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Kick off 19:45 (UK)

3-1
30 January 2018 Venue Ewood Park Attendance

Kick off 19:45 (UK)

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English Football League - League One

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Report: Rovers 3 Walsall 1

Goals at crucial times ensure Rovers move back into the top two

30 January 2018

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A Danny Graham brace set Rovers on their way to another vital three points with a comfortable victory over Walsall at Ewood Park and push the club back into the top two.

Graham struck early in the first half to get things off nicely for Rovers before adding to his tally just after the half hour mark. 

Walsall pulled a goal back before the break but Bradley Dack’s finish after a lovely, flowing move just a minute after half time to knock the stuffing out of the visitors and ensure a fairly routine second half display from the hosts.

All three of Mowbray's January signings started under the lights on home turf.

With skipper Charlie Mulgrew injured, Amari'i Bell - who impressed at the weekend off the bench - started at left back, with Derrick Williams moving inside to partner ex-Walsall man Paul Downing at the heart of defence.

Also entering the action from the start were both Adam Armstrong and Jack Payne who got the nod from the off for the first time in Rovers colours.

The attacking pair played either side of Bradley Dack to form a trio of playmakers behind Graham and replaced Craig Conway and Dominic Samuel who both dropped to the bench.

Corry Evans returned to the squad after missing the last couple of games through injury, whilst in Mulgrew's absence, Elliott Bennett took the armband.

It was the perfect start for Rovers who took the lead inside the opening five minutes.  Graham excellently placed the ball into the bottom corner from an acute angle after Armstrong’s neat ball through to his fellow Geordie.

Rovers were looking in confident mood, but Joe Edwards showed that the visitors were still a threat when he forced David Raya into a save from range 10 minutes in.

Soon after and some patient Rovers play resulted in Graham nodding down a Payne ball into Armstrong who could only lash wide of the target when well placed.

It was Downing who was next to try his luck and saw his header superbly tipped away by Liam Roberts before Dack dragged wide just a minute later.

Predator Graham struck again on the half hour mark as he rose at the back post to head home a deep, accurate Richie Smallwood cross from the right.

Rovers were in the zone and Armstrong’s curling effort was tipped away by goalkeeper Roberts.

Up the other end Walsall somehow found a goal back through Edwards, who possibly fouled Ryan Nyambe before firing past Raya just nine minutes before the break.

With time ticking away Armstrong latched onto a Bell cross but fired wide as Rovers went in at half time deserving more for their excellent display.

Sublime one-touch play from Payne and Graham just a minute into the second half saw the striker feed Dack, who took a touch before opening up his body and tucking home left-footed for his first goal at Ewood Park since October.

Armstrong was desperate to get on the scoresheet and after nipping in to grab the ball, darted off for a mazy run before seeing his deflected effort tipped over the bar by Roberts.

The same player was denied again by Roberts after cutting in from the left as he continued to probe the Walsall goal.

Amadou Bakayoko went close to finding the net just after the hour, with Williams just doing enough to put the frontman off.

Armstrong was again denied by Roberts with 20 minutes remaining as the Saddlers stopper clawed the Newcastle loanee’s clipped effort onto the roof of the net.

Walsall threatened soon after with goalscorer Edwards attempting to catch Raya out from range, to no avail.

After Armstrong cracked a free kick against the upright in the dying embers of the game he knew he was destined not to find the net in a game which saw the loanee completely out of luck on the night.

But Rovers saw the game out comfortably and make sure they got back on track with a win and extend the unbeaten run to 18 ahead of the weekend trip to Plymouth Argyle.

Rovers: Raya, Nyambe, Downing, Williams, Bell, Bennett (c), Smallwood (Travis, 85), Payne (Conway, 64), Dack, Armstrong, Graham.

Unused  substitutes: Leutwiler, Caddis, Evans, Nuttall.

Goals: Graham, 5, 32, Dack, 47

Walsall: L. Roberts, Edwards, Leahy, Dobson, Guthrie, Chambers (c), Oztumer (Kouhyar, 77), Morris (Shaibu, 46), Kinsella, Bakayoko, K. Roberts (Flanagan, 46)

Unused  substitutes: Gillespie, Cuvelier, Vann, Candlin.

Goal: Edwards, 36

Attendance: 11,241 (227 away)

Referee: Stephen Martin

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