Archive for January, 2000

Crewe 2 Walsall 3

roger6 @ 11:28 am Saturday 22 January 2000

Brilliant 3 points for the Saddlers at Gresty Road this afternoon – Ray dropping Wrack for the first time since he joined the club 2 years ago. Matias and Harper played on the flanks, with Robins up front partnering Ricketts.

A game that could have had at least 10 goals, such was the open nature of the game. It was the Saddlers who dominated in the first half, deservedly going in 3-1 up thanks to goals from Bennett, Ricketts, and Harper. Chris Marsh’s foul in the box resulted in a penalty which Crewe converted.

The second half was a nervous affair, particularly after Crewe got one back midway through, but the lads hung on for their 3rd league win in a row.

Port Vale also won, keeping the pressure on, and we all look forward to a massive derby game against Wolves on Saturday, when a sell-out crowd of over 9,000 is expected.

Well done lads, well done Sir Ray, let’s keep it going.

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Sensational comeback

roger6 @ 11:28 am Saturday 15 January 2000

At half time in this game, as the players left to boos, it was looking depressing. No shots on goal, and even Ray Graydon admitting his players were second to every ball. But this was Sheffield United we were up against, a side transformed by the arrival of manager Neil Warnock – unbeaten since he took over.

Whatever Sir Ray said to the lads at half time, and rumour has it balti pies were involved, the 2nd half was a different story.

Mark Robins came on for Jamie Forrester, who looked keen but not match-sharp, and although he’s taken stick from the fans this season, in fairness Mark did have a big hand in changing the game. Twice in the opening minutes of the second half he helped set up chances for Darren Wrack, the best of them seeing Wrack’s effort blocked by the keeper’s legs.

One thing I noticed watching the game was that every time Walsall had a set piece, on-loan Tom Bennett went up to Gabby and said “let me have a go”. Every time Gabby said, no thanks. But following a throw-in, the ball came to Bennett, and he quickly whipped in a great ball to the box which caught United napping. Who was on hand, having made a blistering run, but captain Ade Viveash, who blasted home like Alan Shearer. His first league goal in ages.

Sheffield looked dangerous from every set piece they had – their goal had come midway through the first half after Jim had failed to claim a ball from a corner – and there were some nervy moments midway through the second half.

Then Darren was taken off, not before time as to be honest he looked out of sorts. Pedro came on, and immediately looked lively. By this time Kevin Harper had begun to make a telling contribution, reminding the crowd of what Wrack used to do to 2nd division clubs last season. And then Rambo came on from Micky Ricketts, who looks a slightly more effective player away from Bescot when on the counter-attack.

All three of Graydon’s changes were involved in the winner, eight minutes from time. Robins fed Pedro, who showed great skill down the line, his ball in eventually fell to Harper, who blasted it at the keeper, who couldn’t hold it, and the ball fell for Mark Robins to head home.

And then in the closing minutes 2 things I’ve never seen at Bescot before. First, the faithful cheering a Wolves win – and second, some tactically sound running the clock down play, chiefly architected by Kevin Harper and Tom Bennett – perhaps some experience playing.

All in all, a brilliant result for Ray’s men. And whisper it very quietly, as Vale have a game in hand, but we’re out of the bottom three.

Man of the match – shared between Harper for his second half display and Ade Viveash. Mr Paul Taylor needs to be on the phone to Jim Smith tonight to try and get the lad to stay at Bescot for the remainder of the season.

Poor Saddlers out of Cup

roger6 @ 11:29 am Saturday 08 January 2000

The Saddlers have been knocked out of the FA Cup after losing their 3rd round replay 2-1 against the 2nd division side.

Ray made four changes, forced because new signings Forrester, Bennett and Harper were all inelligible. Tony Barras kept his place in the side following the good win over Bolton – forcing a returning Ian Roper to sit on the bench.

First half saw much Gillingham pressure, with the Saddlers only occasionally threatening on the counter attack. It was very much like last season with the game-plan to try and soak up the home pressure, then hit them on the break. And on the half hour, Tony Barras rose brilliantly to power a header past the keeper. Unfortunately it was at the wrong end.

A few minutes later the recalled Bjarni Larusson found himself in space 30 yards out, and fired an unstoppable drive past Vince Bartram. Watch out for it next week on Sky’s “Goal of the Week” competition.

In the second half Gillingham missed a hatful of chances to take the lead, and in truth we rarely threatened. But the game went into extra time, and with ex-Saddler John Hodge now off the bench and causing nightmares for Gino down the wing, things didn’t look good for the Saddlers. So it proved. On 100 minutes Hodge raced past Padula again, crossed, and Thomson put the ball away past Jim Walker.

It looked as though we had pulled level five minutes later, when Pedro headed in a Keates corner (very similar to the second goal against Bolton) but it was ruled out for a push, to no real protest.

But in short a poor performance from the Saddlers. Darren Wrack had a very quiet game, and the midfield didn’t really do much. Sir Ray now needs to gather the lads and get them playing with the confidence to deal with a resurgent Sheffield United side (heavily beaten at Newcastle today) at Bescot next Saturday.

Walsall 2 Bolton 0

roger6 @ 11:29 am Monday 03 January 2000

A dramatically changed Saddlers line-up – 5 changes from the team that started against Palace. Roper had flu, Gadsby was dropped, so Marsh reverted to defensive duties and Tony Barras came in. Dean Keates went to the bench, as did Rambo, and Graydon played all his new signings – Jamie Forrester, Kevin Harper and Tom Bennett. A gamble, but it worked.

The first half saw Bolton just about shade it in terms of chances, but good work from super Jim saw the Saddlers heading into the break level. But in injury time a shot from Bukran was handled on the line by Paul Ritchie. He was sent off, and Walsall had a penalty, their first in league football I believe for over 60 games. And guess what? Gabby missed it – although it was a great save from the Bolton keeper.

The second half saw the Saddlers desperate to press home their numerical advantage. And on 63 minutes Micky Ricketts was on-hand to power home a header from a Bukran corner.

Super Jim then made several stunning saves before Pedro came off the bench to wrap it up in the 90th minute following a flowing, break-away move involving a great cross from Darren Wrack.

So a ray of hope for Walsall and their long-suffering fans, who this week have come under attack from none other than club chairman Jeff Bonser, who has publicly criticised the unofficial websites for posting criticism of his tenure. As a result he has instructed the official Walsall site to remove its links to the unofficial sites, thereby undoing a lot of the good work Steve Blake, the official Walsall webmaster, has done in the past few months, and simultaneously demonstrating how far behind other clubs Walsall are in terms of their commitment to the internet.

But let’s not this incident spoil a great result for Sir Ray’s men today – keep it up lads.

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