Archive for August, 2000

Walsall 3 Oxford 2

roger6 @ 11:11 am Tuesday 29 August 2000

Walsall won their fourth game in a row as they continued the best start in the club’s history. But once again the Saddlers made the fans sweat with another flowing attacking performance mixed with defensive uncertainty.

The league leaders found themselves behind after three minutes when Oxford first goal of the season gave them the lead when Joey Beauchamp hit a low volley past Jim Walker into the bottom right hand corner, after skipping past Ian Roper.

Walsall were unlucky as they had all the early play, with the team unchanged from the 4 – 1 victory over Swindon, and with Bukran and Keates running the midfield. Walsall’s pressure came off after 15 minutes when Darren Byfield’s header hit the post and was cleared for
Darren Wrack to cross deep to Paul Hall. Hall’s first shot cannoned back off a defender before his second attempt from a tight angle flew into the roof of the net.

Walsall continued to attack with Bukran and Keates going close, and Jorge Leitao hitting the post after a deep Brightwell cross. But Oxford regained the lead when a smartly taken free-kick set up Beauchamp to drill the ball past Walker despite his best efforts to parry the drive. The home side still looked the better team but went in at half time 2 – 1 down.

Tony Barras replaced Ian Roper at half time and Oxford failed to register a shot in the second-half as the Saddlers strived to level the match. Darren Byfield came close with a header, Wrack hit a low drive at the keeper and Bukran shot over as Walsall dominated the first 20 minutes of the second-half with Paul Hall and Leitao causing trouble down the right.

Walsall were becoming frustrated by a Oxford side who played well as a defensive unit and shouldn’t be where they are now. But the home side equalised when Leitao connected with a deep cross to head up and over ‘keeper Richard Knight into the net.

Walsall now went after the win, and Brett Angell came close after replacing Darren Byfield with a low shot being saved even tough he looked to have been tugged by his marker. The Saddlers nearly grabbed the lead on 80 minutes when a great long ball by Barras found Paul Hall who showed great control before crossing for Leitao to head narrowly wide. They even had a goal disallowed after 81 minutes when Leitao slotted home but was in an offside position.

But Walsall took the lead when a pin-point Paul Hall corner found Brett Angell’s head on 83 minutes, and the Bescot Stadium erupted. The Reds could have extended their lead, with the exciting Pedro Matias replacing Darren Wrack and setting up Leitao who saw his shot fantastically saved in the closing seconds.

Rapturous applause and relief accompanied the final whistle as Saddlers pulled off another great escape!

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Swindon 1 Walsall 4

roger6 @ 11:11 am Saturday 26 August 2000

Life is good. We won 4-1 today, we’re top of the league, we’ve scored 11 goals in 4 games, and Albion are bottom of division 1 with no points.

Walsall turned on the class today with a electric display of attacking football. Unchanged from the side who drew with Kidderminster in midweek, Saddlers started positively against a Swindon side yet to net in the league. Walsall scored within 4 minutes when a long clearance by Jim Walker was collected by Jorge Leitao. He played the ball to Gabby Bukran who sent a inch perfect ball into the Swindon area for Darren Wrack to collect on a diagonal run and finish cooly.

Swindon’s first attempt came on 7 minutes but Alan Reeves header was poor. Walsall continued their good start with pressure that had Swindon desperately kicking the ball into touch. Walsall’s back-line coped with the Robin’s long-ball approach and on 14 minutes Gabby Bukran was unlucky with a clever turn and shot. Byfield and Leitao were all over the Swindon rearguard with the help of winger Paul Hall.

On 18 minutes Walsall conceded against the run of play when they failed to properly clear a corner and Jamie Invincible drove home from close range. Walsall nearly went behind minutes later when Danny Invincible found himself clear but applied a finish not worthy of his name. On 26 minutes Walsall nearly saw a Swindon player hit his own net after Paul Hall’s deep cross. Walsall were having a good spell of possesion with Dean Keates and Jorge Leitao providing high levels of effort and skill.

Walsall regained the lead on 37 minutes when Leitao quickly took a throw-in produced by his harassesment of the Swindon full back. Byfield gave the ball to Hall who found pint-sized Saddler Dean Keates un-marked in the box to head home. Walsall made further chances but went in at half time 2-1 up.

A tribute to Paul Hall’s first half contribution was the subtitution
of Swindon’s left back Kim Heiselburg for Sol Davies. Hall was soon on the substitutes case beating him for pace and putting in a low cross which was just scrambled away.

The low point of the match was Walsall’s first booking in three games
and only their second of the season. Darren Byfield went after a lost cause and forced the ‘keeper to clear on the edge of the box. As they both went for the same ball Griemink was injured. The ref came to check the situation and bring on some attention. Enter the idiot!Alan Reeves came stomping over to push Byfield and starts playing his face. Byfield kept his cool but was still booked due to the action of the Swindon skipper.

Walsall were admittedley under pressure in the first 15 minutes of the second half, but they still carved chances whilst frustrating attacking Swindon, Darren Byfield, and Gabby Bukran both having speculative efforts saved.

On 59 minutes a throughball set Byfield on his way. This time his electric pace beat the keeper to the ball, the ex-Villa man lobbed him then stroked the ball into the net, 3 – 1 Saddlers. Justice for Byfield.

Walsall settled after the goal and probed the home side with a number of smart moves and gritty defensive work, Jorge Leitao causing problems with his strengh and skill, while at the back Tillson and Roper were having a good day at the office. Bukran came close on 70 minutes when his swirling free-kick flew just wide.

On 75 minutes Darren Byfield broke, he took on three before being pulled down just outside the area, the ref played on and Pall Halls’s pin-point cross was headed firmly home by Jorge Leitao.
With the game firmly out of Swindon’s reach Graydon made changes. He brought off Leitao and Hall and replaced them with Angell and Matias, Is this a sign of strength in depth?

Walsall were, however lucky a minute after the goal when Gary Alexander had an open goal beckoning, but Andy Tillson threw himself bravely infront of the striker who blazed over the bar. At this time confidence was high among both supporters and players

Ten minutes from time Tom Bennett replaced Gabor Bukran, who had started to committ a number of fouls, for which he could have collected a card. Walsall still had a chance to make it five when Brett Angell’s angled shot, heading for the top right hand corner, was superbly palmed away by the Swindon goalkeeper. Late on Byfield’s endless running showed as he suffered from cramp. Worryingly at the final whistle Pedro Matias left the field of play abruptly whilst the other players congratulated one another. The Spaniard not looking very pleased, maybe to do with an early discussion with Tom Bennett.

Walsall’s next game against Oxford on Tuesday will be a top versus bottom affair. Perhaps this will be a true reflection of the Saddlers progress taking into consideration the usual outcome of similar matches in the past.

Walsall 1 Kidderminster 1

roger6 @ 11:12 am Wednesday 23 August 2000

A determined Kidderminster side frustrated Saddlers with a showing they can well be proud of, the newly promoted Harriers held their own against a Saddlers side who simply weren’t at their best.

Walsall started with all three substitutes from the game with Oldham, with injured captain Tom Bennett making way for Dean Keates, while Jorge Leitao started in-front of Brett Angell, and Darren Wrack took the place of Pedro Matias in a unfamiliar left wing position.

The game started evenly with play being contested mostly in midfield, although Walsall created two early chances, the second of which saw Jorge Leitao squeeze the ball past the Harriers keeper only to see his goal-boand effort cleared of the line. But after 7 minutes Walsall were in-front when the big Portuguese striker ran on to a great ball steadied himself, before stroking the ball low to the left of Tim Clarke.

‘Walkover’ – we thought! No.

Not content with disappointing their brilliant supporters, Harriers got to the task. It was until the twentieth minute that Walsall had their next chance, not before the Kiddie number 21 Stewart Hadley had got in-front of Ian Roper at the front post, only to head narrowly wide. Until Byfield’s 20th minute chance the visitors had taken the game to Walsall, keeping possession but only making a couple of half-chances. Until Jorge Leitao’s through ball, collected by the Harriers keeper just before Byfield pounced, Walsall had been cooped in their own half.

At this period Walsall’s new-look back-line looked uneasy although Walsall born Dean Keates was scrapping well in midfield, and Paul Hall’s pace was causing trouble, the Saddlers nearly conceded when the impressive Hadley turned outside the box and hit a low shot just wide with Walker scrambling. It was Walsall’s turn to go close on 35 minutes when a pinpoint Darren Wrack cross found Leitao who’s looping header hit the top of the visitors net. Walsall were again grateful to Jim Walker on the 42nd minute when he bravely claimed a low Ian Foster cross at the feet of Hadley.

The following period of play saw a number of silly fouls by Walsall, but on the stroke of half time the exiting but under-supported Darren Byfield used his pace and skill to take on two defenders before shooting low and narrowly wide.

Walsall started the second period more positively although Hadley tested Walker before Wrack, Byfield, and Bukran all shot narrowly wide, with Saddlers regaining the passing play that had riddled Oldham on Saturday. On 51 minutes Leitao won a strong header to give Paul Hall the chance to tee up Wrack to shoot just over, and on 55 minutes Wrack was again guilty, blazing over after good work by Hall and Brightwell. Walsall again came close on 58 minutes when Byfield’s shot was blocked for Gabby Bukran to skim the post.

At this point Walsall were on top, with Kidderminster being forced to defend in numbers as Hall and Byfield impressed for the second game running, the pair seem to be forging a good partnership on the right-flank. Then Harriers came back to life.

Hadley broke the Walsall offside trap before hitting across the goal and seeing the ball clip the post and go wide, to the amazement of the visiting fans behind the goal. The resulting corner saw the improving skipper Andy Tillson get a good header away, before Bukran’s miss-kick allowed Harriers to send a deep ball to the back post where my Harriers man-of-the-match Hadley steered an great header home. The Kiddie fans went deservedly wild and Jan Molby gave the Saddlers fans the not so un-familiar sight of an overweight Dane leaping from the Bescot dugout.

The last 20 minutes were quiet with both sides creating chances, Byfield came close twice, while Walker made a good late save from Ian Foster, Walsall idol Siggi Eyjolffson replaced the impressive Leitao with five minutes to go, and he had time to go close twice before the end of the game.

Harriers soaked up their applause at the final whistle, as Saddlers left the pitch to jeers from sections of the crowd, they can only regret missing good chances, but credit must be given to a spirited, determined, Kidderminster side who played good football, led by the creative Stuart Hadley, and speedy winger Dean Bennett.

Walsall 3 Oldham 2

roger6 @ 11:12 am Monday 21 August 2000

With memories of May 1999 and ferocious vocal backing, Walsall opened their home season quite ironically against Oldham Athletic at the Bescot.

Walsall started well and imposed themselves on a limited Oldham side who spent the first 10 minutes camped in their own half. Walsall always looked bright, playing attractive attacking football and keeping possession well, Hungarian Gabor Bukran pulling strings in midfield, with new left back Zigor Aranalde and Pedro Matias, and the exciting duo of Paul Hall and Darren Byfield, both creating chances on their respective wings.

The break-through came on 11 minutes when Ian Brightwell’s deep cross to the back post found Paul Hall who squared the ball across the goal for Darren Byfield to poke home.

Walsall did not hold up the pressure after the goal but Oldham’s first real attack came soon after when the lively Carlo Corrazin forced Jimmy Walker into a smart save. Walsall still produced chances as both Brett Angell and Byfield were guilty of missing good chances after excellent build up play.

Oldham struck back after 40 minutes when Tom Bennett was adjudged to have fouled outside the center of Walsall’s goal-area. Oldham stall-wart Adams controversially struck a dipping free-kick into Whaka’s top left corner although the Walsall keeper was still arranging his wall, and the official seemingly was yet to blow his whistle.

Four minutes later a goal-mouth scramble ended in Oldham’s second goal when the Saddlers defence was too hesitant to make the clearance, and Oldham skipper Lee Duxbury nipped in to make it 2 – 1 to the Latics as half-time came.

The Saddlers spent the opening 15 minutes of the second half as they had the first with constant positive play, with Darren Byfield’s pace, skill, and ability to hold up the ball causing Oldham troubles as part of the fluidity of Walsall’s play. However Oldham defended well and were content to hoof the ball clear and soak up Walsall’s pressure, this looked like working as Walsall players and fans became frustrated as endless build-up and pressure came to nothing. Ray Graydon will however be reassured by the way Walsall’s defence coped with the scarce Oldham attacks, although the back line of Brightwell, Roper, Tillson, and Avaralde will need time to gel they look capable of being very solid as the season progresses.

The game hinged half an hour from the end with an inspired double-substitution the fading Pedro Matias was replaced by Darren Wrack, while Saddlers skipper Tom Bennett, struggling with injury, was replaced by Dean Keates.

The vital break-through came in the 75th minute when good wing play by Paul Hall allowed Ian Brightwell to put in a high cross which was flicked on by substitute Jorge Leitao who had earlier replaced a quiet Brett Angell. Fellow sub Darren Wrack saw the opportunity to bravely head home past Gary Kelly in the Oldham goal, and the Saddlers were deservedly back on level terms.

Walsall were unlucky not to go in-front seconds later as Portugese striker Leitao put in a deep cross and Paul Hall volleyed inches wide. Walsall continued to take the game to the visitors although they where twice thankful to Jimmy Walker for a couple of good saves when the Latics broke forward. The winner came on 89 minutes when Paul Hall crossed deep to the backpost where Darren Wrack nodded the ball to Leitao who set up Byfield who took his time before striking a superb half-volley home from an awkward position, sending the Saddlers fans into raptures.

This was Walsall’s second big come back after another 3 – 2 victory against Rotherham on the opening game of the season. Ray Graydon can be pleased by Walsall’s positive play, and determination against a hard working, unfashionable team. He can also take great pleasure out of the near 6,000 attendance and the performance of a certain man-of-the-match, Darren Byfield.

Walsall entertain Jan Molby’s Kidderminster on Tuesday in the league Cup, then travel to the County Ground on Saturday to face fellow relegated side Swindon Town.

Saddlers go 4th

roger6 @ 11:13 am Monday 14 August 2000

An amazing first day comeback for the Saddlers – trailing 2-0 after 53 minutes thanks to 2 goals from Mark Robins, Sir Ray’s new look side stormed back against Rotherham to take all 3 points, and start the season in 4th place.

Brett Angell started the scoring, with a neat header. A comical own goal brought us back on level terms, followed by another neat Angell finish 12 minutes from time sealing the points. By all accounts Zigor looks an inspired signing, crossing for one of the goals, and Angell looked dynamite upfront.

A top of the table clash this weekend – Walsall v Oldham, who romped to a 4-1 victory against newly-relegated Port Vale. Don’t forget to leave your prediction for this game at www.predictionleague.co.uk

Left back signs – crazy name

roger6 @ 11:13 am Thursday 10 August 2000

Crazy name, crazy guy – today the Saddlers made their 8th signing of the summer with the arrival of 27 year old Zigor Aranalde. He’s an attacking left back, and is big mates with Pedro Matias. Sounds good. Sir Ray has been tracking him for a while – he was on trial last summer.

Leitao signs

roger6 @ 11:14 am Thursday 03 August 2000

A busy week for Walsall, with a record-busting transfer. On Tuesday we signed 26 year old Portugese striker Jorge Leitao. He cost £150,000, just 25k short of our club record signing made many years ago.

Walsall drew 1-1 with Watford on Tuesday night, Darren Byfield scoring a last minute equaliser. On Wednesday a team mixed with reserve, youth and some senior players beat Bromsgrove 4-0, Siggy scoring 2, Wrack 1, and youngster Jamie Campbell the other.

Reports from the fans indicate we have an Australian defender on trial called Marcus Stergiopoulos. He also interests Lincoln.

Other reports, on teamtalk and elsewhere, reveal we are bidding for 34-year-old Andy Tilson, the Bristol Rovers defender who Sir Ray has been chasing for 2 seasons. A possible swap deal with Andy Rammell is surely wide of the mark.

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