Archive for September, 1998

Walsall 0 Reading 2

roger6 @ 6:40 pm Wednesday 30 September 1998

THE TEAM
Walker; Marsh, Gadsby, Keates, Green, Viveash
Wrack (sub 80 Watson), Larusson, Simpson; Rammell, Brissett

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Matchfacts

The Royals finally ended their amazing run of away defeats in the league as Walsall squandered a chance to move second. Reading had arrived at The Bescot on the back of 15 successive away defeats, but they finally returned to winning ways on their travels thanks to a goal in either half. Lively striker Martin Williams capped an impressive display with the opener, as Walsall struggled to get into gear and failed to take advantage of the chances that fell their way
GOALS
0-1 Reading 8 mins Williams
powered into the Walsall area and held off the challenge of Viveash before drilling a low right-footed shot beyond Walker

0-2 Reading 66 mins Brebner
Caskey played a short corner to Crawford and his cross was powerfully headed home from six yards

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Express & Star

High-flying Walsall were taking a crafty look at second place before last night’s Second Division game against Reading at Bescot. The visitors had won only one league game in eight attempts this season and had lost all of their last 14 away games – a sequence stretching back to January 17.
And I suppose we could all have guessed the outcome, couldn’t we? This was a banana skin if ever there was one and Saddlers slipped up in a big way, losing a game in which they looked by far the superior team.

The club’s respective sixth and 21st positions look well deserved, but Walsall just couldn’t stick the ball where it mattered when it mattered. With the usually excellent Andy Rammell having a bit of an off-day and nobody else able to finish either, this was always going to be a struggle for Saddlers.

Bescot boss Ray Graydon wore the expression of a man who knows there was nothing he or any of his players could have done to produce a different result.

With a place just behind leaders Stoke at stake, there was no question of any of the Saddlers players giving anything less than 100 per cent to the cause. They huffed a lot, puffed a great deal, but Tommy Burns’s rather rickety looking house failed to fall down under a barrage of shots and headers which, it has to be said, were mostly off-target.

With Dean Keates industrious and Bjarni Larusson promising in a Jan Molby-kind-of-way, there was no shortage of ball from the midfield, while Chris Marsh was lively down the left as the Reading area was peppered with passes – particularly during a 15 minute ‘blitz’ on the Reading area after half-time.

It’s hard to criticise players like Rammell, who had at least six chances to score, two of them good ones, when he did at least get himself into those positions in a wholehearted performance.

He wasn’t the only one to be off target. Paul Simpson – still yet to show his best form for Walsall – blew one free kick way high and wide and then chipped agonisingly close during the first half.

And Darren Wrack smashed the ball against the post after 52 minutes – a chance set up by an superb diagonal ball by Keates – and made a mess of another opportunity when he volleyed wide a quarter of an hour later.

In contrast, Reading rarely ventured into Walsall territory, but made it count when they did. Their first goal came as a real shock after only eight minutes, Martin Williams making the msot of a mistake by Adrian Viveash and eluding Richard Green’s desperate attempts to block the chance.

That may have brought a hint of desperation to Walsall’s game, and things became even more fraught after Reading’s superb second goal, ex-Manchester United youngster Grant Brebner converting a chipped pass into the area from Jimmy Crawford that dipped and swerved enough to completely fool the Walsall defence.

The defeat was disappointing, but Saddlers have the consolation of still being in the top six and having a chance to put things right against high-flying Preston on Saturday.

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Deserved success at Luton

roger6 @ 6:46 pm Saturday 26 September 1998

Walsall make the trip to the beauty of Luton and for the second year running came away with a 1-0 triumph, courtesy of the prolific Andy Rammell. He nipped in 4 minutes from time to give the Saddlers their 4th win in 5 away games this season – a fantastic performance.
Bjarni Larusson, signed yesterday, was pitched straight into the starting 11, as injuries had ruled out Porter and Thomas. Marsh was recalled to play at the back in the absence of Evans. He looked short of match fitness initially, as did Paul Simpson, but the balance of the team looked good, and so it proved.
Luton started steadily, and should have been full of confidence following cup success against Ipswich in midweek. Yet, as we found to our cost last year, if you play extra time on a Wednesday, it’s not easy to get your players focused for the league on Saturday.
Highlights of the game included a blinding save by Walker midway through the second half from a shot by Alexander, and a succession of 1-on-1 chances wasted by Darren Wrack. The linesman was the busiest man on the park, as the Luton back-line constantly stepped up to catch Rammell or Brissett offside. Some of the decisions looked dodgy, but you got the feeling that Luton were going to get caught out at least once or twice.
Wrack’s got good pace and energy, and found himself three times facing the keeper, but three times he blasted over or wide, and seemed really pissed off when another chance went in the latter stages. But he played a part in the goal – breaking the offside trap to cross from the right where Rammell was waiting to pounce.
Larusson looked quite steady in the second half, and put himself about a bit to pick up the loose balls. Simpson showed one or two good touches, and Andy Watson came off the subs bench to look sharp late on. It was a Watson run to the edge of the area that led to the Luton sending off – defender Macgowan’s trip being his second bookable offence.
As a Luton fan said to me on the way out, the striking thing about Walsall’s performance was that they seemed cleverer than Luton; Lennie Lawrence had been outfought tactically by Ray Graydon, and their midfield was snuffed out. The direct style continues, with Walker’s long punts onto Rammell’s head, but what a start by Ray Graydon!

Luton 0 Walsall 1

roger6 @ 6:41 pm Saturday 26 September 1998

THE TEAM
Walker; Marsh, Pointon, Keates, Green, Viveash
Wrack, Larusson, Simpson; Rammell, Brissett (sub 83 Watson)

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Steve Roy’s Report

Luton 0 Walsall 1 (Rammell 86) Walsall make the trip to the beauty of Luton and for the second year running came away with a 1-0 triumph, courtesy of the prolific Andy Rammell. He nipped in 4 minutes from time to give the Saddlers their 4th win in 5 away games this season – a fantastic performance. Bjarni Larusson, signed yesterday, was pitched straight into the starting 11, as injuries had ruled out Porter and Thomas. Marsh was recalled to play at the back in the absence of Evans. He looked short of match fitness initially, as did Paul Simpson, but the balance of the team looked good, and so it proved.
Luton started steadily, and should have been full of confidence following cup success against Ipswich in midweek. Yet, as we found to our cost last year, if you play extra time on a Wednesday, it’s not easy to get your players focused for the league on Saturday. Highlights of the game included a blinding save by Walker midway through the second half from a shot by Alexander, and a succession of 1-on-1 chances wasted by Darren Wrack. The linesman was the busiest man on the park, as the Luton back-line constantly stepped up to catch Rammell or Brissett offside. Some of the decisions looked dodgy, but you got the feeling that Luton were going to get caught out at least once or twice.

Wrack’s got good pace and energy, and found himself three times facing the keeper, but three times he blasted over or wide, and seemed really pissed off when another chance went in the latter stages. But he played a part in the goal – breaking the offside trap to cross from the right where Rammell was waiting to pounce.

Larusson looked quite steady in the second half, and put himself about a bit to pick up the loose balls. Simpson showed one or two good touches, and Andy Watson came off the subs bench to look sharp late on. It was a Watson run to the edge of the area that led to the Luton sending off – defender Macgowan’s trip being his second bookable offence.

As a Luton fan said to me on the way out, the striking thing about Walsall’s performance was that they seemed cleverer than Luton; Lennie Lawrence had been outfought tactically by Ray Graydon, and their midfield was snuffed out. The direct style continues, with Walker’s long punts onto Rammell’s head, but what a start by Ray Graydon!

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Matchfacts

Hard-working Andy Rammell grabbed his seventh goal of the season as Walsall continued their excellent away form. The Saddlers have lost only once on their league travels – at Manchester City – and this win took them above Luton in the table. They always looked the more likely winners, with Luton’s midfield almost non existant. To add to the home sides woe they had defender Gavin McGowan sent off after he’d picked up two yellow cards

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Express & Star

Ever the realist, manager Ray Graydon, is not shouting his head off about guiding Walsall back into the Second Division’s play-off zone. Told that the Saddlers had reached it by winning at Luton he said: “Really? How far from safety is all I want to know.”
The third win in a row was achieved through disciplined defence in the first half and adventurous attacking in the second and although the winner did not arrive until three minutes from time even Luton boss Lennie Lawrence admitted ” You could see it coming “Walsall deserved it on the day.”

The success stories were headed by Andy Rammell’s seventh goal of the season, from a cross by Darren Wrack and by the impressive performance by Icelandic import Bjarni Larusson. On loan from Hibernian, he starred in the inside right channel and Graydon is already planning a bid to the Edinburgh club after Larusson’s promising debut.”

“He did very well,” said Graydon, “particularly when you remember he arrived only on Thursday and had only had one training session with us. “He gave us balance with his right foot.” Professionalism ran through the length of the Walsall team. Skipper Neil Pointon typified it with another classy display and Graydon had a special word for the full-back.

“He was fantastic after a very difficult week because he has suffered from a family bereavement.” Rammell also came in for praise. “Rambo had only one chance in the whole game but he took it well. “We have worked a lot on the training ground to get him to move into the right places. “It has been hard work for him but he has done it, spending a lot of time on the coaching ground and then some more.”

Walsall were the first visiting team to take three points away from Kenilworth Road since last January and might have been fortunate to catch Luton at the right time. In midweek the Hatters had seen off Ipswich in a titanic Worthington Cup clash which lasted two hours. But Town boss Lawrence had only admiration for the way Walsall succeeded where a First division outfit failed.

“Walsall got it exactly right – they were well organised and disciplined and if we had got awau with 0-0 we would have been absolutely delighted.”

The result put Walsall up to fifth in the table, two points below seconmd-placed Preston. Having leapfrogged over Luton, the Saddlers can now do it again because on saturday they are at home to North End.

“So far this seaosn we have achieved qquite a lot,” said Graydon. “Probably more than anybody in the club expected. “There is still more to be done but I was delighted with the performance of every single player at Luton. “We don’t have any Big-time Charlies, but the players work and work and as a coach I could nto ask for more.”

Luton
K Davis, Alexander, McGowan, Spring (White 87), S Davis, Johnson, McKinnon, Evers, Douglas (Gray 60), Fotiadis, Cox (McIndoe 67).

In the book
McGowan (25 late tackle on Wrack)

Sent off: McGowan (second yellow card, 90 clattering Watson).

Walsall
Walker, Marsh, Pointon, Keates, Green, Viveash, Wrack, Brissett (Watson 83), Rammell, Larusson, Simpso. Subs: Thomas, Roper,

Referee: P Richarsd (Preston) Attendance: 5,530.

The Goal

1-0 – Rammell (86). Expert poacher’s strike, converting a cross from the right by Wrack, who had earlier passed up the chance to net a hat-trick)

Walsall 3 Notts County 2

roger6 @ 6:44 pm Friday 18 September 1998

THE TEAM
Walker, Green, Viveash, Pointon, Evans, Wrack, Keates, Porter, Simpson, Rammell, Brissett.

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Matchfacts

Walsall’s in-form striker Andy Rammell scored his fourth goal in four games to guide his side to a pulsating victory over Notts County. The Saddlers had to battle their way back into the game after County had surged into the lead following a half-time pep talk from manager Sam Allardyce. Up until then the home side had been well in control, deservedly taking a first-half lead, but were caught cold by County after the break. However, the aerial power of Rammell and the pace of strike-partner Jason Brissett proved decisive

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Mailing List Report

Walsall move up to fourth after this fine entertaining game at the Bescot tonight. Despite a good opening 10 minutes from County, it was Darren Ward the visiting keeper that was by far the busier in the first half, culminating with a fine goal by ex Derby, Man City & Wolves striker Paul Simpson. He collected a pass 30 yards out and then struck a fine left foot effort that gave Ward no chance as it flew into the corner. Simpson came close again within a couple of mins but this time his neat chip beat both the keeper and the far post, he`d also been denied twice earlier from long range. Ward was continually called into action during the half, he could only watch though as an Andy Rammell header looped over him and just over the bar and five minutes later another Rammell header was on target but was well saved. Between those two efforts Ward was alert to stop Brissett as he broke clear from the County defence.

The second half was a totally different game as we saw the lead change twice as both sides came from behind. It took County under 10 minutes to go ahead. Gary Jones had already headed inches wide when he flicked on a pacy cross by Lybird and it sailed into the corner and within three minutes Jones` flick found Andy Hughes who skipped through the home defence and scored with ease to put County 2-1 up.

Just past the hour and we were level as the away defence left Rammell totally unmarked and his free header gave Ward no chance and ten minutes later it was 3-2 to Walsall, Man Of The Match Brissett put clear again and this time making no mistake past the keeper, credit though to referee Eddie Woltsenholme who played an advantage despite a clear foul in the build up to the goal. Brissett was involved again late on when Strodder was judged to have pulled his shirt and the ref awarded a penalty, however Walsall nerves stayed on edge as Darren Wrack pulled the kick wide. Late pressure from County came to nothing as the Saddlers win this thriller.

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By Steve Roy

Saddlers fans from across the globe tuned into the festival of football witnessed on Sky Sports last night – resulting in a 3-2 win for the Saddlers in a match that had everything.

Walsall began slowly, and Notts County were the better team for the first ten minutes. But about half way through the first half someone told the team we were on live television, and the players began to wake up. Andy Rammell saw a superb glancing header go just over the top, and Jason Brissett’s pace setup a good chance which the keeper did well to palm away.

But it was new signing Paul Simpson who grabbed the first – a great 25 yard strike into the far corner. Earlier the Wolves man, signed on loan by Graydon earlier in the day, had seen another long range effort easily held.

Two minutes later the Saddlers and Simpson should have made it two. A good move saw Andy Rammell side-flick the ball into Brissett’s path, who let the ball run to Simpson running in. His chip had goal written all over it, excet it went about a foot wide with the keeper beaten.

The second half started very similarly to the first – Walsall looked slow to come out, and this time County punished them, with two well taken goals in the first ten minutes.

But the Saddlers got going again – with Dean Keates’ shot unfortunately blocked by Rammell on the County goalline. A few minutes later a Darren Wrack pin-point cross was met brilliantly by an unmarked Rammell 7 yards out, and his glancing header comfortably beat the keeper. Walsall were now on the victory path again, and the decisive goal came on 78 minutes when Andy Rammell was fouled, the ref played a good advantage, and Jason Brissett ran on to cap a superb display by tucking the ball home.

The Saddlers even had time to miss a penalty when Jason Brissett went down dubiously in the box. Darren Wrack waited until the keeper had dived the wrong way before placing the ball a foot wide of the left post.

This was the first time I’d seen the Saddlers this season – and it’s a much more direct Walsall side this term. How many times last year did we see Walker roll the ball out to Peron, before a few nice passes gave possession away just as we were approaching the opposition half. Now Walker is allowed free-range to boot the ball way down the field. It may not be as pretty, but not many fans will be complaining with the team 4th in the league, playing a system our players seem much more at home with.

Walsall 2 York City 3

roger6 @ 6:45 pm Tuesday 08 September 1998

THE TEAM
Walker, Evans, Green, Viveash, Pointon, Wrack, Keates (sub 26 Thomas), Porter, Rammell, Brissett, Marsh.

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Matchfacts

York City were by far the more creative side in the middle of the park and fully deserved their first couple of goals. The Saddlers staged a commendable recovery to draw back on level terms at two apiece early in the second half. However, the game then developed into a real dogfight, as York finally sealed all three points with just six minutes remaining on the clock, when Mark Tinkler notched the decisive vital winner with a brilliant individual effort

GOALS
0-1 York 1 mins Cresswell
scored with a well-taken opportunist effort, following mistakes by Keates and Viveash in the Walsall defence
0-2 York 22 mins Cresswell
a great strike past ‘keeper Walker after another gift, this time from Neil Pointon

1-2 Walsall 24 mins Rammell
beat York ‘keeper Bobby Mimms with a smart header following a cross by Wayne Evans

2-2 Walsall 48 mins Wrack
stepped up to fire home the spot-kick past Mimms, after Thompson was adjudged to have brought down Marsh

2-3 York 84 mins Tinkler
a sensational right-footed strike from fully 30 yards that ‘keeper James Walker could only stand and watch

Man City 3 Walsall 1

roger6 @ 6:46 pm Wednesday 02 September 1998

THE TEAM
Walker, Marsh (Watson 79), Green, Viveash, Pointon, Wrack, Keates, Porter, Ricketts (Evans 72), Rammell, Brissett.

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Matchfacts

Walsall’s unbeaten league record ended at Maine Road as Man City got back to winning ways in division two after two draws and a defeat. City started as if they would hamnmer Walsall but they failed to build on Shaun Goater’s 30th minute goal. Walsall were the better side for the first 20 minutes of the second half but two City goals in three minutes ended their hopes of a point. Goater’s second goal took his tally to six. Andy Rammell pulled a goal back with 11 minutes to go, but City were full value for their point.

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The Sun

CITY fans will soon be singing a new song. Forget Blue Moon – let’s tune in to Danny Boy.
Aussie teenager Danny Allsopp showed all the talents that are set to make him a Maine Road hero. His appearance from the subs’ bench had a galvanising effect on his team-mates.

City should have been winning by a mile when Allsopp replaced Lee Bradbury 10 minutes into the second half. But all they had was Shaun Goater’s 30th-minute header.

Then on came Allsopp, who promptly missed a sitter before setting up Goater and Paul Dickov for the killer double which clinched victory.

Three months ago, Allsopp, 19, was playing Aussie junior football for Port Melbourne Sharks.

Delighted boss Joe Royle said: “We are quietly chuffed with him.

“He missed a chance then did really well. He is certainly a good sub for us. He came on and took it away.

“He is so innocent and it is great to see. He was recommended to me by an agent. I told him we did not need another young forward – but then I discovered he was young and quick.

“He is a great finisher, very strong and positive and we are taking his progress slowly. He will play in the reserves on Thursday as it’s still an education for him.

“Danny was known in Australia – he won the Golden Boot in the World Youth Championship and almost went to West Ham. ”

City went in at half-time leading by Goater’s bullet header from a cross by Nick Fenton.

In the 71st minute Allsopp wriggled free on the right and crossed for Goater to tap in his sixth goal of the season.

Five minutes later Allsopp was a provider again and this time Dickov the receiver.

Andy Rammell grabbed an 80th-minute consolation for Walsall.

Royle added: “We dominated the match. I think we have made Maine Road a hard place to come to.

“We are only three points behind second place now, with just one defeat, and that is a useful position.”

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The Mirror

WALSALL’S dreams of topping the Second Division were destroyed by a dazzling double from Shaun Goater.
The Midlanders could have gone top of the Second Division had they won but they were convincingly beaten by Joe Royle’s side.

Goater scored a goal in each half to bring his total for the season to six.

Two goals in three minutes finally broke Walsall’s resistance after they had trailed at the interval to a Goater header on the half hour.

Both City strikes were created by teenage Aussie substitute Danny Allsopp.

Allsopp had only been on the pitch for two minutes when he set up Goater for his second after 71 minutes. Then Allsopp crossed for Paul Dickov to score.

Five minutes later Walsall got one back when Andy Rammell cracked home a drive 11 minutes from time.

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Express & Star

Such has been the positive vibe around Bescot this season that even a defeat can offer hope and encouragement for the months ahead.
A 3-1 reverse may not look particularly good on paper, but Ray Graydon emerged from his first tussle with one of the division’s ‘fat cats’ satisfied with his side’s efforts and encouraged by their never-say-die attitude.

On the debit side, Saddlers tasted defeat in a League game for the first time in this hugely encouraging opening to the new campaign, and saw their hopes of climbing into the top two well and truly scuppered.

And while it may, at times, have appeared a painful lesson the outing with the ‘other side’ in Manchester will act as an invaluable yardstick for Graydon to assess the progress made so far this season.

At times, especially during a rocky opening 45 minutes, his side’s shortcomings were exposed as the home side fully exploited the wide open spaces of Maine Road before a resurgent second half showing again fuelled the belief that Walsall are on the right road.

A high tempo opening from the men in blue set Walsall on the back foot and they never really came to terms with the pace or width of City’s attacking.

Backed by another huge crowd – City may be the poor relations on the pitch but on the terrace there can be few more loyal fans in the country – the game could and should have been well out of Walsall’s grasp as the visitors found themselves on the ropes against a barrage of blue attacks.

But one thing the Saddlers have in abundance at the moment is character, and they simply dug in. And thanks to another top quality showing from keeper Jimmy Walker and some wastefulness from the likes of Paul Dickov, in particular they hung on in there.

Walker denied City a flying start with a point blank save to deny Dickov as early as the second minute before thwarting Richard Edghill a minute later. The keeper then raced bravely from his line to force Dickov into rushing an attempted lob, enabling Chris Marsh to comfortably clear before Lee Bradbury completely miss-kicked after being teed-up by Dickov.

The inevitable goal arrived 15 minutes from half time when Shaun Goater rose to majestically glance a Nick Fenton cross past Walker. However, rather than fold Walsall managed to up their game and a bright five minute spell just before the break, during which time Nick Weaver had to go full length to deny Dean Keates, gave an indication of what was to come after the half-time cuppa.

Whatever Graydon said in the confines of the dressing had the desired effect as Saddlers at last exerted some pressure on the home goal with Weaver twice called into action to deny Andy Rammell and Neil Pointon while skipper Gary Porter sliced a half chance wide.

But as the Maine Road faithful started to become restless their heroes responded with a crushing three minute spell that saw them score twice during Walsall’s best spell of the game.

Both the goals came from rapid breaks with Walsall being ruthlessly punished as they poured forward in search of an equaliser.

Substitute Daniel Allsopp was creator on each occasion, firstly racing on to a long clearance before teeing up Goater for a close range tap-in and then powering down the right flank before providing Dickov with an opening that even he couldn’t miss.

At that stage a lot of sides would have crumbled just as Notts County did two weeks ago when a rampant City hit them for seven, but Walsall are made of sterner stuff and finished the game on top.

Andy Rammell gained a deserved consolation for the visitors, and a just reward for his endeavour, when he provided a clinical right-foot finish 10 minutes from time before a spirited late rally gave the home side one or two anxious moments.

Defeat had to come sooner rather than later, but even this setback can’t dampen what has been a superb start for Graydon and his men.

Success at home to York next Tuesday will put matters back on track, and such has been the progress at Bescot this term that victory will be expected.

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Man City Official Site

CITY moved up the Divsion Two table after two goals from Shaun Goater and one from striking partner Paul Dickov secured the points, as City ran out 3-1 winners against a previously unbeaten Walsall side.
After Paul Dickov wasted two early chances for the home side, the second when he couldn’t fire home after beating Walsall keeper Walker to the ball, City began to dominate the game. Shaun Goater just failed to turn the ball into the gaping net, after City full back Richard Edghill robbed a Walsall defender and delivered a low drive across the face of the goal on 20 minutes, but nine minutes later Goater grabbed his fifth goal of the season, heading firmly home at the far post from Fentons pinpoint cross to give the home side a deserved lead. Quick movement by Richard Edghill when he cut in from the right set up Goater again as half time appraoched, but this time he couldn’t finish and Danny Tiatto then broke quickly for Paul Dickov to shoot wide, as City threatened to run riot. Keats spurned the visitors best chance moments before the break, when Weaver was on hand to save from the Walsall player. After the restart City were again on the attack and Lee Bradbury swivelled and shot on the turn, but his effort was tipped round the post by Walker in the Walsall goal.

Joe Royle introduced young Aussie substitute Danny Allsop for Lee Bradbury in the 68th minute and he made an immediate impression when he squandered a chance to give City a two goal cushion, but his control let him down after Dickov had crossed. The tall striker made ammends a minute later when he crossed for Goater to grab his second goal of the game and surely put City safe. Safe they were moments later when Paul Dickov got on the scoresheet, with Allsop again the provider as Shaun Goater this time let the ball run for his strking partner to fire home at the far post. Although Walsall got on the scoresheet after Gary Porter put through Andy Rammell for the striker to pull a goal back for the visitors, Manchester City played possession football in the final 10 minutes to grab the three valuable home points.

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The Times

MANCHESTER CITY’S early, tentative steps in the Nationwide League second division were replaced by a more positive stride at Maine Road last night. Three goals, two from Shaun Goater, put paid to the flimsy challenge of Walsall and lifted City into the upper reaches of the table.
Walsall, who had won their first two away matches of the season, had no answer to this feverish display and Joe Royle, the City manager, will be hoping this success will usher in a consistent run of form.

Less than a minute had gone when Paul Dickov beat the offside trap and forced a sharp save from James Walker in the Walsall goal. Dickov then latched on to a long pass from Pollock, but, after rounding Walker, he scuffed his shot.

Lee Bradbury also fluffed a marvellous opportunity ten minutes later and the mood of the home supporters was hardly helped when Jason Brissett found himself with a chance to put Walsall ahead. He was unmarked at the far post when Gary Porter’s pass arrived, but his header was woeful.

However, just as City were threatening to lose their way, the breakthrough came. With half an hour gone, Nick Fenton, the England Under-18 centre back, drove in a cross from the right and Goater, with four defenders hesitating, attacked the ball in majestic fashion and headed into the bottom corner.

Allsop’s embarrassment at missing from six yards midway through the second half did not last long. After toying with Pointon, he drilled a low pass to the unmarked Goater, who accepted the simplest of chances – his sixth goal in six games.

Allsop’s next surge produced a chance that Dickov converted and, after two successful strikes on goal in four minutes, City supporters were able to forgive the mistake by Fenton which led to a goal for Walsall by Andy Rammell.

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Telegraph

THE masses of supporters who have remained remarkably faithful throughout Manchester City’s embarrassing slide from Premiership big shots to Second Division makeweights were last night given the key to the club’s potentially glittering future.
The 24,021 who thronged to Maine Road for as unattractive a fixture as any held there in living memory were told to look out for leaflets at next week’s match against Bournemouth outlining the club’s plans to move to the new £90 million stadium being constructed for the 2002 Commonwealth Games a couple of miles away. A total of 50,000 leaflets – one for every seat in the new Eastlands Stadium – will be distributed around supporters’ clubs.

Officials of the struggling but eternally ambitious club are anxious to repay the loyalty of the fans by seeking opinion on the plan to desert what has been a famous home since 1923 but chairman David Bernstein is insisting that it is “an offer we can’t refuse”.

“It’s a state-of-the-art 21st century design, a beautiful creation,” said an enthusiastic Bernstein who expressed optimism that he would be taking the club there in 2003 restored as a Premiership force. “The model is very exciting and when our supporters see it they will be very excited by it.

“But I must stress we haven’t yet made a final decision. We have signed non-legally binding terms with the city council but it’s dependant on us consulting our supporters and getting their full support.”

The last thing City needed was an adverse reaction from their crowd to their performance against Walsall but it was apparent early on that Joe Royle’s team were comfortably superior to their higher-placed visitors.

A single goal by Shaun Goater – a splendid header from Nick Fenton’s cross for his fifth goal of the season – was nothing like a fair representation of City’s dominance in a first half which could easily have seen the 7-1 Worthington Cup scoreline against Notts County repeated.

City carved out chances galore before and after that 30th-minute breakthrough, but all too frequently produced Second Division finishes to first-rate openings.

Lee Bradbury provided the most obvious example of their frailty in front of goal by sidefooting wide after Richard Edghill had laid on a tap-in from six yards out.

Paul Dickov was also culpable. After shooting tamely at James Walker in the first minute, the striker failed to find the target after beating the out-rushing Walsall goalkeeper to Jamie Pollock’s through ball.

Dickov shot badly wide from a position created by debutant full-back Danny Tiatto in a first period which saw Walsall restricted to a solitary shot by Dean Keates.

The second half also featured a succession of classic City misses, notably by Bradbury and his replacement Daniel Allsopp, an Australian teenager, before the increasingly restless fans were finally able to relax.

Allsopp refused to allow an appallingly fluffed shot from 10 yards to unsettle him as he set up two goals inside five minutes for Goater and Dickov from low crosses.

Walsall had made a better fist of matters after the interval and eventually did reply through a neat low shot by Andy Rammell.

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