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24 February 2018 Venue Banks's Stadium Attendance

Kick off 15:00 (UK)

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English Football League - League One

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Match Reports

Report: Walsall 1 Rovers 2

Graham brace seals a priceless win at the Banks's Stadium and keeps Rovers top of the league

24 February 2018

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Danny Graham's 150th career goal set Rovers on their way to a gritty victory on the road at Walsall, which ensured the club kept their place at the top of League One.

Graham's early double looked to have put Rovers in command in a comfortable first half display, but Jack Fitzwater's strike just a moment before the break made it a nervy second 45.

But backed by just under 3,000 visiting supporters, Rovers held out for a priceless three points on the road again and kept hold of their place at the top of the table.

Rovers boss Tony Mowbray made two changes for the trip to the Banks's Stadium, as Amari'i Bell and Bradley Dack both missed out on the starting XI, with Amari'i on the bench and Bradley out altogether due to illness.

Coming into the side to replace the pair are Ryan Nyambe and Jack Payne, who both appeared off the bench in the last outing against Bury on Monday.

Paul Caddis and Joe Nuttall both returned to the squad, and were placed on the bench.

Striker Danny Graham, who bagged a brace in the reverse fixture against the Saddlers at Ewood Park, needed one goal to reach 150 career goals and starts for Rovers in the Midlands.

Walsall, who were on a four-match unbeaten run, made one change from their team who started the 0-0 draw against Gillingham last week, with Justin Shaibu coming in for Amadou Bakayoko.

It was a bright start from both sides, with Darragh Lenihan seeing his back post header flicked over the bar by a Walsall man before Joe Edwards hit wide inside the opening two minutes at a sun-drenched Banks's Stadium.

But on 17 minutes Rovers did take the lead as Graham tucked in from close range. The goal came from a touch of genius Adam Armstrong, who brought down a cross from Elliott Bennett in brilliant fashion and put the ball back into the danger area, and Graham was there to simply bag his 14th of the season.

Walsall's response was good and Rovers were indebted to Richie Smallwood for clearing George Dobson's strike off the line just a minute after the opener.

Graham's hold up play was excellent, and things got even better for the Geordie hitman as he was on the spot to poke his and Rovers second past Liam Roberts after getting on the end of Payne's knockdown.

Moments later and Graham had a glorious chance to complete his hat-trick, but after getting on the end of a pinpoint Bennett cross but his near post attempt flew inches past Roberts' left-hand post.

It was all Rovers and after switching from the left to a focal point up top, Armstrong cracked the crossbar after being put through by the impressive Payne with just eight minutes to go until half time.

And just when it looked as if Rovers would go into the break in command, a Dobson corner was clipped away by David Raya, but Kieron Morris' hook back into the box found Jack Fitzwater, who emphatically lashed home from close range on the stroke of half time.

The next goal was going to be key and Rovers blazed high and wide just three minutes into the second half.

At the other end, Joe Edwards jinked inside Nyambe and fired at goal and Raya did well to hold the ball considering the sun would have been in his eyes.

With 22 minutes left to play, substitute Marcus Antonsson found fellow substitute Dominic Samuel in the box with a deep cross, but the Rovers number nine headed down and onto the roof of the net from close range.

Time was running out at Raya was called into action and spectacularly tipped over an Erhun Oztumer free kick with 17 to go as the Saddlers searched for an equaliser.

The hosts were throwing men forward and Raya did brilliantly to bravely smother the ball at the feet of the onrushing substitute Julien Ngoy just a moment later.

With eight minutes to go, Lenihan latched onto a great Charlie Mulgrew free kick but could only head straight at Roberts.

Mulgrew and Bennett were clattered into late on, with the Rovers skipper limping heavily, but both soldiered on to make sure the points returned to East Lancashire as the fans were sent home happy from the Midlands.

Rovers are next in action on Tuesday night at AFC Wimbledon. With tickets sold out, you can watch the game live on the big screens in Blues Bar and tickets for the event can be purchased by clicking here.

Walsall: L. Roberts, Edwards (Kouhyar, 67), Leahy, Dobson, Guthrie, Devlin, Chambers (c), Oztumer, Morris, Shaibu (Ngoy, 63), Fitzwater.

Unused substitutes: Cuvelier, Kinsella, Flanagan, K. Roberts, Gillespie.

Goal: Fitzwater, 45

Rovers: Raya, Nyambe, Lenihan, Mulgrew (c), Williams, Evans (Antonsson, 67), Smallwood, Bennett, Payne (Bell, 79), Armstrong, Graham (Samuel, 62).

Unused substitutes: Leutwiler, Caddis, Downing, Nuttall.

Goals: Graham, 17, 26.

Attendance: 6,893

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