Archive for August, 1999

Walsall 4 Plymouth 1

roger6 @ 6:25 pm Wednesday 11 August 1999

Two late goals from supersub Siggy Eyjolfsson clinched Walsall’s victory, but not before Division Three Plymouth had given them a really tough fight.

The Saddlers had to rely on some fine saves from ‘keeper James Walker, who kept them in the game at vital times against a useful and workmanlike Argyle side.

At one stage, it looked as though the Mariners would still be in the hunt for their home leg in a fortnight’s time, but Walsall proved to have just that too much extra fire-power even after missing some chances.

Yet there were a lot of good pointers for Plymouth particularly in the impressive performance by 17-year-old striker Ian Stonebridge who scored their only goal.

For Walsall, Eyjolfsson looks to be worth a permanent place in the side, whilst newcomers Tony Barras and Gabor Bukran impressed once again.

Both sides made a good start and the first of the two ‘keepers into action was Argyle’s Ken Veysey who saved a neat header from Dean Keates.

However, the Division One side always had to be on their toes and in the fifth minute Chris Hargreaves sent a header narrowly over from a corner by Chris Leadbitter.

Then Plymouth were to the fore again when Mike Heathcote headed wide from a free-kick by Hargreaves.

It was end to end with Walker having to go down low to save from Stonebridge in the 13th minute and ten minutes later Walsall’s former Manchester United striker Mark Robins shot wide from close range.

In the 26th minute experienced Andy Rammell looked as though he would score the opening goal from a long throughball by impressive skipper Neil Pointon, but the big striker failed to control the ball.

Robins, the main culprit for missing Walsall’s chances, had a 31st-minute header go wide and two minutes later winger Darren Wrack missed a sitter when Heathcote slipped in trying to clear a pass by Chris Marsh.

Bukran found a moment to savour in the 35th minute. The former Hungarian Under-21 international scored his first goal for the club, a neat finish when a fine cross by Wrack was pulled back by Rammell.

Then Walker had to make a great one-handed save from Stonebridge to preserve Walsall’s tenous lead, and indeed it was not long before Argyle equalised. The goal came two minutes before the interval following a fine run by player assistant-manager Steve McCall and a shot by Hargreaves rebounded off Stonebridge’s back to leave Walker no chance.

Plymouth remained well in the hunt until well into the second half, although Veysey had to make a good 50th-minute save from Robins, who also sent yet another header wide five minutes later.

A turning point came in the 65th minute when home manager Ray Graydon made a double substitution, bringing on Bjarnolfur Larusson in midfield for Dean Keates and Darko Mavrak wide for Tony Daley.

Nine minutes later it was Mavrak who threaded through a superb pass for Robins to open his account for Walsall with a delightful curling shot over the header of Veysey.

Stonebridge almost snatched it back for Plymouth with a low 25-yard shot which Walker saved.

But then Graydon played his big trump card when bringing on Eyjolfsson for Rammell in the 80th minute.

Although Hargreaves missed a headed chance for Plymouth, Walsall closed the match up when Eyjolfsson stunned the visitors with two goals in five minutes.

First of all, Pointon found the tall Icelandic striker who finished clinically from an acute angle in the 84th minute.

Eyjolfsson then accepted a magnificent pass from Robins to score once again with just a minute remaining.

Indeed Eyjolfsson might well have had a hat-trick but sent a towering header narrowly over with seconds to go.

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Ray Graydon interview

roger6 @ 6:27 pm Saturday 07 August 1999

Ray has been speaking to the new Nationwide site following his Manager of the Year award:

Walsall’s Ray Graydon was the Nationwide League’s Manager of the Year last season for a remarkable achievement – taking the second division’s relegation favourites to automatic promotion on the tightest of shoe-string budgets.

Now the former Aston Villa player must repeat his magic just to keep the Saddlers in Division One, reckon the bookmakers who have again installed Graydon’s team among the favourites for the drop. And with disarming honesty, Graydon himself does not argue with the pre-season assessment of the bookies. “Just find me three teams to finish below us!”, he challenged me when I asked if his side will indeed be able to live with the likes of Blackburn Rovers, Nottingham Forest, Bolton Wanderers and Walsall’s West Midland neighbours Birmingham and Wolves. “There’s a lot of very strong teams in this division, teams who we certainly can’t compete with financially”, said the man whose great success last term came at the age of 50 and in his first season of football management. “But”, he added, “we’ll go into the new season in exactly the same way we did the last one.

“It was a case of gauging ourselves against the standard of the division we were in with the players I had at my disposal. I was expecting it to be difficult and that’s how it proved, but we produced a unit which had good discipline, great team spirit and a willingness to battle for every point on offer.

“We’ll have those assets again this season, I’m confident of that, but we all realise it’s going to be much tougher for us. I’ve got a bigger and stronger squad than this time last year, but we shall be coming up against top quality players at clubs who have been spending massive amounts of money.

“We shall be very restricted on the financial side again and I expect that 95 per cent of my signings will be free transfers. It’s frightening to see the amounts of money some clubs have spent, but we’ve got to go out and compete with them and we certainly won’t be backing away from anyone.” Graydon’s main pre-season signings have been ex-Villa and England winger Tony Daley plus central defender Tony Barrass, free-transfer captures from Watford and Reading respectively. If this pair prove as successful as the manager’s inspired trio of free signings 12 months ago – Andy Rammell, Neil Pointon and Darren Wrack – then Walsall could once again prove the bookies wrong.

“Our preparations have been spot-on”, said Graydon, “and if we can tweak a few noses and stay in the division I’ll be absolutely delighted”. But Walsall may have to do more than merely “tweak a few noses” if they are to survive in Division One, which Graydon readily admits.

So what, I wondered finally, would be the realist-manager’s words be to his players as he prepared to send them into action at the start of the season? “Put your tin helmets on, set your rifles and let’s get out of the trenches to go into battle together again”, came the reply.

From such a genial character, that’s fighting talk. Watch out for those Saddlers, Division One..

Walsall 0 Swindon 0

roger6 @ 6:26 pm Saturday 07 August 1999

Manager Ray Graydon included four of his five summer signings in this starting line up. Tony Barrass partnered Adrian Viveash at the heart of the defence with mid-fielders Gabor Bukran and Tony Daley also starting while Mark Robbins partnered Andy Rammell up front.

It was Hungarian mid-fielder Bukran who registered the games first effort on goal after some impressive build up play from Saddlers.

Marsh Viveash and Pointon all featured in the build-up with Rammell contributing a clever dummy that saw Robbins lay the ball back to Bukran whose low drive was easily gathered by Talia.

Swindon’s first sortie entered Saddlers half, forced Marsh into a hasty clearance after Onuora had headed into the area.

The home side had started in confident mood and should have taken the lead on 4 minutes, when last year’s leading scorer Rammell escaped his marker in the areato meet Marsh’s cross only to head disappointingly wide of target.

Walsall were called into defensive action again when former Villa winger Walters delivered a teasing in-swinging cross from the right but the threat ended when Ref. Wolstenholme penalised Onuora for pushing at the far post.

Bukran had shown some nice touches during the early stages and he started Walsall’s next attack on the visiting goal helping the ball onto Keates whose long ball forward towards Wrack forced Talia to race outside his area and hack the ball to safety.

Swindon were looking to utilise the powerful Onuora at every opportunity and Saddlers were forced into some desperate defending after the striker had heavily held off Viveash inside the area with Marsh again providing the necessary clearance.

Saddlers responded immediately with Pointon delivering a raking long ball up to Wrack, who controlled neatly before tee-ing Robbins up for a first time volley that flew over the bar.

A misplaced pass from Barras had Walsall back-pedalling as Swindon worked the ball wide to Walters, he then cut inside before unleashing a powerful drive that was bravely blocked by Keates.

Daley and Pointon then combined down the left with Pointon breaking in behind the Swindon defence before delivering a superb first time cross into the danger area which Robbins rose to meet but the striker could only steer his header straight at Talia.

Rammell saw his efforts to muscle his way towards goal bring little reward on 22 minutes, when he chased a long ball from Marsh into the area before being crowded out by Hulbert and Williams.

Saddlers had looked reasonably comfortable as the game reached the mid-way point of the first half, but a careless pass from Bukran caused some alarm as Onuora gained possession before drilling a left foot shot wide of Walker’s post.

Saddlers earned their first corner of the season 25 minutes but they failed to make the most of the opportunity when Keates provided a dissappointing cross that Talia gathered under no challenge.

A strong run from Ndah forced Walsall onto the retreat with the mid-fielder powering away from Daley and Bukran, fortunately for the home side his intended pass took a timed deflection off Barras allowing Walker to gather.

Saddlers were inches away from opening their account on 32 minutes when a superbly delivered free kick from Wrack caused problems for the visiting defence with Robins seeing his powerful header shave the cross bar.

Within 30 seconds the home side were back on the attack and saw appeals for a penalty waived aside after Gooden had barged into Rammell as the striker attempted to reach a cross from Robins.

Swindon skipper Leitch was stretchered off on 35 minutes with what looked like a knee injury sustained after a challenge on Daley.

Leitch was able to return to the fray 3 minutes later after lengthy treatment.

Walker was called upon to make his first serious save of the game 3 minutes before the interval when he reacted smartly to tip over a 30 yard free kick from Walters.

Debutante Barras then came to his side’s rescue heading clear a cross from Grazioli following a sweeping move from the visitors involving Walters and Leitch.

Daley had made little headway down the left but had Talia scrambling across his area to punch clear his cross with Bukran seizing on the loose ball trying his luck with a long range effort that sailed harmlessly over.

The game went into stoppage time and there was a scare for Walsall when Onuora fell theatrically under a challenge from Keates just inside the area but the referee waived away the visitors shouts for a spot kick.

Half time: Walsall 0 Swindon 0

Both sides began the second half in disappointing fashion each guilty of squandering possession too easily.

The flow of the game was not being helped either by a series free kicks, one of which resulted in Hulbert gaining the games first caution following a crude challenge on Daley.

Swindon weren’t afraid to make their phycical presence felt and the concession of another free kick this time for a pull by Keates on Leitch gave Walsall another opportunity to break the deadlock.

While Swindon were contesting the referee’s decision, Pointon reacted quickly to deliver a pin point cross towards the on-rushing Viveash, but the former Swindon man was unable to control his header sufficiently with the ball going just wide.

The Route 1 approach almost earned Saddlers a reward just before the hour mark when Robins just failed to reach Rammell’s flick on from keeper Walker’s clearance.

Swindon were now enjoying a brief spell of possession, although their route to goal was twice halted by timely challenges from Wrack, who was enjoying an impressive game in the middle of the park. Then had Saddlers retreating again with another powerful surge forward that ended with a well struck shot straight at Walker.

The visitors were now looking the more confident side, with Walsall struggling to make any inroads passed the well marshalled rearguard.

But after looking lack lustre going forward Walsall gave their fans some hope of making a much needed breakthrough when Marsh and Robins combined neatly down the right with the latter then turning sharply seeing his right foot shot held by Talia at his near post.

Swindon made the first change of the afternoon when an ineffective Grazioli was replaced by Griffthin after 68 minutes.

The home side suffered three scares in the space of a minute when firstly Walker denied Onuora at point blank range and then from the resulting corner produced a stunning full length save to push aside Hall’s sweetly struck volley. The danger still wasn’t over for Saddlers as Keates was called upon to make a timely goal-line clearance from Taylor’s header.

Saddlers made a double change 11 minutes from time with Keates and Wrack being replaced by Ricketts and Larruson.

Larruson almost snatched a late winner for the home side when he unleashed a powerful low drive that Talia managed to grab at the second attempt inches from his line.

Robins joins Saddlers

roger6 @ 6:28 pm Tuesday 03 August 1999

Former Manchester United and Norwich striker Mark Robins has signed for the Saddlers on a free transfer from Manchester City.

The 29 year old, who has played only 5 games in the last two seasons, represents a big gamble for Walsall, and follows the signing of the equally injury-ravaged Tony Daley.

Robins impressed in pre-season games after having been on trial at the Bescot for a month.

Oxford 1 Walsall 3

roger6 @ 6:28 pm Sunday 01 August 1999

A good performance by the lads against Oxford on Friday night, resulting in a 3-1 win.

Groggy united given timely reminder
Oxford Utd 1, Walsall 3
OXFORD United’s pre-season build-up ended on a disappointing note as they slipped to defeat in the friendly for the Bill Halsey Memorial Cup at the Manor Ground last night.

Malcolm Shotton’s side, boosted by the 1-0 win over Premiership Derby on Wednesday, were given a stark reminder of football’s harsh realities.

A failure to take their chances and an injury to centre back Steve Davis proved the turning point as Saddlers boss Ray Graydon, the former United assistant manager and player, enjoyed a happy return.

United should have taken the lead in the 16th minute when Steve Anthrobus hammered his shot inches over the bar after Andy Thomson headed back Jamie Cook’s centre

Joey Beauchamp then tested Walsall keeper James Walker after bursting through before Paul Powell set off on a dazzling run into the penalty area only for his shot to lack pace and direction.

But then, against the run of play, Walsall took the lead in the 33rd minute.

Davis, who was still feeling groggy from an earlier collision, fouled Andy Rammell just inside the Oxford half.

Neil Pointon took the free-kick quickly, and with Rammell escaping Davis’s clutches, the Saddlers striker headed back across goal for the unmarked Darren Wrack to blast past Paul Lundin from 12 yards. Four minutes later, United were further behind. Mark Robins, looking suspiciously offside, burst on to a long through ball.

And although he was unable to capitalise on the chance, the ball broke to Rammell, who crossed for the onrushing Dean Keates to crash home a volley off the underside of the bar.

Davis was immediately replaced by Mark Watson, but the damage had been done.

United got back into the game in the 55th minute when they took advantage of Walsall being down to ten men with Tony Barras off the pitch with a cut eye.

Cook picked out Anthrobus with a deep centre and the big striker powered a header into the bottom corner to score in his third successive game.

But Walsall wrapped up the victory in the 67th minute when Pointon’s low left-wing cross was slotted home by Rammell from close range.

Robins had the chance to increase Walsall’s lead, but Lundin blocked well with his legs.

Shotton gave a run-out to triallist Ben Abbey, who scored over 30 goals for Crawley in the Dr Martens League last season.

And he almost made it a night to remember with a long-range drive which looped up off a defender, and clipped the top of the bar.

Oxford Utd: from Lundin, Robinson, Powell (Shepheard 81), Murphy (Fear 81), Davis (Watson 37), Gilchrist (Whelan 81), Cook (Abbey 70), Tait, Anthrobus, Thomson (Weatherstone 58), Beauchamp. Subs not used: Arendse.

Walsall: Walker, Marsh, Pointon (Hinton 67), Roper, Wrack, Robins, Rammell (Eyjolfson 82), Keates, Daley (Mavrak 90), Thomas, (Ricketts 79), Barras (Viveash 55). Subs not used: Green, Larusson, Emberson.

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