Walker, Marsh, Pointon, Keates, Green, Roper
Wrack (sub Gadsby 85), Brissett (sub Watson 89), Rammell, Porter, Lambert (sub Otta 74).
The Saddlers, lacking the services of the suspended Viveash and Larusson, easily swept aside the challenge of Millwall at The Bescot to maintain their promotion push. Ray Graydon’s side dominated proceedings, racing to their fifth home win of the season, and outclassing The Lions, who are struggling to keep in touch with the division’s front-runners
1-0 Walsall 19 mins Green
powerfully headed home from close range following a corner by Keates
2-0 Walsall 38 mins Wrack
Lions ‘keeper Tony Roberts was deceived by the in-swinging corner which flew straight into the net
3-0 Walsall 79 mins Rammell
Pointon and Otter combined to set up the big striker, who made no mistake with a low drive for his tenth goal of the season
Express and Star
Some people are never satisfied, always wanting that little bit extra. Step forward Ray Graydon.
Three goals, three points, your most comprehensive victory of the campaign to date and the feel good factor reverberating around the Bescot terraces.
That should be enough to please most managers, but not the one responsible for what is fast becoming one of the success stories of the season.
Yes, he was delighted to follow up last week’s success at Bristol, and yes, he was more than pleased with another maximum haul from what looked a tricky encounter. But, no, he wasn’t completely happy with his side’s performance.
Harsh, tough, demanding? Maybe. But Walsall Football Club will benefit from such levels of expectancy.
There is simply no way Graydon is going to rest on his laurels and start basking in the glory of a job, so far well done.
On and off the pitch he has set high standards. Should they be matched by his continually improving side then this could be one hell of a season.
His charming, courteous after match demeanour hides a ruthless determination and hunger to succeed and get the best possible out of his players.
The determined way a tenacious Millwall outfit were dispatched further highlights the rapid progress made down Bescot way in such a short space of time, and just how well his charges are responding.
We know that, given the time and space, Walsall can play some attractive football, but on Saturday they had to graft and scrap for everything that came their way.
As Graydon quite rightly pointed out, they didn’t get the ball down and play anywhere near as much of their passing game as he would have liked, or nowadays expects.
That was mainly due to the efforts of the visiting Lions who epitomised their manager Keith Stevens former playing qualities – hard working, uncompromising and not averse to making their physical presence felt.
The lack of time and space could have frustrated Graydon’s men, but instead they just rolled their sleeves up and got stuck in.
Even the absence of the suspended Adrian Viveash and Bjarni Larusson went unnoticed with Ian Roper and Gary Porter producing the type of performances that leaves Graydon with an enviable selection headache for Tuesday’s visit of Lincoln.
There were the occasional glimpses of the free-flowing attacking play that embarrassed Bristol Rovers last weekend, most notably when Darren Wrack and Neil Pointon managed to get in behind the visiting rearguard, but by and large this was a day for graft rather than craft and Graydon’s men were up for it.
The exceptional Richard Green led by example with a faultless performance at the heart of the defence, capped by his first goal for the club when he headed home a Dean Keates corner to set Saddlers on their way.
The blustery conditions and the uncertainty of Millwall keeper Tony Roberts may have contributed to Walsall’s second, with Wrack’s in-swinging corner clearing a crowded six-yard box and finding it’s way into the top corner.
From that point on Walsall looked in no mood to let their grasp of the game slip, despite an improved second half showing from the Londoners.
Jimmy Walker made one impressive close range block to deny the hard-working Andy Shaw, but that apart there was little more than routine chores for the Saddlers stopper.
It was the home side who carved out the better chances, with leading scorer Andy Rammell guilty of squandering two clear openings to reach the double figure mark for the season.
But Rammell was not to be denied and duly bagged his now accustomed goal – his 10th in 15 games – thanks to some impressive work from substitute Walter Otta.
The Argentinian striker introduced himself to the Bescot faithful with a lively 16-minute appearance that saw him flash one sweetly- struck effort just over the bar before his surging run paved the way for Rammell to fire home from close range 11 minutes from time.
That rounded off another impressive afternoon’s work although one man was still not entirely happy.
You can’t please all of the people all of the time, but the majority of the 4,237 would settle for this week in week out.
Millwall Unofficial site
The game started off as a pretty niggly affair. Early on Tony Roberts was clattered to the ground, but the referee elected to play on. On the floor Roberts did well to fumble the ball away, and he caught the follow-up cross. Almost immediately afterwards Roberts found himself copping the worst of it yet again, but this time the referee gave it.
It was not looking very promising for Millwall from the word go, it has to be said. The home defence had Shaw well sussed pretty early on and they were aided and abetted by our hopeless up-and-under tactics. With the average height of our forward line coming in at about 4″0′ and their defence towering above the floodlights, our long balls quickly acquired a degree of inevitability — wallop, cleared. Every time.
And then Walsall got their first. It was the simplest of corners: it was floated in, everyone missed it and it was casually headed home. Roberts was nowhere near it and, for that matter, neither was anyone else.
And still the long balls came, and still the home defence were eating them for breakfast. About our only chance of the half was when Kim Grant did well to make space for himself on the right and put in a good cross for the unmarked Harris. His header looked as if it was going to be well wide, but it was deceptive, and ended up going just the wrong side of the post with the keeper scrambling to make it.
Stuart went down and failed to get back up again at about the mid-way point, which made way for the return of Bow-Wow Bowry. He took the right wing position many feel suits him better than central midfield, Grant switched sides and Ryan reverted to his rightful left back role. All these positional changes made virtually no difference whatsoever, as almost immediately afterwards Walsall were 2-0 up. If the first had been a simple goal from a corner, then this was even simpler — it curled straight into the net without so much as going near another player. Especially not Tony Roberts, at any rate, who just watched it bend into the net. The cries of “dodgy keeper” from the home end were starting to be justified.
It might have been different had Paul Shaw got a penalty when, going clear on goal, the defender put his hands on his shoulders and appeared to be trying to leapfrog over him. The somewhat rotund referee had not been able to keep up with play throughout, and this was no exception — the offence went unpunished. In fairness we have absolutely no-one who looks vaguely like scoring from the spot, so one wonders if it really mattered that much in the end.
The referee was at fault again when Harris was elbowed by the byline on the right when surging forward. This was missed, but Harris seemed unperturbed and continued on, so the defender decided to take his legs. The result was a goal-kick. Stands to reason, really.
Millwall had a chance to reduce the defecit on half time when, with Walsall struggling to get the ball out of their own box and the keeper all over the shop, Bircham shot at a seemingly empty goal. Somehow the keeper managed to get back and save the shot, with Bircham dwelling just a few seconds too long.
If it was bad in the first half, it was worse in the second. We’d mustered a couple of vague chances in the first 45 minutes, but apart from a Shaw effort that went straight at the keeper and a Grant set piece that went just over, we failed utterly to produce any worthwhile shots on goal in the second half. We were lucky not to go 3-0 down as early as the 48th minute when Lavin, trying to be too elaborate was edged off of the ball leaving the winger with a clear run on goal. Fortunately his shot went just over.
On 50 minutes it seemed as if Rhino realised that neither Shaw or Harris looked vaguely like making any use of the long balls being knocked at them, and brought on Richard Sadlier for Harris. Lanky sod or not, we all know Sadlier is pretty mediocre in the air. It did seem to make some difference, though, with Millwall creating a couple of half chances that were easily cleared. It was during this period of almost-pressure that Grant had his set piece go just over, but that signalled the end of any Millwall competence, and we reverted to the crap we’d been watching up until that point.
The third goal for Walsall looked only a matter of time, and we were lucky when it didn’t arise from a fluffed Roberts kick. It went straight to the Walsall player, who controlled it with his arm. As ever the referee seemed to be somewhere in Peru, he was so far behind play, and Roberts found himself in a one-on-one situation. He just did enough to put the player off and the shot went wide.
Rhino brought his last sub on when Cahill came on for Newman, but we just weren’t at the races and the inevitable third goal came from our one of our own free kicks. The move broke down, giving Walsall the ball down the wing, and with the defence all over the shop he charged to the byline and hit the ball low across the face of goal. Roberts was nowhere and the first shot was actually backheeled off of the line by Robbie Ryan, but it wasn’t enough and the follow-up was walloped into the net.
And that was it. Looking over my notes I’ve probably written the least I’ve ever written in the last few years — there was hardly anything worth reporting from start to finish. Walsall weren’t any kind of all conquering super-team by any measure, we just didn’t play and we allowed the home side to make themselves look good.
Hardly anyone emerged with any credit from this one. Robbie Ryan did OK when moved into his proper position and probably by default gets man of the match. Stuart Nethercott was also slightly less crap than everyone else, but those two aside it was abysmal. Tony Roberts will almost certainly find himself dropped if another display like that is forthcoming. Lavin ran about and made a couple of tackles, but really didn’t do an awful lot and Fitzgerald looked decidely dodgy at times. Bowry did bugger all, Bircham ran about like a headless chicken, Newman was totally anonymous and poor Kim Grant didn’t have a clue what he was supposed to be doing as a winger. Up front, both strikers tried hard enough but was never ever going to achieve anything without the assistance of a small portable step laddder.
Some awful fixtures this week. Preston away on Tuesday is followed by Swansea away on Friday in the cup. I can’t see us getting an awful lot of change from Preston, who are playing extremely well at the moment, and for that matter I can’t see us getting much change from Swansea if we play like we did yesterday. God, it’s good to be back… I don’t think.