By Gerry Prewett.
Rovers and Walsall have long history of games, going right back to 1927, when they clashed 3 times during the year. The first game took place on 27 August 1927 at Eastville and Rovers won the Division Three (South) game 5-2 (more about that score-line later in this piece!). It was the start of 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.
In 1937 the teams met 3 times and amazingly the home team won each game 5-2, Walsall were the home team for 2 of those games!
Between 27th March 1965 and 29th October 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!
On 18 March 1986 Walsall thrashed Rovers 6-0 and Manager Bobby Gould found it difficult to hold back on the condemnation of his team’s performance and apologised to every supporter who made the trip up the M5.
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.
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 pulled 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.
Last season the teams met in an FA Cup First Round match. there was not much to split the sides in the opening half-hour. From there, however, the Gas took control and scored twice within six minutes. The first came after a corner was won at the back post and the header found Baldwin only a couple yards out, where he finished. It went from bad to worse for Walsall five minutes later when Brandon Hanlan doubled Rovers’ lead. Former Walsall player Erhun Oztumer found the striker on the edge of the box and he curled a superb effort into the bottom corner.
The second half belonged to the Saddlers as they dominated play and controlled the ball. Caolan Lavery and Wes McDonald both went close, but Rovers were hanging on, until the 87th minute when Lavery headed home to give the Saddlers hope. The hosts pushed for an equaliser but the Gas stood firm and progressed to the next round.