Last time Rovers played Walsall this early in the season, we witnessed a convincing 3-0 victory featuring a David Cotterill wonder goal. This Carabao Cup performance at the Banks Stadium was not quite the same.
Another interesting selection by Richie Wellens included Ed Williams on the wing, despite the club’s less-than-secret desires to move him on.
The first half provided little to get excited about. Rovers struggled to settle, with man of the match Pontus Dalhberg (more on him to come) saving two clear cut chances from the Saddlers.
After the break, our performance improved drastically with some great play from Aidan Barlow, Kyle Knoyle and Omar Bogle, most notably the former going close with an overhead kick.
The dismissal of AJ Greaves (who’d provided much-needed physicality during his short tenure on the pitch) shortly before full-time failed to rattle a dominant Rovers side. That meant one thing; penalties.
Dan Gardener started the eventful shootout by missing his effort. Ben Close, however, slotted his home. New striker Tiago Cukur was not as lucky – his penalty saved by the young Walsall keeper, followed by outrage from Dalhberg over his inability to stay on his line and desire to wind up the away fans. Dahlberg himself decided to respond by saving three penalties in a row, meaning after a Williams miss and Barlow goal it was time for sudden death.
Big Tom Anderson and Knoyle convincingly launched their penalties into the back of the net, propelling Rovers into the second round.