Walsall 0 Carlisle United 2: Omari Patrick and Joshua Kayode scored in either half as Carlisle United made a winning start to 2021 - and went top of League Two.

With teenage Cumbrian Taylor Charters impressing on his full league debut, Carlisle had too much for the Saddlers in an impressive away showing.

Patrick rifled home on 27 minutes after being teed up by Charters.

Kayode then made it two 12 minutes from time as the Blues reached the summit for the first time since November 2016.

Forest Green's abandoned game in the second half against Oldham meant United's win was enough to take Chris Beech's side top.

Charters was in the thick of the action early on, the 19-year-old shooting wide after just 21 seconds as Carlisle started on the front foot.

United continued to have the better of the opening exchanges, with miscontrol denying Charters another opportunity after a good run.

Carlisle were denied a penalty when Aaron Hayden's pass appeared to strike Wes McDonald's arm.

Hayden then had a shot blocked and Charters fired over the bar as United often out-pressed and outmuscled the home side.

Walsall felt they should have had a spot-kick when Josh Gordon went down under Charters' challenge.

But ref James Oldham disagreed and a minute later Carlisle were ahead.

Kayode battled to win a high ball forward, Lewis Alessandra held it up well and slipped it to Charters, who glanced it left to Patrick who smashed it powerfully across keeper Liam Roberts.

McDonald went close for Walsall with a shot from outside the box before more good Carlisle pressing saw Alessandra feed Jack Armer, whose shot was deflected just wide.

Kayode was then denied from a great position by Roberts, who slipped but got back up to save as United applied further pressure.

Home dangerman McDonald saw more of the ball after the break and he tested Paul Farman after an impressive run in the 53rd minute.

At the other end, Joe Riley went close to a Carlisle second after a pass from Alessandra.

Home boss Darrell Clarke made a triple substitution on the hour mark and one of the new arrivals, Jake Scrimshaw, was denied by Blues defenders as he almost found a way through.

Josh Gordon spun and shot wide before Charters was denied by a Dan Scarr block after keeper Roberts had spilled an Armer cross.

Dean Furman then entered the fray after Callum Guy limped off 15 minutes from time.

And United finally extended their lead in the 78th minute when Charters picked out Riley, and his low ball across the box was helped on by Alessandra to Kayode, whose bobbling shot had enough to beat Roberts. 

Beech then sent on fit-again Brennan Dickenson on for his debut for the closing eight minutes as he replaced Patrick, with Charters shooting wide as United broke in search of a third.

Alessandra went close with a dipping effort in added time and Lewis Bell came on for his league debut as Carlisle held on for victory with little trouble.

The Blues, meanwhile, have seen forward Micah Obiero return to Huddersfield at the end of his loan spell, with Marcus Dewhurst and Connor Malley also set to return to Sheffield United and Middlesbrough respectively.

United: Farman, Hayden, Armer, R McDonald, Bennett, Guy (Furman 75), Riley, Charters (Bell 89), Patrick (Dickenson 82), Alessandra, Kayode. Not used: M Norman, Dixon, Malley, Fishburn.

Goals: Patrick 27, Kayode 78

Booked: Charters, Armer

Walsall: Roberts, C Norman (Osadebe 80), Sadler (Nurse 60), Clarke, Scarr, Sinclair (Guthrie 60), Kinsella, Gordon, Adebayo, Bates (Scrimshaw 60), W McDonald. Not used: Rose, Lavery, White.

Booked: Gordon, Bates.

Ref: James Oldham.