr almost immediately pegged the deficit back to one as the young stopper got in a mix-up and his pass was intercepted by Walsall’s Cameron Peters who then gratefully swept the ball home.
As the game entered the final minutes, the visitors hope for a late equaliser were dashed when Reilly raced in down the left, into the box and smartly found the far bottom corner to seal the result.
Rovers XI: Alexis Andre-Jr (GK), Scott Isherwood, Rollin Menayese, Tom Broadbent, Tareiq Holmes-Dennis (Connor Jones, 64′), Luke Russe (c), Cameron Hargreaves, The Widdrington, Sam Matthews, Gavin Reilly, Alex Jakubiak (Cameron Ebbutt, 77′).
Subs: Liam Armstrong (GK), Ben Morgan Alfie Kilgour.