Fleetwood Town suffered their first away defeat of 2019 as they lost 2-0 at Walsall on Saturday afternoon.
Second half strikes from Morgan Ferrier and Dan Scarr sealed the points for the struggling Saddlers, in a frustrating afternoon for the Cod Army.
Ash Hunter thought he should have had a penalty in the first half after Scarr pulled him down inside the area, with Wes Burns and Paddy Madden also going close. However, it was to be the home side who came away from The Banks’s Stadium with all three points.
Joey Barton made two changes to the team which drew 1-1 with Gillingham last time out. Ross Wallace returned from suspension, with Jason Holt also coming into the side. Lewie Coyle and Nathan Sheron moved to the bench.
Fleetwood had the better of the play in the first half, and started the game well with Holt seeing plenty of the ball in midfield. Ched Evans slid Madden into the area after a quarter of an hour, but the Irishman’s cross-come-shot was cleared by Nicky Devlin.
Burns saw his 30-yard free-kick tipped round the post by Liam Roberts as Barton’s side looked for a deserved opener. Meanwhile at the other end, Zeli Ismail was the biggest threat for the hosts, looking lively on the right side.
Hunter bent an effort wide of Roberts’ post after half an hour, before going down under a challenge from Scarr just six minutes before the break. Referee Eddie Ilderton waved away the protests from the visiting players. All square at the break.
Walsall started the second half the better side and took the lead on 54 minutes. Fleetwood allowed George Dobson’s corner to bounce at the front post, with Ferrier nodding in unmarked from inside the six-yard box.
After Alex Cairns denied Josh Gordon a second with a fine one-v-one save, The Saddlers doubled their lead. Scarr headed past Cairns from a second phase of a corner which the visitors failed to clear. Another disappointing goal to concede, with Walsall making the most of the limited chances they were given.
Barton turned to his bench and handed league debuts to Under 18s duo Ryan Rydel and Barry Baggley, with both adding energy to a side that were two goals down.
Ash Eastham had the best chance for the Cod Army just three minutes from time, but his volley was wide from just six yards out.
Fleetwood will look for a response on Tuesday night when they travel to Coventry City.
Walsall: Roberts, Edwards, Leahy (Norman), Dobson, Guthrie, Devlin, Ismail (Laird), Kinsella, Ferrier, Gordon, Scarr. Subs not used: Dunn (GK), Fitzwater, Osbourne, Oteh, Blackett-Taylor.
Fleetwood: Cairns; Burns, Eastham, Souttar, Husband; R Wallace (Rydel), Sowerby, Holt; Madden (Nadesan), Evans, Hunter (Baggley). Subs not used: Jones (GK), Coyle, Biggins, Sheron.