Walsall 3-2 Wycombe Wanderers Player Ratings: Ronan stars

Morgan Ferrier – expressandstar.co.uk

Walsall boosted their play-off credentials with an impressive 3-2 victory over Wycombe Wanderers. Here’s our Player Ratings from the game.

Walsall

Liam Roberts – the stopper has shown plenty of promise early in his career. His distribution here was better when he looked for the early release, as we saw in the first half, than when he tried to go for the long ball, which we saw more of in the second period. 6

Kane Wilson – the right-back, who excelled at Exeter last season and has displaced Nicky Devlin, had a mixed performance; he was beaten to a back-post header by Akinfenwa on one occasion, but he did tee up the second goal. Wilson is quick footed, rather than quick over long-distances, so the best passages of play from him tended to come when he was able to link-up with his teammates in tight areas. Gave away the penalty in injury-time. 6
Jon Guthrie – although Guthrie played for Crewe for many years after coming through the Pewsey Vale academy, he is fairly old-school in terms of the way he defends, with a front-foot, no-nonsense approach. His distribution might not always be perfect, but he is effective in terms of clearing the ball from danger and this was a positive display. Only let Mackail-Smith out of his clutches on one occasion in the first half. 7
Russell Martin – no injury to Jack Fitzwater had been reported, but it might be that Dean Keates felt the experienced Martin, who played 116 games for Wycombe earlier in his career, was more likely to have the physicality and aggression required to handle Akinfenwa. The 34-year-old added plenty of leadership qualities on his Saddlers debut. 8
Luke Leahy – the left-back is capable of pin-point deliveries, but we didn’t see quite so much of that on this occasion; mainly because Walsall tended to counter down the left rather than take more time to bring Leahy into play. The technician did, though, force a good save from Allsop with a second half cross-shot, but he may not want to look at his own goal too many times. 5

Isaiah Osbourne – the veteran, who was given his senior debut by Martin O’Neill at Aston Villa, offers power and a willingness to engage in physical duels, which was why he did an excellent man marking job on Akinfenwa, especially from goal-kicks. In fact, one of Walsall’s counter-attacks originated from Osbourne’s willingness to put his body on the line with one daring challenge – suffice to say, he deserved his tap-in. 8

Kieron Morris – the versatile midfield has plenty of energy and tenacity. Sometimes, one wanted him further up the right flank offering an option in possession for Wilson, but then if he had been too cavalier then Onyedinma might have had more space at the other end. A selfless display. 6
George Dobson – the West Ham academy graduate has established himself as one of the best, young midfielders in League One due to his impressive range of qualities and this was another top-notch display. Dobson is not only an astute passer of a ball, he has the energy to press in the final third in the closing stages, when his side have a lead to protect, thus highlighting his incredible will power. A Championship player in waiting. 8
Connor Ronan – the 20-year-old, who spent last season at Portsmouth, brings calming qualities. Ronan tends to take an extra second or two to pick his pass and because of that, he spots space more intelligently than a player who would look to knock it forward at all costs and that enabled Walsall to use the ball with more quality. Although a midfielder on paper, Ronan picked up various different positions including wide centre-back and wing-back, showing tactical flexibility that defied his years. 9

Andy Cook – the industrious target man never stops running and has a desire to put his head in where it hurts, which helps create space for teammates in deeper areas. The former Tranmere man lost his place on Tuesday, but regained it here as Dean Keates reverted to 4-4-2. Cook nodded home the opener and while he might be slightly disappointed to miss a great second half chance to end the contest, he gets through a lot of the less glamorous work that enables his teammates to shine. 6
Morgan Ferrier – after thriving in the National League last season with Boreham Wood, Ferrier has proved a fine capture; the forward offers a direct counter-attack threat by drifting over to the left channel in transition. He caused all sort of problems for Harriman with his pace and power, even if certain technical aspects of his display leave room for even further improvement. 7

Josh Ginnelly (on 86) – the wide man, a National League title-winner with Lincoln in 2016-17, offered pace and width late on. 6

Wycombe Wanderers

Ryan Allsop – the goalkeeper, who impressed at Lincoln last season, was a star performer at Coventry in Wycombe’s last road trip but he had more of a mixed afternoon in his latest jaunt to the Midlands. His positioning, for the second goal, might have been better and sometimes he took too long over goal-kicks, although he did make a decent second half stop to deny Leahy. 5

Michael Harriman – the right-back has looked, to some, afraid to take players on since his leg break last year and the injury might also have impacted his willingness to engage in physical duels. The ex-Luton man never wanted to close down Ferrier and thus, Walsall could monopolize his flank. 4
Jason McCarthy – the Southampton academy graduate, who has won Player of the Year awards at both Walsall and Wycombe, has sometimes been caught out of position when deployed at centre-back this year. On one or two occasions, he felt compelled to rush out to the right-back position and do Harriman’s work, which sometimes left gaps in transition. 5
Adam El-Abd – the veteran appears to have a calming influence on the Chairboys defence since returning from the sidelines, Gareth Ainsworth’s side have shipped just three in the previous three. Although Wycombe conceded three goals here, El-Abd shouldn’t be blamed too much; he bailed out his teammates on one or two occasions and the biggest issue was the disjointed nature of the midfield. 6
Joe Jacobson – the Wycombe stalwart doesn’t have the pace to attack the byline or offer any real thrust in transition. Because Walsall pressed so well – especially in the first three-quarters of the contest – Jacobson was rarely given the amount of time he normally had in League Two to find his bearings and get crosses in for Akinfenwa. 5

Paris Cowan-Hall – the winger has had his fair share of injury troubles in recent years but he showed signs of life here, hitting the woodwork moments before Walsall’s opener on one of many bright runs. His attacking tendencies though did tend to leave the Chairboys exposed out of possession. 5
Curtis Thompson – the midfielder has won the hearts of Chairboys fans with a series of battling displays since joining on a five-month contract in the summer; supporters are hoping the 25-year-old is handed an extension. Thompson endured a challenging afternoon here though and was generally overrun, with his use of possession looking a tad limited at times. 5
Bryn Morris – the hardworking midfielder, who was part of Shrewsbury’s impressive play-off campaign in 2017-18, likes to be able to press into the opposition half at times, a freedom he doesn’t always have in a 4-4-2 system. Although, he still catalysed a mini-resurgence with a couple of decent long-range efforts late on.
Fred Onyedinma – the wide forward has been in sizzling form of late, his confidence boosted by a curler against Scunthorpe. The ex-Millwall man caused problems when given opportunities to run at Wilson and was one of the away side’s better performance, although it looked like Gareth Ainsworth wants him to be more switched on at times without the ball. 6

Adebayo Akinfenwa – because so few strikers, especially in the modern game, are shaped like Akinfenwa, he can often be an awkward customer for defenders to handle. This though wasn’t his day; ‘Da Beast’ won one back-post header to set up a chance for his strike-partner, but was otherwise either marked out of the contest or won his headers but with nobody receiving his flick-on. 4
Craig Mackail-Smith – the persistent ex-Peterborough poacher will always chase lost causes, but naturally at 34, he lacks the pace to offer a viable counter-attacking option. He will be disappointed to have missed a close-range header midway through the first half, on the one occasion on which he managed to escape Jon Guthrie’s clutches. 4

Scott Kashket (on 68) – the 22-year-old has endured a torrid time with injuries of late but he looked bright here with one or two direct runs in from the right channel. 6
Alex Samuel (on 68) – the young striker has the tenacity which Ainsworth seeks from his players and he was certainly a willing runner here, winning the penalty off Wilson. 7
Dominic Gape (on 78) – the Southampton academy graduate returned from a one-match suspension but he didn’t enjoy the most positive 12-minute cameo, turning Dobson’s cross into his own net. 4