Archive for September, 2000

Walsall 5 Notts County 1

roger6 @ 11:04 am Saturday 30 September 2000

A superb Walsall display ended in County’s proud away record being smashed at ‘Fortress Bescot’. The Saddlers who are yet to lose at home this season in the league, added to their goal difference in a more than convincing performance.

The Saddlers, unchanged from the encouraging midweek draw with West Ham, were ahead after just four minutes when Jorge Leitao’s clever flick-back set through Pedro Matias for the Spaniard to skip past one player before driving low into the bottom right corner.

The Saddlers were later unfortunate when Hall came close, and Angell was unlucky when Matias’ beautiful through ball found Aranalde who’s pin-point cross found Angell to who hit the bar. But the pressure paid off and on 38 minutes Angell capitalised on the loose ball and poached Walsall’s second goal against a bewildered Magpies side.

However County’s first real effort resulted in an early second half goal as a deep corner found Mark Stallard to close the gap. But the Saddlers pressure restored the two goal advantage when Tom Bennett thumped home following some terrible Notts defending.

Jorge Leitao was having a good game, he already had two assists to his name when he took on a Brett Angell through ball down the left wing. The Portugese striker went in-field took on no fewer than three defenders before calmly slotting home.

Leitao was later replaced by Darren Byfield and it took the ex-Villa man no time to finish his goal drought. On 72 minutes he converted a great header with his first touch of the match following another superb cross from Zigor Aranalde.

Byfield should have scored again when Angell’s exquisite chip hit the bar, but he scuppered the rebound. Notts came close twice before full time but the home side looked dangerous until the final whistle.

Walsall now average two goals per game in the league, and lead by three points.

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West Ham 1 Walsall 1

roger6 @ 11:05 am Wednesday 27 September 2000

A West Ham side at full strength aside from Ferdinand and Sinclair, were outplayed by a superb Saddlers performance tonight in the rain at Upton Park. Despite conceding a soft headed goal by Lomas with only 2 minutes gone, Walsall battled back and should have taken the game into extra time. 15 goal attempts – 10 on target, but the Saddlers bow out of this season’s Worthington Cup.

Jorge Leitao scored with a header from a Pedro Matias corner to equalise on the night after only 6 minutes. Walsall clearly benefited from Sir Ray’s astute reading of West Ham’s weaknesses in the first leg – the London side’s defending from corners was amateur. Never have I seen Walsall look so threatening from the set piece – and we had plenty of chanes – 16 corners in all, to the home side’s 6.

West Ham turned up 5 minutes early for the second half – but even Harry Redknapp’s undoubted verbal volleys couldn’t rouse the Hammers. Kanoute rightly had a goal ruled out for offside, but Darren Byfield, on as a sub for Angell, missed a brilliant chance midway through the second half, when Pedro skipped past the defence to send in a cross which Byfield planted too close to Hislop.

As the game entered the last 10 minutes the ageing West Ham full backs, Winterburn and Pearce, were clearly on the back foot, and the Saddlers really turned the screw. Amazingly Walsall had an effort cleared off the line on 90 minutes following a goalmouth scramble. Then, just when we thought it couldn’t get any more agonising, Walsall had an effort that cannoned off the keeper and hit the bar.

Harry Redknapp afterwards paid full credit to Walsall, saying we “played some great stuff – you can see why they are top of their division.”

Great work from the Saddlers fans who outsang the 10,000 home fans keeping up a constant Barmy Army chant throughout the second half. Let’s take this form and put 5 past Notts County on Saturday.

Wrexham 0 Walsall 1

roger6 @ 11:05 am Saturday 23 September 2000

Walsall got back to winning ways with an assured away victory against Wrexham in the Nationwide Division 2.

Walsall started poorly with the home side having the majority of the play and creating afew early chances, most notably Darren Ferguson, son of Alex, hit a long range shot under the bar only for Jim Walker to save well. Walker was extended only a few more times before on 29 minutes Jorge Leitao turned the game.

The Portugese striker took the ball in the area with no support, turned cleverly and drove the ball home. 1 – 0 Walsall.
The goal turned the game as Walsall became more attacking and started to look more confident, with the Walsall rear-guard, looking secure although Zigor Aranalde was struggling with the Wrexham right-winger. However the half ended with Walsall one goal to the good.

The second half was fairly equal with both teams having chances of scoring, Darren Byfield spawned three good chances after superb Walsall build-up play, and Wrexham can feel they should have had a penalty when Aranalde pulled back Faulconbridge in the area. But the scores remained the same and the Saddlers left with a well needed first win in four and another clean-sheet.

Injured Dean Keates made a late appearance as substitute, so he may return to the side to face West Ham in midweek.

Walsall 0 West Ham 1

roger6 @ 11:06 am Tuesday 19 September 2000

Great work from all Saddlers fans who showed up at the Bescot tonight, as Walsall lost the first leg of their Worthington Cup second round clash with West Ham 1-0 amid torrential rain.

Harry Redknapp, the West Ham manager, said after the game that Walsall “were a First Division side”, and possessed “a lot of quality down the left hand side”.

The thousands watching nationwide on Sky TV witnessed a match devoid of much goalmouth action. Both sides had had only 1 shot on target until the 84th minute when Rio Ferdinand’s shot following a corner smashed against the underside of the bar, the ball rocketed around the penalty area, before falling to debutant Jerome Defoe who scored with an assured turn and shot.

If ever the Saddlers were going to have a shot at beating the Hammers, it was tonight. Such is the injury crisis at Upton Park Winterburn was in midfield, and Cole and Sinclair were playing up front. But as the commentators rightly said, Walsall didn’t get the ball out wide often enough to test the pace of Pearce and Winterburn. Byfield looked lively in patches, but Hall and Matias just weren’t involved enough.

Arguably Walsall’s best opportunity came went Pedro performed magic on the touchline to dance past 3 Hammers defenders, before delivering a great cross which just evaded the on-rushing Byfield and Leitao.

So it’s onto Upton Park next Wednesday for the second leg of a clash we’re not out of, but the home side will have a stronger side out for sure.

And for Sir Ray – it is four games without a win, and just one goal for in those 360 minutes. Have we started to sacrifice the attacking flair of the opening games to try and tighten up at the back?

If anyone knows who that streaker was as well – let us know on the message board.

Walsall 1 Bournemouth 1

roger6 @ 11:06 am Saturday 16 September 2000

Walsall didn’t deserve to lose the game, but didn’t deserve to win either, so Wade Elliot’s last minute equaliser for Bournemouth assured both teams were satisfied with the result, one more so than the other.

If we are to contend as Champions this year we can’t afford to drop points against lower opposition, the way Walsall lined up and played today would gain an acceceptable result in midweek against West Ham.
Walsall started with a negative, defensive team, leaving playmaker Gabby Bukran out, aswell as the impressive Jorge Leitao.

The Saddlers started the brighter team, with Walsall’s defence again firm with Andy Tillson looking after well-built Cherries forward Steve Fletcher well. However Walsall’s central midfield pairing of Keates and Bennett failed to feed the wings, and other than Keates’ early drive and a deflected Bournemouth effort, very little happened in the opening 25 minutes.

Walsall broke the deadlock on 26 minutes when a deep right-wing cross found Brett Angell who with the aid of a defender steered a header home past Gareth Stewert. After the goal Bournemouth pressed Walsall but were detered by more good defensive play by the back four, the home team came close on 43 minutes as Angell, otherwise quiet, headed just over. The half ended with the Reds one goal to the good.

Walsall attempted to add to the lead after the break, but were lacking up-front with wingers Paul Hall and Pedro Matias showing they could squeeze in chances but being badly underfed, therefor Darren Byfield wasn’t getting any ball, and if Brett Angell did, his control was awful.

A series of subsutitutions followed to attempt to subdue Bournemouth’s gallant attempt to level the score, but Graydon chose to pack midfield, and rather than replace the inaffective Angell with Leitao, he took off Byfield, and finally replaced Angell with Bukran.
Gabby nearly made an instant impression when he headed through for Matais to clip just over the bar, but Walsall were forced to sit back an defend their lead, as apposed to adding to it.

The Saddlers held out and a great save from Walker from a long range effort seemed to settle the game, until the last minute when, eventually, Bournemouth deservedly leveled.
A long range effort hit both posts, Walker amazingly saved the rebound, before Elliot poked home from a yard out.

At home against a struggling team Walsall should have taken the game to Bournemouth, as it was we played with two defensive midfielders and an ball-winning, strong centre forward, who was not performing but was keeping another quality striker on the bench.

Serious questions can be posed to the attitude Walsall took to this
game, amazingly we still lead the table, but the pack are closing in.

Luton 0 Walsall 0

roger6 @ 11:07 am Wednesday 13 September 2000

A Tuesday night in Luton is nobody’s idea of a good time, and the Saddlers team that boarded the bus back to Bescot after the match will rue a succession of missed chances that should have seen them grab all three points.

Sir Ray made three changes, as he said he would, from the team who lost at Bury – Leitao, Bennett and Wrack coming in for Hall, Angell and Bukran.

Ashamed to say it was the first time I’d see the Saddlers this season – and I was looking forward to seeing the 15-goal strikeforce in action. Typical then that 90 minutes produced no goals.

In the first half Byfield and Jorge showed some good touches, particularly the ability to hold the ball up and turn. But we were a bit one-dimensional, always trying to feed Wrack, and Luton had learnt the lesson of 2 years ago (when Wrack destroyed them in 3 different games) and frequently had 3 men on him as soon as the ball reached him.

What Tom and Deano should have done in the first half is give more of the ball to Pedro. Because in the second half he gave Locke a torrid time, combining well with Zigor Aranalde and supplying a few good crosses.

Let’s go through the Saddlers near misses. I would mention the Luton ones but they only had a single effort all evening – when Jim Walker smartly tipped round a volley from Spring on 86 minutes.

14 minutes in a deep cross from Byfield – note to Sir Ray, get the lads working more on these as we frequently had chances at the far post, but the lads were a bit slow in racing in to meet them – resulted in Wrack hitting the post. From 4 yards out Darren really should have done better.

The Luton keeper also saved his side near the end of the first half when he raced out of goal to clear, denying Byfield a certain opportunity. But he was powerless to prevent a Byfield header early in the second half – unfortunately the effort clipped the crossbar.

Midway through the second half we really should have gone 1-0 up when Byfield smashed the offside trap, but like those efforts Ricketts missed at Palace, he couldn’t finish the job, and Abbey pulled off a great save.

So, disappointment for all Saddlers fans – we should have beaten Luton comfortably. They looked a very weak side, particularly in attack – and were apparently stuffed by Northampton on Saturday, who could have had a hatful. Perhaps Bukran should have played to open up their defence more, although as mentioned their keeper had a great game, and in central defender Boyce (an England U21 target) they had the best player on the pitch.

A question for the Luton directors – to pay £14.50 for a ticket in the main stand which turns out to have the entire goal obliterated by a pillar is unacceptable. A letter will follow to the Football Authorities, as clubs are obliged to print on the ticket “restricted view” under such circumstances. And to the Luton fan who stuck chewing gum on my seat, to quote Alan Partridge: “scum. sub human scum.”

This report on the game from Luton fan Ben Elwes, a Pedro Matias lookalike who recently celebrated his wedding to Adeline.

Luton’s young side fought manfully to gain a point against a more experienced, table-topping Walsall side. Although Walsall had the best chances it was a game in which both defences were in control, as the result suggests.

Emerson Boyce was again commanding in the centre of Luton’s defence, and he pulled off a couple of goal-saving tackles. Nathan Abbey also looked far more assured than he did in some matches last season.

Although Luton competed and battled well in midfield, there was a worrying lack of link-play between midfield and attack, and very few clear chances were created. Walsall looked like a solid unit who will always be hard to beat, and also had more of a cutting-edge upfront than the Hatters.

However, on the night Walsall did not appear to have enough flair to break the deadlock. Dean Keates, their scurrying midfield general, perhaps most personified their team effort.

A draw was the right result.

Ricketts on the mark

roger6 @ 11:08 am Tuesday 12 September 2000

Ex-Saddler Michael Ricketts has made a blinding start to the new season – scoring 5 goals in 5 appearances as sub for Bolton. Let’s hope Paul Taylor put that 20% sell-on clause in!

This from today’s Daily Telegraph:
MICHAEL RICKETTS, Bolton’s £250,000 bargain buy from Walsall, gave another match-winning display as a substitute last night at Blundell Park with his fifth goal of the season.

Only 17 minutes after being brought on in place of Dean Holdsworth, 21-year-old Ricketts took his 70th minute chance brilliantly from a superb through ball by Per Frandsen.

It was a goal that strengthens Bolton’s hopes of going one better with automatic promotion this season after being pipped in the play-offs last May.

But manager Sam Allardyce, who has wheeled and dealed astutely despite financial constraints, since arriving at the Reebok Stadium last season, refuses to make too much of Wanderers’ early-season position, saying: “I do not look at the league table until after the first 12 matches.”

Bury 2 Walsall 0

roger6 @ 11:09 am Sunday 10 September 2000

It had to end sooner than later – after a perfect league start, Walsall’s 6th outing of the campaign ended in a 2-0 defeat at Bury, and by all accounts we were a bit lucky to keep them to two.

Saddlers fan Simon Turner commented on the message board: “Having gone to match today I was very disappointed with our performance. We played ok first half, but second half we were terrible, we couldnt string 2 paces together to save our lives and created nothing at all. I the second half Bury didnt give us anytime at all on the ball and started o get a bit physical, this didnt suit us at all. Bt a word of warning – we will have to do better than this against physical teams as we have to play a lot more in this division yet. We won’ always have time on the ball like we did in the first half. No single player performed well except Walker who made 2 outstanding saves in the first half and Byfield who showed some excellent touches and skill. We won nothing in midfield. The defence, especially full backs were caught out of position far too much
and Brightwell distribution was complete rubbish, my Granny could have passed to more Walsall players than he did.”

The writer on sports.com was blunt in his summing up: “This result sends a message out to the rest of the division that Walsall are far from invincible”

Rammell joins Wycombe

roger6 @ 11:09 am Friday 08 September 2000

Walsall legend Andy Rammell has joined Wycombe in a £50,000 deal. The veteran striker whose 20 goals were a major factor in our promotion season 2 years ago was given permission to look for another club last month.

Walsall’s great start to the season, with goals flying in from Byfield, Leitao and Angell, meant Rambo didn’t stand much chance of a starting place. Keen for first team football, both parties agreed it was best for him to move on.

A big thanks from all Saddlers fans to Andy, and best wishes for the future. He is believed to be going straight into the Wycombe squad who play in front of the Sky cameras on Friday night.

Late Byfield goal seals it

roger6 @ 11:09 am Wednesday 06 September 2000

Ray Graydon made a change from Saturday’s victory over Wigan as Pedro
Matias replaced the injured Darren Wrack as the Saddlers progressed into the second round of the Worthington Cup against local rivals,
Kidderminster Harriers at Aggborough.

The game, much hyped by local media, failed to spark into life as the Saddlers shared equal amounts of possesion although they had the majority of the goal scoring opportunities. Brett Angell should have converted a free header on eight minutes, and got another head at goal on 17 minutes repelled by Stuart Brock, as Walsall maintained a period of 20 minute pressure.

On 25 minutes Walsall nearly scored from consecutive corners, and the third nearly saw Pedro Matias score a fluke goal when his inswinging cross was misjudged by the keeper but missed the far post by inches.

Angell came close for the visitors before the home side registered their first effort on 34 minutes but the weak Hadley header was easily collected by Walker. Walsall continued to play well without looking on top form, with Tillson and Keates coming in for special praise, both with biting performances when others looked tired.

Barry Horne blazed over the bar, and left-back Zigor Aranalde was booked for a mistimed tackle as the half ended goal-less.

The second half was similar to the first with Harriers having more possesion whilst the Saddlers always looked more likely to score. But it was the Harriers who found the net on 61 minutes when Hadley headed home a deep free-kick, however the Kiddie striker who scored at Bescot was adjudged to have pushed a defender and the goal was disallowed.

Walsall were shook into action and spawned several chances but lacked that final bit of bite, as Angell twice squandered opporetunities in the box as Aranalde and Matias exposed Harriers right flank. On 81 minutes Darren Byfield replaced Jorge Leitao and within three minutes he had won the tie for Walsall.

Byfield collected the ball 20 yards out after a defensive mistake gave Brett Angell the chance to charge down the keepers clearance. As the goalkeeper scampered back to his goal he was greeted by the sight of Byfield’s delightful chip dipping past the underside of the bar.

As full time beckoned both teams came close, but Walsall were deservedly the winners against a Kidderminster side who can be proud of giving Walsall their toughest ties of the season thus far.

Walsall travel to Bury this Saturday for a second versus first tie where Saddlers can gain an eight point lead of Division Two.

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