7,000+ at Bescot for a Boxing Day farce that told the story of the season so far – if you fail to put away chances, you will get punished in this division. And, time for honesty, Sir Ray’s front two of Rammell and Robins are the weakest strike pairing in this division, with the possible exception of Swindon. And where are we this Christmas? Facing relegation, a point above Swindon.
Contrast this with Tranmere, who today looked a very, very ordinary side. Their finances are poor – but they still went out a few weeks ago and bought a Â£500k striker – Wayne Allison, a fact pinpointed by ex-saddler David Kelly as the difference in mentality between the Walsall board and the Tranmere board. And today the winner was scored by Allison, after Jimmy Walker fumbled his header on the line.
A goal-less first half saw long spells of Saddlers pressure. Gino and Pedro were outstanding – Rambo had a header brilliantly saved on the line, and the linesman made a name for himself by demonstrating a fundamental ignorance of the offside rule.
On a day when you’re guaranteed one of your biggest gates of the season, a question for Mr Whalley? Would it be a good idea to open all your refreshment stands? Perhaps then we might have got a cup of tea and returned to our seats in time to see Gabby Bukran fire in the opening goal on 46 minutes after good work from Robins.
The following 20 minutes of the second half saw Walsall miss four, probably five gilt-edged chances, the best falling to Mark Robins, one-on-one with the keeper. A chance that many strikers would have put away. But his shot was blocked by the inspirational keeper.
Tranmere broke Saddlers’ hearts with two killer strikes midway through the second half – the first a shot from the edge of the box by Andy Parkinson, the second a header from Allison that Walker tried to claw back from the line.
A flu-striken Sir Ray came out of the stands to try and revive the team for the last 15 minutes, but even the introduction of Siggy and Micky couldn’t hide the fact the Saddlers had lost their shape.
The disappointing result cannot mask a good performance from the majority of the Saddlers team, particularly Bukran who comfortably won the man of the match. But defeats puts Sir Ray’s men in a hole – five points now from safety, and heading back to the 2nd division.