Archive for October 31st, 1998

Bristol Rovers 3 Walsall 4

roger6 @ 6:44 pm Saturday 31 October 1998

Walker; Marsh, Pointon, Green, Viveash
Wrack, Lambert, Keates, Larusson, Brissett, Rammell


Walsall recovered from a nightmare start at a rainsoaked Memorial Stadium. Rovers looking to extend their unbeaten home run to nine games had top scorer Barry Hayles back after a one match suspension and the marksman wasted no time making his mark, providing the first and taking his seasons tally to eight goals a minute later. The homeside were reduced to ten men because of an injury to Robert Trees and Walsall took full advantage, coming from behind with a dramatic late burst

1-0 Bristol Rovers 3 mins Cureton
an easy tap-in at the far post following a Barry Hayles pass

2-0 Bristol Rovers 4 mins Hayles
Cureton’s long ball caused confusion between Viveash and the ‘keeper allowing the striker to round Walker and slot home from ten yards 

2-1 Walsall 29 mins Larusson
followed up on Brissett’s shot to send a powerful right-footed drive into the middle of the goal

2-2 Walsall 44 mins Smith
turned the ball into his own net whilst trying to clear Neil Pointon’s low cross from the left

3-2 Bristol Rovers 50 mins Hayles
latched on to Keates’ free-kick to turn on the edge of the box and send a delightful left-footed drive into the right-hand corner of the net

3-3 Walsall 80 mins Rammell
a close range header following a cross from Brissett wide on the left

3-4 Walsall 89 mins Larusson
met Lambert’s deep cross to send a low right-footed drive into the far corner from 12 yards out

Express & Star

At this rate they had better find a seat for Cilla Black on the Bescot board, because it’s certainly been a case of surprise surprise from Ray Graydon’s men so far this season.
A surprising start to the season has seen Saddlers emerge as surprising promotion contenders, and now – given the stunning impact Graydon has made in such a short space of time – the only surprise would be if they faded away.

Each week we turn up half expecting this about-turn in fortunes – don’t forget this is a club who just avoided the drop last season – to finally splutter and stop. But, surprise surprise, it’s just not happening.

And, on the evidence of a quite incredible game at a sodden Memorial Ground, there seems little chance of a sudden fall from grace for the Bescot battlers.

It had, for a brief moment, looked as if the wheels were about to come off big-time’ on Saturday. Two down after five horror minutes fit for Halloween, having lost 4-1 at Fulham the previous week and only managing a 1-1 draw with Colchester prior to that.

You could almost hear the pessimists saying: “That’s more like it. I told you it was just a flash in the pan, knew it wouldn’t last.”

Well now is the time for the positive vibes to start surfacing. The Bescot faithful have got a side packed with belief and character and they can also play a bit.

The 400 or so visiting Saddlers fans will testify to that after witnessing a breath-taking display of forward play.

Okay, the early defending may have been desperate, but that just added to the entertainment factor.

After gifting a Rovers side unbeaten at home this season two of the simplest goals you are ever likely to see, Walsall woke up and tore into the West Country side.

Chances were created and squandered as the attacking menace of Jamie Lambert, Jason Brissett, Darren Wrack and a fit-again Andy Rammell caused no end of problems for the home defence.

Walsall were not too steady themselves at the back against the pace and power of Barry Hayles and Guy Ipoua, but slowly and surely tightened things up as the game wore on.

Once the excellent Bjarni Larusson had dragged Saddlers back into the game with a stunning first goal for the club, you sensed there was more to follow.

Wrack and Brissett came close to levelling matters before another sweeping attacking foray ended with Mark Smith turning Neil Pointon’s low cross past his own keeper to put Walsall deservedly back on equal terms.

Even the concession of a third goal, a piece of master class finishing from Hayles, five minutes into the second period wasn’t going to deny Graydon’s men.

Once gain they dug deep and with Larusson and Dean Keates orchestrating things from the middle of the park the chances continued to flow.

A series of strange substitutions from Rovers’ player-manager Ian Holloway also helped the visitors’ cause especially when, having used all three subs, defender Robert Trees was stretchered off leaving Rovers to play the last 10 minutes or so with 10 men.

By then Rammell had marked his return by heading home his ninth of the season from Brissett’s pinpoint centre while keeper James Walker had made up for his earlier misdemeanour by producing a magnificent save to deny Jamie Cureton a second goal.

It was fitting that it was Larusson, the game’s best performer, who had the final say. He rounded off a remarkable afternoon by steering home a right foot shot a minute from time.

Now Saddlers, who are just two points behind leaders Stoke, face successive home games against Millwall on Saturday and Lincoln the following Tuesday. Top spot could be within their grasp. Now that would be a surprise.

Bristol Rovers website
Sensational game at Bristol Rovers on Saturday, full report and reaction to follow, but here is the report from the Bristol Rovers website. Listen to the real audio report at:

Only three goals have been scored in our last three matches, so the seven goal thriller witnessed in the pouring rain at the Mem this afternoon may have come as a pleasent shock to many, all be it the crucial goal went in Walsall’s favour. And with five successive home clean sheets going into the match who would of thought it possible that we’d allow Walsall to find the back of the net four times in the last 60 minutes of the game. But that’s what happened and what’s done is done. Our unbeaten home record dies a sorry death for this season, and we’ll now have to wait and see how the players react on the pitch next weekend to see if we can take any positives out of this game yet.

The last time we conceded goals at the Mem this season was also under comeback circumstances, when Preston fought back from two goals down to take a point off us nearly two months ago. Since then it’s almost seemed like the days of ‘Fortress Twerton’ – today though clearly showed that we are still a long way mentally, but probably not physically, from being someone who can compete with the automatic promotion challengers.

Referee: P.Danson (7) – let the game flow in poor conditions

With a potential rain storm forecasted to hit the Bristol area over Friday and Saturday it was a surprise to many that the overnight down pour had halted around early morning, and other than a few showers here and there it would remain relatively dry up to kick-off. Even last night’s rugby match couldn’t cause enough damage to the pitch to warrant any form of pitch inspection before kick-off.

So after purchasing the matchday programme and the excellent fanzine ‘The Second Of May’ (and I’m not just saying that because I’m quoted in it – page 25, right column, second paragraph!) it was time for the big kick-off. The away end was filled and the home section looked sparse, mainly due to predicted rain which did eventually hit us just minutes into the game.

But amazingly by the time we did get the first spits from above we were already two goals ahead! The first came on just three minutes from Jamie Cureton as Ipoua’s storming run through the Walsall defence led to Bazza’s touch on and JC’s finish from a matter of yards. The second arrived a minute later as Cureton’s ball through the middle humorously found Bazza with an open goal to shoot into after Walsall’s goalkeeper and defender collided when either could have cleared the danger.

We were running the Saddlers’ defence ragged and it could have been 3-0 a further minute into the game when Leoni’s ball into the area flew past Meaker, who was just an inch away from knocking home from no more than five yards out. Ipoua then went one-on-one but his final touch enabled the keeper to collect. But no one was worried, after all we were still 2-0 up no problems, and the analysis of the first few minutes would show that if we continued we would have been into double figures before half time!

The turning point of the game though coincided to a treat with the downpour which would begin at 3:10 and, well, is still going strong as I write this report! All of a sudden Walsall looked a different team as they started to create chances of their own instead of just admiring ours. Jonesy was called into action on numerous occasions to prevent a early blemish to his proud run of clean sheets.

Walsall’s opening goal then came on the 29 minute mark. Foster made a god-like tackle to prevent Darren Wrack from scoring when he looked to be clear of the defence. But from the corner the ball fell for Larusson who drilled the ball home via Jones’s finger tips with a rasping first time effort from outside the box.

2-1 and all to play for, and despite a couple of openings at the other end of the field it would be Walsall who would find the net next. Brissett sent Pointon clear and after beating Jones at an angle he tried to lay the ball off to an incoming team-mate. It was Mark Smith who came hairing back in an attempt to clear the danger but his miscued clearance ended up in the back of the net to the disbelief of the Clubhouse Terrace faithful, who had witnessed the two goal advantage we once had evaporate completely in the final 15 minutes of the opening period.

Half time came as a welcome relief. Surely now Ollie could get the players sorted ready for the second half, as we looked to once again build up a lead. And there was to be a 50% repeat of the dramatics which highlighted the first period. A goal which would well and truely signal to the rest of the country that Bazza is back. Rob Trees’ 50th minute free kick was half only half cleared, so Hayles then swept a left footed volley into the corner from outside the penalty box.

Back in front again, but this time could we maintain our lead? Ha! What do you reckon? But had Cureton’s blistering effort from 20 yards crept in it could of easily been a different story, but the fact was it went a few mili-metres the wrong side of the post, and Walsall still knew a repeat of the first half climax would see them home with three more points.

As the second half settled down into an even contest it was no surprise to see all three substitutes used in quick succession to replace tired legs with fresh ones. Roberts made his return to the side from the substitutes bench as he switched with Ipoua, who’s hard work had clearly drained him and was looking nothing like the menace he was in the opening thirty minutes.

Jones made another fine save with his feet after Wrack found space in the area. Then back at the other end Bazza tried his luck from the edge of the penalty box, but as he looked for his first ever gas hat-trick, Walker in goal looked equally comfortable with the save.

Walsall were now looking the better of the sides and when Rammell headed home from a couple of yards to put the Saddlers back in a potential point gaining situation, it came to no surprise to the home fans massed behind the goal. It was wet… no – very wet, and I think everyone all around would have settled for a point each and a warm cup of tea back in a dry place.

But there was still chances for both sides to win it. Roberts made his way into the area and when his cut back found Cureton unmarked from twelve yards out those that didn’t duck for cover saw a cracking drive force an excellent save from Walker.

Rob Trees was carried off on a stretcher with five minutes to go after picking up a leg injury, which he should recover from in time for the trip to Fulham in seven days time. Having used all our subs though we were down to ten men yet again, so Ollie dropped to right-back leaving Zabek alone in midfield.

There was still one final twist in the tail to come though. In the 89th minute Lambert dealt up a sickening blow when his cross picked out Larusson to a treat. There was only one place that ball was going – past Jones and into the back of the net. 4-3, and totally unbelievable. The remaining minutes would see Walsall time waste near the corner flag, and with every one of our players back behind the ball there was no chance of a last gasp equaliser. However one brief spur forward resulted in the predictable loss of possession before the ball was chipped into the area. The full time whistle then sounded – it was three more points dropped.

Make no doubt about it, this 4-3 defeat will come as a bitter blow to us as we looked to continue a recent run of good form. But it’s too early to start panicing yet, after all most fans are probably not expecting much, if anything from next week’s trip to now second place Fulham. So if we can somehow take the full three points next weekend then the delight from that result will surely cancel out negative feelings from the match just gone. However, if we fail to pick up anything next week too though, then we panic!

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