Archive for August, 2003

Walsall 1 Cardiff 1

roger6 @ 12:04 pm Saturday 30 August 2003

Gareth Whalley grabbed a heart breaking equaliser FIFTEEN seconds from time to deny Walsall all three points in a dramatic match at Bescot today. Jorge Leitao opened the scoring after Zigor Aranalde’s penalty was saved, before the Spaniard was red carded along with Cardiff’s Alan Lee. Substitute Gareth Whalley snatched a last gasp equaliser.
The Saddlers registered the first attempt on goal, when Steve Corica fired wildly over from a tight angle after a pass from Paul Merson. Cardiff at last found their shooting boots on 19 minutes, but Jimmy Walker saved Graham Kavanagh’s free kick, diving to his right and holding onto the ball. Moments later, Robert Earnshaw nipped in between a hesitant Danny Hay and Walker but only succeeded in lifting the ball over the bar. Jorge Leitao, put clean through inside the area by Merse, then hesitated and eventually fired in a weak attempt which trickled into the arms of goalkeeper Neil Alexander. Moments later, Corica began a run, flicking the ball over the head of one defender, then another but Merson’s final ball was just too close to the keeper with Leitao lurking. Just before half time, a cross from Lee on the left picked out Earnshaw unmarked at the far post but somehow, Zigor and home debutant Paul Ritchie managed to block his effort not once but twice.
Six minutes into the second half, James Collins handled a cross under pressure from Aranalde and referee Phil Joslin awarded Walsall their first penalty of 2003/04. Aranalde looked at Merse and Merse looked back at Aranalde and it was the Spaniard who took the kick. His effort, powerfully struck down the middle, was turned onto the bar by Alexander but Jorge dived in bravely to head home, picking up an injury after colliding with the post.
The game boiled over soon after, with Bluebirds defender James Collins squaring up to Jorge after our Portuguese forward battled for the ball. Jorge rarely gets wound up and one wonders what – if anything – Collins said. Goalkeeper Alexander then rushed from his goal to unnecessarily push Jorge and was booked, as was Jorge. Somehow Collins escaped punishment from the referee, who baffled the crowd with a host of poor decisions. Paul Ritchie then went flying in on Lee, who kicked out at Zigor. Both Aranalde and Lee were dismissed. Afterward, boss Colin Lee blamed Aranalde for reacting to the Irishman’s kick.
With twenty minutes to go, Gary Birch replaced the tiring Leitao but looked disinterested out of position on the left after recent criticism by sections of the Bescot faithful. To the dismay of the crowd, the Saddlers defended almost non-stop for the remainder of the match. Man of the Match Walker kept the Reds in the game with several stunning saves as he somehow tipped over a scorching drive from Richard Langley before flinging out an arm to turn a low effort from John Robinson around the post.
With just fifteen seconds of the three minutes of injury time remaining, Gareth Whalley fired a lot shot through a crowd of players which crept inside the far post to cap an agonising afternoon at Bescot.


Crewe 1 Walsall 0

roger6 @ 12:05 pm Monday 25 August 2003

Walsall’s unbeaten start to 2003/04 came to an end tonight as Crewe emerged 1-0 winners at Gresty Road. A mistake by Danny Hay allowed Kenny Lunt a shot on goal, and when his twenty yard effort came back off the bar, Steve Jones netted the winner.
Colin Lee made two changes from the team which started at Bescot on Saturday; Pedro Matias and new boy Paul Ritchie replacing Steve Corica and Neil Emblen.
The Saddlers began brightly and Zigor Aranalde had an effort inside two minutes, firing over the bar on the volley. Both teams were trying to play football and David Vaughan shot wide before Jimmy Walker tipped over a fierce 20 yard strike from Ben Rix. Jorge Leitao and Simon Osborn also had first half chances for a Walsall side backed by around 2000 supporters.
Hay’s mistake on 66 minutes proved costly for Walsall, spoiling an otherwise accomplished performance from the New Zealander. However, there could have been more goals for the Railwaymen, as Dean Ashton headed a cross from Justin Cochrane onto the bar. Wrack, Emblen and Birch were thrown on as Colin Lee searched for that elusive equaliser but Leitao headed against the bar and Matias fired over with his right foot. The Spaniard also took the ball past goalkeeper Clayton Ince before losing control and when captain Merson rounded Ince, Leitao was unable to force the ball home.

Walsall 1 Stoke 1

roger6 @ 12:06 pm Saturday 23 August 2003

Paul Merson continued his sensational start to his Saddlers career with his fourth goal in as many games as Walsall staged a second half onslaught to come away with a richly deserved point. Stoke were good value for their first half lead until a tactical change in the second half saw repeated waves of Walsall pressure, but a goal didn’t look like coming until a moment of brilliance 20 yards out saw Paul volley home the equaliser.
Walsall fans may well go home tonight thinking of Paul Taylor – no, not the one responsible for bringing Didier Tholot, but today’s ref, who flashed his yellow card nine times including twice at Vinny Samways, who will now face a suspension. With 21 yellows and 2 reds in his opening four matches, Taylor would do well to join fitness freak Uriah Rennie (guilty of some blatant favouritism at St James Park in the lunchtime TV game) back at 1st year referee school.

Coventry 0 Walsall 0

roger6 @ 12:06 pm Saturday 16 August 2003

The Saddlers were sent to Coventry and came back with a valuable point thanks to heroics from Super Jimmy Walker. He made a few key saves, including a second half penalty that Gary McAllister blasted against the post. The result keeps us near the top of the table, setting up a big clash with Stoke next weekend, who are the early leaders. Meanwhile in the Carling Cup draw Walsall face another trip to Bolton, who we met a couple of seasons ago in the same competition.

Performance of the week

roger6 @ 12:07 pm Thursday 14 August 2003

Walsall’s 4-1 victory over West Brom has been voted the ‘Scottish Life Performance of the Week’. The five manager panel – consisting of Sir Alex Ferguson, Howard Wilkinson, Dave Bassett, Barry Fry and George Burley – also gave the Saddlers the award back in 1999 when we beat Wolves 2-1 at Molineux. “A 4-1 victory in a local derby, in front of a full house, delighted our supporters and earned the club lots of plaudits from the local and national media.” said Colin Lee.
Lee has been busy this week trying to add to his squad, but has achieved little success. A proposed loan move for Wolves striker Adam Proudlock broke down when the striker picked up a hamstring injury in a 2-0 friendly victory over Manchester City. Lee had also brokered deals with two left sided defenders but these seem to have fallen through. “Two of the targets we’ve been looking at have been targeted by other clubs which means we’re in competition for these players. I thought we would certainly be able to get one of these players in. But it now looks like we might miss out.” Lee had also agreed a three month loan deal for one player with a mystery club, but the player asked for more time and is apparently negotiating with two other clubs. One target – Birmingham’s Michael Johnson – has joined First Division rivals Derby County for a nominal fee.

Merse sends Saddlers through

roger6 @ 12:07 pm Tuesday 12 August 2003

Nobody expected us to match the performance, quality or score line from Saturday…we expected a win and that’s what we got. Walsall are through to round two of the Carling Cup after a 2-1 win over Third Division Carlisle United. Lee seemed to be taking the game more seriously than his Carlisle counterpart, Roddy Collins,who made nine changes from Saturday but the Saddlers were still forced to come from behind to win.
Craig Russell had earlier stunned Bescot, seizing on a Darren Bazeley mistake after 32 minutes, to lob the ball over Jimmy Walker and into the net.
Immediately the Saddlers hit back, inspired by Marvellous Merson. The skipper collected a pass from Aranalde before bursting forwards and slotting in the equaliser.
The Cumbrians almost took the lead early in the second half, but Brian Wake’s screamer strook the bar and Walsall broke to deadly effect. Merse released Leitao and the Portuguese frontman just reached the ball before Matty Glennon, lifting it over the United keeper and in. On another day Leitao would have had a hat trick; he headed a right wing cross from Simon Osborn over the bar before blasting another effort over the top when he found himself through on goal. Merson was then thwarted by Glennon and Leitao, Corica and sub Matias were all guilty of trying to walk the ball into the net. Walsall were almost made to pay late on, with Rundle, Russell and Baldacchino all having efforts on goal but the Saddlers went through.

Saddlers 4 Baggies 1

roger6 @ 12:07 pm Saturday 09 August 2003

Dreamland at Bescot today. The super Saddlers thrashed the Baggies 4-1. Two goals from Merse, both sublime, then a team goal described as the best period of play Walsall fans will ever have seen; and then Steve Corica has added to the fun. Get your reactions in as soon as you can as Saddlers fans everywhere tonight will get bought drinks, as the cries ring out: “We are top of the league!”

Reds 1 Blues 3

roger6 @ 12:08 pm Tuesday 05 August 2003

A crowd of over 7000 turned up to pay tribute to Jimmy Walker, but the Saddlers went down 1-3 to a Christophe Dugarry-inspired Blues side at Bescot tonight.
With Jorge Leitao rested, Walsall began with a youthful front pairing of Gary Birch and Karl Hawley but it was Blues striker Stern John who had the first site of goal. He reacted quickest after Jimmy spilled a long range effort but fired wide with the goal gaping. Birch then set up Merson on 22 minutes, chesting the ball into the path of the former England star who volleyed just wide. Birch was looking lively and was inches away from opening the scoring later on, his right foot drive fizzing just wide. John was a constant menace for Blues and hit the post with a header from a Savage cross before breaking the deadlock on 36; he cut inside Emblen on the left before driving a fierce effort under Walker.
Halftime saw a host of ex Saddlers paraded on the pitch including Jan Sorensen and Chris Nicholl, Ray Graydon a noticeable absentee.
Walsall began the second half with a new back three – youngsters Taylor, Caines and Bennett. The trio were given little time to settle in by international substitutes Dugarry and Kirovski, the former heading Blues second past Wacka soon after half time. Jimmy Walker was replaced to a standing ovation by Aaron Kerr, who then made several stunning saves. Youngsters Matty Fryatt and Nathan Jameson were then brought on by Colin Lee but Birmingham made it 3-0 with twelve minutes to go; Darren Carter firing home a rebound after another excellent stop by Kerr.
Steve Corica at last gave the home fans something to cheer, netting a late consolation goal when he converted Matty Fryatt’s cross but it was still a night to remember for Wacka!
Elsewhere, former Saddler David Zdrillic opened the scoring for his new club, Aberdeen, who then conceded five to Liverpool.

Saddlers 2 Villa 1

roger6 @ 12:08 pm Saturday 02 August 2003

Paul Merson marked his Bescot debut with a goal as the Saddlers beat local rivals Aston Villa 2-1. Both sides fielded full strength sides, with new signings Merson and Simon Osborn starting. David O’Leary’s side had the better of the first half with Gavin McCann shooting into the side netting and Neil Emblen worrying James Walker as he fired the ball over his own bar. Marcus Allback also had claims for a penalty turned down after falling over Walker before Merson struck. The Saddlers captain fired a knock down from lone striker Jorge Leitao past Stefan Postma in the Villa goal on 37 minutes.
Gary Birch and Darren Wrack replaced Hay and Bazeley at half time but Villa were level just four minutes later. Olof Mellberg flicked on a Gareth Barry free kick and Darius Vassell was on hand to smash a left foot volley past Walker from ten yards. Then on 56 minutes, Birch struck what proved to be the winner, cutting inside and firing a left footed shot which squirmed underneath an embarrassed Postma. Walsall almost added to their lead after a fantastic run by Steve Corica. The Australian intercepted a loose pass on the half way line and raced down the left wing, before combining with Leitao to set up Osborn whose powerful effort was saved by Postma.
With the game slipping away from Villa, both Alpay and Hendrie were guilty of challenges which would have earned bookings in a more meaningful encounter. Hendrie then sparked an angry exchange with his own fans by kicking the ball into those sitting in the Banks’ Stand. Stefan Oakes and Kris Taylor both impressed in midfield after coming on while Pedro showed some fancy touches in the middle of the park and Colin Lee’s men held on for victory. Lee was “very pleased with our performance” and admitted that “the stage was set for Paul to score.”
Elsewhere, Walsall have been linked with a move for Birmingham’s out of favour Jamaican international Michael Johnson. However, Blues would want a fee for the 30 year old who is also said to be interesting Derby, Stoke and Nottingham Forrest.

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