Archive for February, 2004

Wigan 1 Walsall 0

roger6 @ 10:08 am Saturday 28 February 2004

Pedro Matias gifted Wigan all three points at the JJB Stadium today as Walsall’s winless run stretched into its 64th day. The substitute lost possession to former West Brom striker Jason Roberts inside his own half and he fed Nathan Ellington, who fired past Walker with just nine minutes remaining.
Mick Halsall and Paul Bracewell took charge as Colin Lee was in hospital for an exploratory hip and pelvis op, but it was Lee who picked the team, bringing in Corica and Kris Taylor to replace the injured Samways and the demoted Gary Birch.
Corica registered the first shot on goal, firing wide from 25 yards whilst Osborn then flashed a 35 yard volley over the bar.
Wigan hit back however and former Walsall target Alan Mahon’s drive was blocked by Ritchie before Emblen got in the way of an effort from Andy Liddell.
Walsall’s best chance of the half fell to Emblen whose close range volley after a scrambled corner was somehow saved by John Filan in the home goal (42).
Wigan began the second half strongly, and Jimmy Walker was forced to produce smart stops to deny Jason De Vos, Liddell and Roberts whilst Ritchie, Bazeley and Aranalde were all called into action as Paul Jewell’s men pressed forward.
Matt Carbon was then forced off by injury and replaced by youngster Julian Bennett at the back. Matias replaced the tiring Corica and linked up well with compatriot Aranalde to provide Darren Bazeley with a great chance which he proceeded to spurn. Then with nine minutes left, Ellington pounced on Matias’s mistake to net his sixteenth goal of the season. Birch replaced Wales as Walsall looked for an equaliser but it was Wigan who came closest to another goal when Liddell’s free kick struck the bar.

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Walsall 0 Watford 1

roger6 @ 10:08 am Saturday 21 February 2004

Walsall’s freefall continued at home to lowly Watford today, as Lee Cook’s deflected strike took the Saddlers’ winless run to eight.
Colin Lee made one change to the team which dominated Nottingham Forest so well for 45 minutes last week, bringing in Scottish international Paul Ritchie for groin victim Ian Roper. Elsewhere, Neil Emblem played on the left wing and Jorge Leitao in midfield whilst Jamie Lawrence – fresh from opening his Walsall goal-scoring account – was omitted from the sixteen…not that anyone was complaining!
Watford began strongly and should have been ahead before their fifteenth minute opener. Neil Ardley’s right wing cross fell to Gavin Mahon whose left foot shot smacked off the crossbar and somehow Paul Devin failed to turn the ball into an empty net from a tight angle. The Hornets did find the target soon after however, although whether or not Cook can claim his fourth goal of the season is debatable; Vinny Samways – who was playing with a slight injury which forced him off at half time – tried to turn his way out of trouble inside his own area, only to lose the ball to Cook. The diminutive striker’s effort lacked precision but deflected wickedly off a Walsall player and trickled past captain Jimmy Walker.
Leitao had Walsall’s best chance of the half, but his close range volley was kept out by on loan Chelsea keeper Lenny Pidgeley and the Portuguese striker was unable to turn the ball in at the second attempt as the grounded keeper thwarted him again.
Kris Taylor replaced Samways at the break and was soon in the thick of the action, bringing down Devlin, who retaliated and both players were booked.
Pedro Matias – in place of Gary Birch – and then Mark Wright – in place of Simon Osborn – were sent on as Colin Lee’s men chased the game, but to no avail. Neil Emblen’s drive was tipped around the post and both he and Matias fired over in the closing stages. The Saddlers were also denied two penalties as Leitao was clearly pushed over in front of the Purple Stand when chasing a through ball whilst Gary Wales was aggrieved when a Watford shoulder deprived him of a shooting opportunity in the box.
Watford’s win makes them level on points with Walsall and it is difficult to see where our next point will come, with tough games against Wigan, Sunderland and West Ham upcoming. Too many players lacked heart today and it is also worrying when the manager tells the local radio station that his players ‘baffle him sometimes’. The three strikers required crosses into the box but this only happened when the two wingers were sent on in the second half. The midfield trio of Emblem. Osborn and Samways are also too old and slow to play together and were overrun throughout. Colin Lee must halt this alarming run of results very soon…

Bracewell Appointed

roger6 @ 10:08 am Wednesday 18 February 2004

Former Fulham and Halifax manager Paul Bracewell has been appointed as new first-team coach at Bescot, as was rumoured a few weeks ago. Manager Colin Lee today said “There has been a lot of recent speculation about him coming here and I’m delighted that I have finally been able to bring him on board. He has a wealth of experience, both as a player and as a coach, and his knowledge will be invaluable to us.”
Bracewell added “It’s great to be back in coaching. I can’t wait to get stuck into the job.”
Funds for Bracewell’s appointment may have been generated by the departures of midfielders Stefan Oakes and Craig Stanley, to Notts County and Telford respectively.

Forest 3 Walsall 3

roger6 @ 10:09 am Saturday 14 February 2004

It was another case of two points dropped today as Walsall threw away a 3-1 half time lead to draw 3-3 with Forest. Despite falling behind after only three minutes, Jorge Leitao, Jamie Lawrence and then Gary Wales put Colin Lee’s men in front. Forest came back strongly after the break however, and with the Saddlers camped in their own half for the entire second half, Marlon King and Gareth Taylor grabbed a point for Joe Kinnear’s side.
With no Merson, Wrack, Ritchie, Oakes or Corica, Matt Carbon returned in defence and Neil Embeln started in midfield. Jimmy Walker returned after suspension whilst Leitao, Wales and Birch all featured up front.
Forest took a third minute lead when Andy Impey – signed on loan from Leicester this week – scored with his first touch, sweeping home a cross from King. It was Forest’s first goal for over 13.5 hours!
However, Walsall equalised almost immediately as Wales right wing cross fell perfectly for Leitao, who shot home from six yards via the legs of Darren Ward. King then found himself clean through on the edge of the area but Jimmy Walker turned his rasping drive over the bar. Ian Roper limped off with a groin strain after 18 minutes and replacement Lawrence put Walsall 2-1 up five minutes later. Birch twisted and turned in the area and when his shot was fumbled by Ward, Lawrence bundled the ball home.
After 39 minutes, Walsall extended their lead as Wales notched his first goal for the club; he latched onto a long ball before turning away from John Thompson and Des Walker and firing right-footed past Ward.
Forest dragged themselves back into contention after 56 minutes, when King headed past Walker from close range. Walsall players surrounded the referee, protesting against King’s robust challenge which left Aranalde on the ground but to no avail.
Walsall sat back and defended deep as is the norm nowadays and it was little surprise when Forest grabbed a 90th minute equaliser, Taylor heading home. Forest should have then gone onto win it in the four minutes of injury time, but Eoin Jess somehow put his close range header wide.

Walsall 1 Crewe 1

roger6 @ 10:09 am Saturday 07 February 2004

Home matches have tended to follow the same pattern this season; playing against teams we would hope to beat, Walsall take an early lead before missing numerous chances to make the game safe. Then after half time, we sit back and defend for our lives. Usually we hold out for around 42-43 minutes of the second half before conceding and losing two vital points. Cardiff, Reading and now Crewe have left Bescot with more points than they should – and Walsall have now failed to win since Boxing Day. Jorge Leitao had put Colin Lee’s men ahead but defender Stephen Foster netted an 85th minute equaliser.
Kris Taylor was rewarded for his debut goal last week with a place back on the bench as Simon Osborn returned and Ian Roper was also brought straight back in for Matt Carbon. Merson was absent, Birch forced out onto the wing and Wales given a full debut.
Leitao opened the scoring after 27 minutes, sliding home captain Osborn’s cross for his eighth of the season. He almost doubled the lead moments later, bursting from half way and – after Clayton Ince had palmed away his first attempt – heading the rebound goalwards only to see it cleared off the line.
Andy Petterson, playing probably his last game for the Saddlers, then made a great save to keep Walsall ahead when he stretched to turn a header over from Dean Ashton. However, Crewe came out strongly in the second half with Ben Rix and Billy Jones firing shots goalwards. Petterson then did well to palm out a wickedly deflected shot from distance and was grateful to see the linesman’s flag raised when the rebound was bundled in by a posse of away players. The Saddlers then scrambled two efforts off the line, through a combination of Birch and Ritchie and then Samways, as Alex pressed for a point.
Matias replaced the injured Leitao before Crewe grabbed the equaliser; full back Wright punted a hopeful ball into the box and Petterson came rushing out but was beaten to the ball by Foster who headed the ball into the unguarded net.

Walsall Welcome Wales

roger6 @ 10:10 am Tuesday 03 February 2004

New signing Gary Wales today spoke for the first time about his move to Bescot. The 25 year old Scot – who was said to be attracting interest from Dundee, Dundee United and Coventry – revealed the reasons why he chose the Saddlers ahead of SPL side Aberdeen.
“I felt I was becoming stale in Scotland and wanted a new challenge – something that Walsall offered. Things dragged on for a wee while but I was delighted to choose Walsall. I feel sorry for Aberdeen and Steve Paterson as he tried very hard to take me up north but I felt a move to England was the better option for me and my family. There is a great squad here and with team-mates like Paul Ritchie, Paul Merson and Vinny Samways who have played at the very top, you can never stop learning.”
Wales will be pushing for a full debut on Saturday after almost netting a dramatic late equaliser against Stoke last weekend.

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