Ben Garner talks up Brandon Hanlan’s goal as Bristol Rovers edge past Walsall
Bristol Rovers manager Ben Garner praised the quality of Brandon Hanlan’s match-winning strike as his side held off a late challenge from League Two outfit Walsall to win 2-1 in the FA Cup.
The striker received the ball just outside the area and then curled a low effort beyond the reach of Liam Roberts in the Saddlers’ goal.
“It was a top-class goal,” Garner said. “To shape that into the bottom corner was terrific.”
Garner was delighted Rovers advanced into the next round.
“In the first half we were excellent and in the second half we showed the character to get through and get the result.
“They came out more aggressive and pressed a little bit higher in the second half. There was some fatigue with a number of players who hadn’t played much football which we knew would be an issue late on.
“We conceded too many set-pieces which was their main threat and just didn’t manage the game well enough with the ball.
“I thought the only threat second half was set-plays. They have some big aggressive players who attack the ball really well – there wasn’t too much in open play.
“I would have liked one or two more from the chances we had in the first half.”
Rovers were the better side for much of the opening period with former Walsall favourite Erhun Oztumer dragging a glorious chance wide of the mark after just five minutes.
The visitors continued to hold the upper hand and were rewarded when defender Jack Baldwin headed in their 33rd-minute opener from a well-worked corner.
Hanlan’s sweet strike came six minutes later before the hosts came to life with Elijah Adebayo going close moments before the interval when visiting keeper Anssi Jaakkola denied him from close range.
Caolan Lavery went close midway through the second period with an effort that thumped against the foot of the post before the striker finally reduced the deficit in the 87th minute when he headed in a free-kick.
Lavery also had a chance to force the tie into extra-time when, deep in added time, he had another header but this time his effort flew wide.
Walsall boss Darrell Clarke said: “I think in the first 30 minutes Rovers were on top but we had a great chance before half-time and had enough chances in the second half.
“I will take confidence from the performance – we’ve run a mid-table League One team and probably had more territory, more advantage, more possession and more shots on target so I’ll take the positives from that with a lot of key players missing.
“The lads have given me everything, I’m just frustrated that we didn’t perform as well as we could in the first 30 minutes.”