By Gerry Prewett.
In total Rovers and Walsall have met 103 times, with the Gas having won 41 games, the Saddlers 39 and just 23 draws. So, lots of games and a very close record, with Rovers just shading it. During that time there have been some remarkable sequences of games.
Going right back to the first game, which Rovers won 5-2 on 27 August 1927 in Division Three (South), there was an all winning sequence for the Pirates of 6 games. That sequence was broken by a 0-0 draw on 30 April 1930 at Fellows Park. The Saddlers won 3 of the next 4 games.
Between 27th March 1965 and 29thOctober 1973, Rovers paid 14 visits to Fellows Park and won just once! Stuart Taylor and Ray Graydon (who went on to manage both teams) secured a 2-1 win on 24th April 1971.
During that same spell Rovers suffered an amazing reverse when they were leading 3-1 with 15 minutes to go, on 19th March 1973. A bomb scare caused the game to be halted. Then in the remaining 15 minutes Walsall scored 3 times to win the game 4-3!
Rovers’ longest unbeaten streak was at Eastville between 4th September 1948 and 2nd November 1963, a total of 7 games with 4 Rovers wins and 3 draws. The game that broke that sequence was on 16th March 1965. Walsall won 1-0 and the newspaper report of the goal revealed that "Harassed by lanky Alan Clarke, Rovers keeper Bernard Hall lost possession after being lured yards from his goal. The ball rolled to Jimmy McMorran who chipped it back into an empty net from 25 yards".
Rovers gained their revenge just over 6 months later. Manager Bert Tann had complained that the team weren't taking their chances, but in this game they made 4 and scored 3. Walsall winger Colin Taylor had Doug Hillard on the rack for most of the game but stand-in Centre Forward Trevor Meath was wasteful with the three chances that came his way. Bobby Jones in the 35th and 77th minutes and Harold Jarman with an 85th minute header were Rovers' scorers on the day to give the Gas a 3-0 victory.
On 14 March 2009 Rovers enjoyed their visit to the Banks Stadium with Darryl Duffy (3 mins) and Craig Disley (6 mins) giving Rovers a dream start. Aaron Lescott put the result out of the home team’s reach on 19 minutes and Duffy (58 mins) and Lescott (78 mins) scored a second-half brace to give the Gas a 5-0 away win.
By way of revenge the Saddlers handed Rovers a 6-1 defeat on 29 January 2011; it was a victory that took them off the bottom of the League One table. Andy Butler headed in to put the hosts ahead on 17 minutes and Matthew Gill smashed in a low shot to double the advantage on 34 minutes. Julian Gray volleyed in to put the Saddlers 3-0 up at half-time, before Jeff Hughes pulled one back just after the break with a low strike. Matt Richards struck from 25 yards to restore Walsall's lead almost immediately. The rout was completed with a 69-minute Alex Nicholls volley and a second Butler header just four minutes later.
Rovers last visit to Walsall was on Boxing Day 2018. The Gas led after seven minutes as Walsall failed to clear a free-kick and skipper Tom Lockyer steered home Alex Rodman's low return ball across the face of the six-yard box.
Rodman turned from provider to scorer to double the lead after 10 minutes, excellently volleying home Tareiq Holmes-Dennis' far-post cross despite Jack Fitzwater's attempt to clear it off the line. Walsall missed a glorious chance to halve their deficit three minutes later as Jon Guthrie nodded Nicky Devlin's deep centre onto the post from close range.
They did pull one back after 45 minutes as Andy Cook nodded down a free-kick and Josh Gordon hooked a great finish over his own shoulder from 12 yards. But Rovers sealed the points after 52 minutes as Alex Jakubiak's incisive run and pass found Holmes-Dennis, who took a touch before slotting past Liam Roberts.