Archive for January, 2003

Fifth Round Beckons

roger6 @ 11:54 pm Sunday 26 January 2003

The Saddlers march into the 5th round of the FA Cup for the second successive season with a deserved single goal victory over Wimbledon, also the victims of our last league win in mid December. Reaction from the fans on the message board below, as Bescot now looks forward to a new pitch, which will be in place before we kick off against Brighton next weekend. And word is Colin Lee should also have a couple of new players available for that crucial game – with Bradford’s late victory at Grimsby we have quietly slipped to 20th in the league, 6 points clear of Stoke in the drop zone.
Sheffield Saddler – I thought the defence was very good and Roper, Hay, Barras all played well together at the heart. Bazeley definitely man of the match, he was superb from start to finish, he is turning into the signing of the seasonn, pure class. Midfield struggled a bit without O’Connor.
Hull Saddler – thought three at the back & wing backs was very effective, especially with all the space that Bazeley found in the first half. I think Tony Barras deserves a special mention, especially as he seems to have become a fringe player as far as CL is concerned. Pity he didnt direct that free header on target though. Jorge seemed to end up as a right winger & I thought he ran his socks off. A lovely move leading up to the goal,which was beautifully taken by Zdrillic. I did think, however, that he looked knackered or is it just his lack of speed over 5 yards? I was surprised he wasn’t substituted in the last 10 mins.

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Reading 0 Walsall 0

roger6 @ 11:54 pm Sunday 19 January 2003

Anyone had enough of playing Reading yet? The Saddlers completed their fourth game against the Berkshire outfit on Saturday, coming away with a well-deserved point, particularly given the injuries Colin Lee has had to deal with. Much optimism that the final two weeks of January will see reinforcements to the squad, and possibly a new pitch laid, at the cost of £120k. Thoughts on the Reading game from the regulars on the message board:
Surrey Saddler – We rode our luck as Reading missed a couple of open goals but it was a defiant result none the less. I would have liked to see Zdrilic on earlier, as our front two looked somewhat ineffective today. Pedro looked better than I expected and put some intelligent balls about- not sure that he deserves a permanent place, however. I don’t think we had a decent chance on goal all afternoon, but the defence played well and overall we ground out a decent result.
Ian Gittins – We were lucky in that Reading hit the post once and missed two absolute sitters, whereas we never really had a clear-cut chance. Nevertheless, we matched them for effort and possession was pretty even. Oh, and by the way, the handful of bleary, glassy-eyed, lager-soaked numbskulls berating Corica for his Wolves history: any chance they might lay off the beer for one rare night, club together and buy themselves a brain cell to share?

Reading 1 Walsall 1

roger6 @ 11:54 pm Tuesday 14 January 2003

There weren’t many Saddlers there to see it but Colin Lee’s men battled to a brave cup victory over Reading last night to earn a 4th round clash at home to Wimbledon.
Darren Wrack opened the scoring after just seven minutes, which was cancelled out by an own goal by Zigor Aranalde. Jimmy Walker made some good saves in the second half – and there was a serious injury to defender Ian Roper before the game came to spot-kicks. Recent history has seen Walsall eliminated in the shoot-out lottery, including to Blackburn in the Worthington Cup earlier this season, but this time things went our way. Jimmy Walker saved Butler’s penalty, Reading’s first – and we never looked back.
On the message board GeordieSaddler took the opportunity after the game to pay tribute to club owner Jeff Bonser:
“A win over Wimbledon in the 4th round would mean Bonser would have presided over a rise from third to first, and establishment as a first division club, our best ever FA cup performance, and arguably the biggest ever day in the history of the club in Cardiff. Leaving aside the off the field arguments (which on the plus side could include 11 years succesive profit, ground/club development, and the appointment of two of the club’s most succesful managers in Lee and Graydon) surely on the field we are almost at the stage where the Bonser era becomes the undisputed golden age of Walsall FC (so far).

Walsall 0 Wolves 1

roger6 @ 11:55 pm Saturday 11 January 2003

A bitter defeat today against Wolves, and one that some fans are already blaming squarely on the poor Bescot pitch. On the message board Paul G said of Ndah’s winner: “It looked like a definite bobble on a divot to me despite some people seeming to blame Jimmy. Really harsh. If it happened last Saturday then fair enough we deserved to lose but today we were much better.”
Dave Mickle saw the goal as a Jimmy Walker mistake: “We did not deserve to lose today. Ok we created little but neither did the Wolves. Playing 5 at the back restricted our attacking options and Zdrilic looked as though he needs a few more matches to get fit. Poor Jim, I think he knows how much the match meant to the fans. He is still one of the best keepers in the division and lets hope he gets the mistake out of his mind quickly.”
But despite his disappointment, Sheffield Saddler believes there is still hope: “I am so sad and fed up because the players we have don’t deserve to play on such a surface, their confidence must be so so low when they play at home knowing what they have to play on. We will fight another day no doubt for sure. We WILL STAY UP, believe me.”

Walsall 0 Reading 0

roger6 @ 11:55 pm Sunday 05 January 2003

Despite a cracking free kick from Darren Wrack that almost snatched the win in the final minute, the Saddlers will be grateful to keeper Jimmy Walker for keeping them in the Cup after a string of fine saves on Saturday. The draw means we now face Reading on their patch twice in four days, with the replay scheduled for 14th January, kick off 19.45. Views from the fans on the message board:
Mike T – Looking for any positives from the game (to use one of Sir Ray’s favourites quotes) is difficult but it must be remembered that defending is also part of the game. Whilst it is worrying we had to defend for probably 75% of the game I thought Ropes and Carbon had good games against difficult,mobile and intelligent forwards. I know it is heresy to say but I thought Butler had a good game and based on yesterday I would have him in my team over Junior. Jimmy was tremendous with 4/5 top drawer saves and again I thought Bazeley had a good battle with the quick, elusive winger. The problem was attacking and keeping the ball. The passing was awful and I don’t think Zigor found a red shirt for the entire 90 minutes. Martin supported the defence and Bazeley in particular very well but he and Fitz who was anomymous for most of the game just never had control of midfield. I thought Corica started the game well but if he is wide right he has to receive the ball and indeed Wracky on the left to have any influence on the game.
Geoff Whiting – Thank God for Jimmy Walker, four world-class saves yesterday, yet BBC Match of the Day showed only a few seconds featuring Wracky’s last-minute free-kick onto the bar. Viewers could be forgiven for thinking we nearly won the game. That was unfair on Reading, who totally outclassed us today! Wakker deserved the exposure on TV tonight, it’s shameful that he didn’t get it ! I have to say I thought the Royals’ fans were brilliant today when Wakker was announced as our Man of the Match. Which other club’s fans would have stood and chanted “There’s only one Jimmy Walker” as they did today – that was brilliant and they deserved a win from their team, and will get it in the replay I think.

Forest 1 Walsall 1

roger6 @ 11:55 pm Wednesday 01 January 2003

A bright start to the New Year for Saddlers fans as Walsall took a well-earned point from their trip to the City Ground. The gap to the drop zone is not as wide as it was though, and Colin Lee and his men have much work to do to ensure Walsall continue to build on the massive strides the club has made over the past 12 months. Reaction to the Forest game from the message board regulars:
Cannock – As the teams left for half time i had already resigned myself to the fact that we would be playing second division football next year. The performance was diabolical, clueless, leaderless. I was even regretting parting with my £5 entrance fee. However, the second half performance was astonishing as we took Forest to the cleaners with attack after attack. After having witnessed a side that wouldn’t be out of place in division 3 we then saw a genuine first division side. I still cannot believe the transformation. Darren Wrack had without doubt his finest game for the Saddlers. He was on the right, on the left, battling in the middle as well as up front with the strikers. He ran his proverbial nuts off
Fish – The second half was astonishing, top of the league stuff for me. Forest were all over the place, they couldn’t live with us. Great performance from the fans as well. It’s only a pity that we didn’t capitalise. The difference for me was that we were more mobile, retained possession better and learned to play to Junor’s strengths by playing it in to his feet, it’s no use just lumping ball in the air to him. As a result he opened Forest up with a wonderful pass to Bazeley for the goal, and set Wrack up brilliantly just after that.

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