Archive for August, 1998

QPR 3 Walsall 1

roger6 @ 6:48 pm Wednesday 26 August 1998

THE TEAM
Walker; Marsh, Green, Viveash, Pointon (Roper 95); Wrack, Keates (Dyer 104), Porter, Brissett; Rammell, Watson (Ricketts, 77).
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Matchfacts

QPR ended Walsall’s plucky resistance with extra time goals from Danny Maddix and Steve Slade. Up till then the Midlands side had given a good account of themselves and fully deserved to be on terms at the end of normal play. Rangers just about deserved to scrape home based on the number of chances they created and missed, but they did so in front of their lowest crowd for 33 years. Rangers now have the chance to push on in the League Cup when they meet Charlton in Round Two

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The Telegraph

RAY HARFORD saw his team, grateful for a rare Danny Maddix goal, produce only their fourth victory in his 32 games in charge at Loftus Road as they edged nervously past Second Division Walsall to earn a second-round meeting with Charlton.
Maddix, the Jamaican international, was on hand to turn the ball over the line nine minutes into extra time after James Walker, who had produced an outstanding display in the visitors’ goal, could not hold a scorching volley from substitute Steve Slade.

It was Maddix’s 13th goal in his 11 years at Loftus Road and helped paper over the cracks of another disappointing QPR performance. Slade himself scored four minutes from time, winning a header on the edge of the Walsall area before cheekily chipping the ball over Walker, to add to Mike Sheron’s opener. Rangers were not wanting in opportunities against a Walsall side unbeaten four games into the campaign. Sheron was the main culprit in failing to put daylight between Rangers and their early-season uncertainty. He could claim Walker made an excellent save to his third-minute shot from close range after Kevin Gallen held the ball up for him. But there was little excuse from Tony Scully’s ensuing corner for skying an eight-yard effort over the crossbar after Gavin Peacock had laid the opportunity on a plate.

With the tie balanced on a goalless edge, Walsall had QPR looking nervous every time they attacked. Jason Brissett, capitalising on Andy Watson’s dummy, attacked his full-back after 27 minutes and made headway into the penalty area. Even though Matthew Rose recovered initially, Brissett still managed to get in his shot which whizzed inches wide of the far post.

QPR should have gone ahead 15 minutes before the interval. Ian Baraclough centred from the left, Karl Ready’s downward header was well saved by Walker and, after Steve Yates ploughed in for the rebound, the ball spun out to Sheron. But again the former Stoke City striker sent his shot over the bar. To Sheron’s credit, he refused to shirk responsibility and after 68 minutes, he brought a roar of relief from the home crowd. Receiving a misplaced pass from Watson, Sheron dribbled his way cleverly into the visitors’ penalty area only to lose his footing. But as Richard Green and Adrian Viveash dithered, Sheron, grounded, managed to scythe the ball into the net past the surprised Walker.

But 10 minutes from time, Andy Rammell produced a powerful header from Michael Ricketts’ left-wing cross. Although Harper in the Rangers goal initially produced a superb one-handed save, he could not prevent the ball going over the line.

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The Guardian

A goal from Mike Sheron midway through the second half appeared to have carried QPR through last night but with 10 minutes remaining Lee Harper palmed the ball into his own net, having initially made a smart save from Andy Rammell’s header.
It was clear that Rangers no longer approach a home fixture with relish, their nervousness plain for all to see, while it was also evident that few in a small crowd had paid heed to the chairman Chris Wright’s plea to them to get behind team and manager.

Walsall, in contrast, were sprightly and ever eager to prey on their opponents’ discomfort. Chris Marsh, down the right, took every opportunity to advance over the halfway line and make full use of the open spaces to spring the counter-attack.

There could have been goals at either end inside the first two minutes, Richard Green powering a shot too high and Mike Sheron forcing James Walker to push the ball over athletically.

Rangers were never convincing yet gradually took control, lifted by Sheron’s readiness to get involved in deeper positions even if his finishing let him down. When he shot from point-blank range Walker was well positioned to make the stop and when two attempts to force the ball home following a corner had been charged down Sheron was again wasteful. In the middle of that flurry Walker dived to his right to foil Kevin Gallen.

In the 26th minute Jason Brissett accelerated into a gap down the left but unfortunately for the visitors he delayed his shot and found the angle too tight. It was a rare chance for Walsall, but at the start of the second half they threatened again as Neil Pointon aimed firmly for the right-hand corner of Lee Harper’s goal and saw the goalkeeper claw the ball away with difficulty.

Rangers needed sharper movement to throw the dogged Walsall defenders off their trail. They were not lacking in effort but their level of skill and composure left a lot to be desired and so often ruined positions of promise.

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The Mirror

Danny Maddix and Steve Slade struck in extra time to send Rangers surging into the second round of the Worthington Cup – and give them their first win of the season. Striker Mike Sheron had finally broken the deadlock in this first round tie following the goalless first leg. Sheron scored in the 68th minute after a 40-yard run. He stumbled at the end of it, but still managed to stab the ball home. Walsall would have been further behind at that stage but for some fine work from keeper James Walker, who blocked a shot from Sheron as early as the first minute. Sheron missed two further golden chances as Rangers piled on the pressure. And the Saddlers keeper also did superbly to get to a well struck shot from Kevin Gallen. The chances were falling to Rangers, but Walsall were by no means out of it and threatened in breakaways. Walsall, fourth place in the Second Division after a fine start to the season, equalised in the 80th minute through veteran striker Andy Rammell. But nine minutes into extra time Maddix put the home side back in front – then Slade finished off the job with six minutes to go.

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Wycombe 1 Walsall 2

roger6 @ 6:46 pm Saturday 22 August 1998

THE TEAM
Walker, Marsh (sub 42 Gadsby), Pointon, Keates (sub 72 Dyer), Green, Viveash, Wrack, Brissett, Rammell, Porter, Watson (sub 82 Ricketts)

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Matchfacts

Wycombe Wanderers did too little too late as they continued their worse ever start in the football league. They were two goals down to a Paul McCarthy own goal on 56 minutes and Andy Rammell strike three minutes later before they woke up. Wycombe pulled one back eventually through Nicky Mohan but it proved to little too late

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Express & Star

League tables are not worth the paper they are printed on at this early stage of the season – but you could forgive Saddlers players and fans for revelling in their Division Two placing this weekend.
Fourth place and within striking distance of the top spot, it’s as welcome and encouraging as it is unexpected.

A team who were expected to struggle by most people outside Walsall, and probably a fair few of the doom and gloom merchants in the town as well, are flying high and they deserve the little bit of pleasure that a job, so far well done, brings.

Saddlers boss Ray Graydon is one person who certainly won’t be getting carried away. But there is no denying that at present the Saddlers are up there on merit and the fact that they had such a daunting start to the campaign only further heightens their achievement.

Now comes the tricky bit – maintaining and furthering the progress made since Graydon took charge.

The supporters expectations will have been raised by what they have witnessed so far and now the club have chance to answer a long time criticism from the terraces regarding their ambition.

Graydon will continue to improve the players he currently has at his disposal, but wouldn’t it be nice if he had a few quid to add a bit more depth and quality to what still is a near threadbare squad.

Fulham, Stoke, Manchester City and Reading are all, I am sure, destined to be the teams leading the race to get out of this division. They have more financial clout, more fans and, in truth, better players than all of their rivals, and it is fanciful to think that Saddlers can compete on an equal footing.

But there is no reason why Walsall shouldn’t ‘mix and match it’ with the likes of Wrexham, Notts County, Bournemouth and Millwall – teams expected to be in or around the top 10.

One thing is for sure, no team in this division will be better organised, work harder or have more desire than the team Graydon has quickly shaped.

Those commodities were in evidence again at Adams Park on Saturday as the Saddlers turned in another away-day special to go with their opening day performance at Gillingham.

Wycombe were coming off the back of an impressive Worthington Cup success against First Division Swindon and had ruthlessly disposed of Walsall twice last season.

However, this is a new Saddlers outfit who quietly and efficiently go about overcoming whatever obstacle lies in their path. They were the better side in a first half, that was largely best forgotten, but upped the tempo to stunning effect after a half time pep-talk from the gaffer.

Within quarter of an hour of the restart they were two up and coasting and with Andy Rammell finally lifting a few worries by becoming the first Saddler to find the back of the net this season.

That goal had ended a frenetic three- minute spell that had seen Darren Wrack’s beautifully flighted cross receive the finish it deserved, even if it was via the head of home defender Paul McCarthy, before the woodwork denied Dave Carroll and Wycombe an equlaiser within a minute.

At that point it looked as if the visitors would coast to victory only for the home side finally to wake up and find a bit of passion and fire. Walsall’s rock solid defence found themselves being tested to the limit, finally succumbed for the first time this season when Nicky Mohan grabbed his side a lifeline with a quarter of an hour remaining.

That was the signal for an all out aerial assault that brought about some desperate last ditch defending as Wycombe sensed a chance of picking up their first point of the season.

James Walker produced one breathtaking save to tip away a Paul Read header while Gary Porter was on hand to hack clear from near his goal line as the pressure intensified.

But though they creaked, the Saddlers didn’t crack. Now where’s that League table again. . .

Walsall 0 Northampton 0

roger6 @ 6:47 pm Saturday 15 August 1998

THE TEAM
Walker, Marsh, Pointon, Keister (sub 80 Ricketts), Green, Viveash, Wrack, Watson (sub 71 Keates), Rammell, Porter (sub 71 Platt), Brissett

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Matchfacts

Walsall’s goal shy attack again let them down badly. There was only one real goal chance and that fell to Andy Rammell early in the second half when he saw Andy Woodman block his close range shot. Northampton who completed a double over Walsall last season, were also a luke warm in front of goal. Their best chance was a right hand corner from John Frain which went into the far corner of the net but the goal was disallowed for an earlier infringement.

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Express & Star

Well, that’s the first week out of the way and it’s all very encouraging to say the least. Three games, no defeats, no goals against and moral victories on every count, Ray Graydon seems to be making rather a good fist of his late introduction into the managerial hot-seat.
The opening sequence to Graydon’s first taste of management certainly appeared to be a daunting one. Away to a Gillingham outfit who had splashed a fair bit of cash during the summer, a Cup visit from First Division QPR and then the arrival of the uncompromising, but highly effective Northampton side that reached last season’s play-off final.

It was a series of games that, on paper at least, looked likely to trip up a side that avoided relegation by just four points last term.

But each task has been overcome and each challenge matched with a degree of efficiency that suggests the Saddlers are not going to be the fall guys most so-called experts in the various pre-season previews predicted.

“We have had three very difficult fixtures in the first week, and looking on paper we could very easily have lost them all,” said the Saddlers boss.

“With all the problems we encountered in the summer trying to get players in we could have been looking at three defeats. But as it is we have got four points, are still very much in the Worthington Cup having drawn against a team from a higher division and have yet to concede a goal. I am delighted with the players response.”

Saturday was always going to provide Graydon’s side with a stern test. Northampton’s robust, route one style may not be everyone’s idea of how the beautiful game should be played, but it has stood them in good stead over the past two seasons.

But the Saddlers simply rolled their sleeves up and got stuck in. They overcame a jittery start, that saw ex-Blues full back John Frain curl a corner directly into the back of the Saddlers’ net only for referee Tony Leake to rule the effort out for an infringement on home keeper James Walker, to enjoy the better of the exchanges and create the more noteworthy openings. Bit goals, or the lack of them, is the only slight minus in a week of pluses.

A Walsall player has yet to find the net this season with last Saturday’s winner at Gillingham coming courtesy of a home defender, but at least chances are being created.

Unfortunately on Saturday the Saddlers found visiting number one Andy Woodman in inspired form, producing a series of impressive saves, including a stunning point blank effort to deny Andy Rammell two minutes into the second half.

Andy Watson, Darren Wrack and Jason Brissett were all denined while Rammell grabbed a winner in the dying seconds with a bullet header that flew inches over.

But while the net may not be bulging at one end, the good news is the ball isn’t flying in at the other end either. The organisation Graydon has instilled into his side has added a solidity rarely seen last season with central defenders Adrian Viveash and Richard Green looking the perfect foil for each other.

The on-loan Green was again impressive and on the evidence of his two games so far Graydon should make sure he is the latest addition to the Bescot playing staff.

But individuals shouldn’t be signalled out this is very much a team effort and one that looks set to improve as the weeks pass.

Walsall 0 QPR 0

roger6 @ 6:48 pm Tuesday 11 August 1998

THE TEAM
Walker, Marsh, Pointon, Keister, Green, Viveash, Wrack, Brissett, Rammell, Porter, Keates (sub 61 Watson)

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Matchfacts

Division Two Walsall came close to picking up another cup scalp following a stirring second-half display against QPR at The Bescot Stadium. Walsall beat Sheffield United and Nottingham Forest in the same competition last year and came close to adding Rangers name to that list. However, despite their enthusiasm, Rangers’ well-marshalled defence managed to stand firm, but Ray Harford’s side have home advantage in London next week after failing to take advantage of some golden chances. Chief culprit was striker Kevin Gallen who fired over the bar from just six yards when faced with an open goal

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Express and Star

The cup competition that had Walsall fizzing last season may have changed it’s name, but it still served up a refreshing tonic for Saddlers fans last night.
While this result and performance may not have matched the exploits of victories over Nottingham Forest and Sheffield United last term, it again offered plenty of encouragement for the coming months.

In a relatively short space of time Ray Graydon has moulded together a useful looking outfit down at Bescot. After Saturday’s impressive start to League proceedings Graydon saw his side produce another solid and professional performance against one of his former employers.

Graydon is well aware of the fact that his side are by no means the finished article but they are certainly going to be no push-overs while their new boss contiunes to bring his influence to bear and QPR will be well aware that the return fixture will be anything but a formality.

This clash was never likely to throw up a net full of goals and so it proved as both sets of strikers drew a blank courtesy of some slack finishing and one or two superb saves from the respective keepers.

Kevin Gallen was the man most guilty of wasting what few chances either of these well marshalled rearguards allowed, most notably in a five minute spell of sustained pressure from the visitors just before the midway point of the first half.

After dragging one effort just wide following a sweeping Rangers counter attack, he then saw Jimmy Walker deny him twice in quick succession first with stunning reflex save from close range and then with an equally impressive full length effort.

But having weathered this storm the Saddlers started to come more into the game and Darren Wrack almost marked another pleasing contribution with a 25 yard screamer that flew inches wide with Lee Harper beaten.

The lively start the home side made to the second period made you wonder if Graydon had given them a touch of the sponsors tipple as they suddenly had their higher league opponents back pedalling.

Harper conjured up the save of the night to somehow keep out Adrian Viveash’s close range effort while some timely last ditch clearances from Danny Maddix and Steve Yates helped repel the threat of a possible upset.

There were one or two anxious moments for the home defence, in which new arrival Richard Green enjoyed a solid start to his loan spell at Bescot, but with the combined talents of Mike Sheron and Darren Peacock costing over £3m it was to be expected.

Fortunately for Walsall the chances keep falling to an out of sorts Gallen who was guilty of the miss of the night when he blazed over from eight yards after some excellent approach play from Peacock.

Wrack, who formed a promising looking partnership with Chris Marsh down the right flank then saw a goal bound header rebound to safety off Yates a while John Keister almost came up with a goal of the season contender with a stinging volley that flew just past the post.

Now it’s off for another half of Worthington’s at Loftus Road next Wednesday with the Saddlers looking to leave the home side feeling bitter.

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QPR official website

An evenly matched game that had chances at both ends but QPR will be happy to take Walsall back to Loftus Road. QPR had the better of the first half and should have taken a 10min lead when Kevin Gallen had a good effort saved by Walker, this after great work by Tony Scully down the right.

Kevin Gallen again came close after 14mins only to be denied by the inform Walker. Gallen and Scully continued to link well throughout the half and QPR deserved to take the lead.

The best chance of the half fell to the unlikely Carl Ready, who sore is effort cleared off the Walsall line. Gavin Peacock went close with a speculative 25yard drive that blazed narrowly wide of the Walsall goal.

The half time break came at the wrong time for QPR who dominated most of the first half play, with Walsall’s only real chance of note a blazing drive that Harper seemed to have well covered.

The second got under way with Walsall starting to pressurise the QPR goal with two early corners that were comfortably dealt with.

Heinola broke menacingly down the right and pulled the ball back to Gavin Peacock, who drove across the goal to the available Kevin Gallen, who in turn blazed the best chance of the match high and wide.

Kevin Gallen was later replace by Slade.

QPR sustained their third booking of the match when Danny Maddix followed Heinola and Tony Scully into the book.

Walsall were awarded a 40min corner which Danny Maddix cleared, only to the eager Keister, who fired a terrific drive just wide.

Gillingham 0 Walsall 1

roger6 @ 6:47 pm Saturday 08 August 1998

THE TEAM
Walker, Marsh, Pointon, Keister, Roper, Viveash, Wrack (sub 88 Watson), Brissett (sub 72 Davis), Rammell, Porter, Keates (sub 82 Ricketts)

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Matchfacts

Gillingham manager Tony Pulis witnessed a disappointing start to the season as unfancied Walsall – tipped by many to struggle this season – gave new boss Ray Graydon the perfect start in the hot seat at the Bescott. Having sold big money transfers Akinbiyi and Corbett in the summer, Pulis’s new look side struggled in the heat and had a very disjointed first 90 minutes of the season. One of the new arrivals, Darren Carr, netted an own goal that proved the eventual winner. Walsall might have added a second to their tally but for a bad miss by Jason Brissett. However, the visitors were solid and cohesive in most departments and deserved the three points

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Express & Star

What an opening day scorcher – and the weather wasn’t bad either.
In conditions more suitable to beach volleyball than football, Walsall launched the Ray Graydon era with a performance that bore all the hallmarks of what Saddlers supporters can expect under their new boss – organisation, shape and commitment with some eye-catching football thrown in.

Never mind the long overdue heatwave that swept across the country this weekend, the visiting fans will have been left with a warm glow of satisfaction from this impressive first offering of the season.

This would have been a home-banker on most people’s coupon – a side that only missed out on reaching the play-offs last season by a meagre five goals agaist a team that finished just two places above the drop zone.

Add to that the fact that Gillingham have undertook a summer rebuilding plan designed to take them at least one place higher than they finished the last campaign, and you can see why this was far from the ideal starting point for the Saddlers.

But it was the visitors who looked the more accomplished side in every department and Graydon should take credit for the way, in such a short space of time, he has instilled such organisation and shape into his troops.

The defence was rock solid, so much so that it’s doubtful whether keeper Jimmy Walker will enjoy such a quiet afternoon all season. The midfield engine room of John Keister and Gary Porter won their personal battles hands down with Porter’s intelligent use of the ball continually forcing the home side to back pedal.

Out wide Darren Wrack and Dean Keates did all that was asked of them with Wrack giving the occasional glimpse of the nifty footwork that is sure to endear him to the Bescot faithful while two other new boys up front, Jason Brissett and Andy Rammell, appeared to hit it off instantly.

Rammell was probably the best player on the park completely overshadowing Robert Taylor for whom the Gills had shelled out £500,000 last week. The one slight flaw was some wastfulness in front of goal with Brissett, Wrack and Keates all spurning good openings.

But fortunately it didn’t matter thanks to home defender Dareen Carr, who gave the visitors the reward their bright start deserved when he guided Chris Marsh’s free kick over the head of Vince Bartram just after the half hour mark.

From then on the Saddlers, apart from a brief 10 minute spell midway through the second half, were comfortably in charge with only old boy John Hodge looking likely to spoil Graydon’s competitive managerial debut.

The Gills chopped and changed their personnel and system, but to no avail. They simply couldn’t get a foothold on proceedings and asthe match progressed the Saddlers looked the more likely scorers. But it the end one goal was enough, and they didn’t even have to score that.

Not a bad start, not bad at all.

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