Archive for March, 2004

Walsall 1 Millwall 1

roger6 @ 10:01 am Saturday 27 March 2004

Walsall were denied three crucial home points by Paul Ifill’s late equaliser this afternoon. Keith Andrews had put the Saddlers ahead with twelve minutes remaining, firing home his second goal for the club.
Colin Lee handed a debut to new signing Lee Bradbury up front and a home debut to midfielder Craig Burley. Jermaine McSporran started on the bench, as Colin Lee rewarded Matty Fryatt with a first home start.
Walsall seemed to edge the first half, with Merson getting the better of former England team mate Wise in midfield. However, it was Tim Cahill who came closest, hitting the side netting after Dichio’s 33rd minute back heel.
Both managers went for pace at half time, with Ifill replacing Neil Harris and McSporran replacing Fryatt, who had struggled against the physical element of Millwall’s play. McSporran’s first contribution was a foul on the annoying Wise, which earned our new striker a booking.
The game at last came to life after 78 minutes; Bradbury rose to flick on a Walker goal kick and Andrews – bursting through from midfield – lifted the ball over Lawrence and smashed the ball past Marshall.
Walsall then sank deeper and deeper and the inevitable occurred with two minutes remaining when a corner was half cleared as far as Ifill, who volleyed past Walker to make it 1-1.
Roper starred at the back whilst Bradbury led the line well and Andrews worked his socks off in midfield. McSporran struggled to make an impact in his 45 minute run out but his pace and willingness to run was there for all to see.


Saddlers Sign Striker

roger6 @ 10:02 am Thursday 25 March 2004

Walsall have snapped up pacy striker Jermaine McSporran from Wycombe until the end of the season. The 27 year old, who joined Tony Adams’ Wanderers from Oxford City for £75 000 in 1998, is top scorer at the Causeway Stadium with twelve goals. “This is a terrific opportunity for me and naturally one I want to take. They have eight games left and need to win two of them for safety and if I do well in those matches, I can earn a contract for next season. It’s all down to me really. When Colin Lee told me he wanted me to link up with Paul Merson it was exciting but I will miss Wycombe, it is a great club and I shall be very sorry to leave here.”
Lee has at last got his man, after tracking the striker for a while. “You could say Colin Lee has got his man because he was manager at Wolves when he first enquired about me after Wycombe’s win in the Worthington Cup at Molineux.”
McSporran scored 41 goals in 186 appearances for Wycombe and may return at the end of the season if he fails to impress at Bescot. “Jocky was very keen to go and play at a higher level with Walsall. It is a very good opportunity for him but it doesn’t mean he will not be seen back at Wycombe. Walsall have offered him terms until the end of the season and I have not ruled out his possible return in the summer. I will never stand in a player’s way if he wants to progress in the game, my door is still open and if Jocky wants to talk again then that’s up to him.” said Adams.
Meawhile, Gary Wales has left the club just 24 hours after signing a new deal. “He decided he wants to seek first team football elsewhere” said Lee. “What it does do is free up an extra loan, which we are hoping to fill up later today.” Lee Bradbury?!
Several former Saddlers also made deadline day moves. Paul Hall left Rushden for Tranmere, Dani Rodrigues joined Yeovil on loan from Ionikos and Carl Robinson joined Sunderland on loan from Pompey.

Deadline Day Deals

roger6 @ 10:02 am Thursday 25 March 2004

It has been a busy deadline day at Bescot today, with three out and two in as the Saddlers look to stave off the threat of relegation. Jermaine McSporran has joined from Wycombe, as reported earlier, and has now been joined by fellow striker Lee Bradbury – on loan from Portsmouth.
To fund these deals, Gary Birch has moved on loan to Barnsley until the end of the season. “We have brought Gary in on loan because he is a young player with a lot of potential so hopefully he will give us impetus up front,” said Hart. “I am delighted to bring Gary to the club and I am looking forward to working with him. He is a big player with some presence on the pitch.”
Spanish winger Pedro Matias, meanwhile, has signed for LDV Vans Trophy holders Blackpool – initially on loan for a month.
Finally Gary Wales, who decided to leave Walsall today despite agreeing a new contract yesterday, has joined First Division rivals Gillingham. Assistant manager Wayne Jones said: “He is a goalscorer and will complement our strike force. He is not a big lad but he knows where the goal is and is quite bright and sharp around the box.”

Preston 1 Walsall 2

roger6 @ 10:03 am Saturday 20 March 2004

Matty Fryatt and Mark Wright netted their first goals for Walsall in a crucial 2-1 victory over Preston today.
Colin Lee made changes after Tuesday’s disappointing loss to Ipswich, bringing in Fryatt up front, Wright at wing back and Carbon in defence as Walsall lined up in a 5-3-2 formation. Craig Burley made his Saddlers debut in midfield. Bazeley and Osborn dropped to the bench whilst Birch was missing from the squad altogether.

Walsall attacked from the off, as Andrews played the ball forward to Emblen who won the ball in the air, cut inside and unleashed a low 25 yard drive which was turned aside by Andy Lonergan. Merson’s first corner was cleared but his second was met by the head of Fryatt and Walsall were 1-0 up after only 74 seconds!
The Saddlers then set about defending for the remainder of the first half; Preston threw on young winger Jeff Smith for injured defender Rob Edwards and he should have scored but blasted over from just yards out. Mark Wright was also forced to scramble a corner off the line and Cresswell’s ‘goal’ was disallowed after the referee spotted the striker’s use of a hand in forcing the ball over the line.

Walsall almost began the second half as they had the first, but this time Matty Fryatt was halted in the area by the giant defender Claude Davis – man of the match for the home side. Then after 53 minutes, Preston pulled level. Andrews lost the ball in midfield and, after Cresswell had wriggled free in the area, Carbon pulled him down, earning himself a booking and conceding a penalty. Graham Alexander sent Walker the wrong way from the spot.

With Preston looking the more likely side to score, Colin Lee made a double substitution after 64 minutes. On came Osborn and Bazeley for the hard working Emblen and Carbon. Walsall switched to 4-4-2, with Merson partnering the tireless Fryatt up front and Wright – seeming somewhat surprised to be staying on – taking up a place on the right wing. A minute later it was 2-1. Osborn won the ball with his first touch and Merson crossed for Wright, who dived in to head the ball past Lonergan. Fryatt missed a glorious chance to seal victory a minute later, as Wright reached the bye line and crossed for the 17 year old who saw his close range volley blocked by the legs of the home keeper.

North End desperately sought an equaliser as the Saddlers hung on for the points. Walker was forced to turn an Alexander drive around the post whilst Cresswell and Lynch struck the woodwork in the closing stages. Kris Taylor replaced Fryatt at the end, as the striker departed to a standing ovation.

Walsall 1 Ipswich 3

roger6 @ 10:04 am Tuesday 16 March 2004

According to tonight’s match programme, Walsall are the only team not to have comeback to win a match after falling behind this season – so when Darren Bent fired Ipswich ahead, things looked ominous. The simple fact is that we don’t seem to score much lately. Colin Lee’s ‘negative tactics’ – which tonight saw us have about three noteworthy shots all game – aren’t working…and relegation is looming ever closer!

With Leitao injured and Samways still bedridden, Paul Merson returned to the starting XI and loanee Andrews made his second start in red. Craig Burley – signed yesterday – had not been registered in time to play due to ‘administrative errors’…

Tonight may have turned out very different if only Paul Ritchie’s header from a Merson corner had not been cleared off the line by debutant Matt Elliot. Walsall matched Ipswich throughout the first half, passing much better than on Saturday. However, they were indebted to Walker who dived to his right to keep out a curling effort from Miller ten minutes before half time.

Ipswich began strongly after the break and went ahead after 48 minutes when Bent fired home the rebound after Walker had saved from Jermaine Wright. Eleven minutes later, it was 2-0; Bowditch put Bent through on the right and the talented youngster fired past Jimmy. The Saddlers seemed to have run out of ideas and could have shipped many more had it not been for Walker, who saved from Elliot just after Miller had struck the bar.

Walsall sent on Taylor for Corica to cheers of “Too Late, Too Late” and it was he who won the free kick after 88 minutes which gave Walsall a lifeline. Man of the match Keith Andrews curled home a quick free kick from the edge of the box to make the score 1-2.

Matty Fryatt replaced Merson as Walsall threw everything forward in search of an equaliser but were then hit on the break as Bent completed his hat trick, firing home a cross from Westlake.

Ipswich hadn’t won any of their last five away games but comfortably beat us. The difference was Darren Bent – largely ineffective but for three clinical finishes. Walsall have plenty of strikers – Birch, Wales, Leitao, Fryatt, even Merson and Emblen – but no goalscorers. Two players could have changed our season – both of whom were on loan here last season – how we needed a Junior and/or Gareth Ainsworth tonight?!

Walsall 1 Wimbledon 0

roger6 @ 10:05 am Saturday 13 March 2004

Walsall struggled to a 1-0 win over hopeless Wimbledon in a dire match at Bescot today. On loan midfielder Keith Andrews made his debut after signing from Wolves yesterday and Paul Ritchie returned with Vinny Samways (flu) and Pedro Matias (sub) missing out. Paul Merson appeared on the bench after returning from America this week.

Neil Emblen, playing at the head of a three pronged attack, grabbed the winner after 26 minutes. He charged down a clearance from Rob Gier before confidently striding forward and slotting the ball past debutant Wimbledon keeper Scott Bevan.
The Saddlers should have scored more however, after dominating the first half. Leitao burst forward purposefully only to fire over, before heading a cross from Birch straight at keeper Bevan. Birch and Kris Taylor also tried their look from distance while the Dons – with defender Nico Herzig as a makeshift striker – struggled to make an impact.

Merson replaced the injured Leitao soon into the second half and then Walsall sat back for the remainder of the game, inviting the youthful Dons onto them. A better team would have taken advantage of such a woeful second half display. Emblen spent the second half upfront on his own, sometimes supported by Merse – sporting a very decent sun tan it must be said. Fryatt was sent on in place of Birch and Matias replaced Taylor, as the Saddlers switched to 4-4-2. Emblen starred up front whilst Roper defended well and Fryatt looked lively but few other players impressed.
Meanwhile, Colin Lee has confirmed that 32 year old Craig Burley will sign on Monday but the club has missed out on Jody Morris, who has instead opted for the bright lights of Rotherham. The club now has nine central midfielders (Burely, Merson, Samways, Osborn, Emblen, Taylor, Andrews, Lawrence and Corica) but only two wingers (Wrack and Matias) neither of whom tend to run at defenders as often as would be expected.

Two New Signings

roger6 @ 10:05 am Friday 12 March 2004

Walsall have snapped up young midfielder Keith Andrews on loan from Wolves until the end of the season. The 23 year old – who enjoyed a spell on loan at Stoke earlier this season – will be in the squad to face basement boys Wimbledon tomorrow.
The club also hope to complete the permanent transfer of another player on Monday. Colin Lee is still waiting to hear from Craig Burley and has today admitted his interest in Jody Morris. Morris’ turbulent career has been blighted with controversy. At Chelsea he was involved in a high profile court case alongside John Terry. Then, at Leeds he was questioned by police relating to claims of sexual assault. It seems however, that Morris would be well out of our financial league. Lee said: “No-one will deny that either Jody Morris or Craig Burley would improve our midfield. But we can’t compete with some other clubs in terms of finance.”

Saddlers Sign Spaniard

roger6 @ 10:06 am Tuesday 09 March 2004

The Saddlers have signed 21 year old attacking midfielder Mario Lopez Soler on non-contract terms. The Spaniard has previously had spells at Borussia Dortmund and Valencia and was on trial at Wolves, Stoke and Charlton a few years ago. He is due to play for the reserves tonight against Preston.

West Ham 0 Walsall 0

roger6 @ 10:06 am Saturday 06 March 2004

The Saddlers picked up a morale boosting point at Upton Park today, drawing 0-0 against Alan Pardew’s promotion chasing West Ham.
Walsall made changes as they went in search of their first win of 2004 – out went the injured Wrack and Corica, Wales dropped to the bench and Ritchie was also missing. Roper and Birch returned after injury whilst Kris Taylor and Matias were also brought back into midfield. Youngsters Fryatt, Caines and Bennett appeared on the bench. West Ham included Zamora, Harewood and Connolly upfront as well as England international Michael Carrick in midfield.
West Ham looked to have broken the deadlock after 17 minutes, when Zamora slotted Harewood’s cross past Jimmy Walker only to see the goal disallowed for offside.
The next chance fell to Gary Birch, whose close range header from Simon Osborn’s cross flew just wide. West Ham were forced to replace the injured Mullins with Andy Melville and then at half time put on Jobi McAnuff in place of Nowland.
West Ham continued to press and Harewood shot wide before Christian Dailly headed Carrick’s corner over the bar.
Walsall almost snatched all three points but Taylor’s glancing header drifted just wide. West Ham then threw on Brian Deane up front while Matty Fryatt came on for the injured Birch and Wales replaced Samways.
One point may seem very little – and in fact, Walsall have dropped one league place today – but the fighting spirit shown by the Saddlers was in stark contrast to recent weeks and if we can continue to produce this form, starting next week against basement boys Wimbledon, safety will be a mere formality.

Walsall 1 Sunderland 3

roger6 @ 10:07 am Wednesday 03 March 2004

Walsall are sinking faster than the Titanic – and tonight’s 1-3 home defeat to Sunderland leaves us hovering dangerously on the edge of the relegation zone. Julio Arca had smashed the Mackems into a first half lead before Neil Emblen nodded home an equaliser. Kevin Kyle restored Sunderland’s lead a minute later before Marcus Stewart sealed victory for Mick McCarthy’s men.
Colin Lee and/or Paul Bracewell made two changes from Saturday’s defeat to Wigan, bringing in Samways and Wrack for the injured Carbon and Kris Taylor – who, somewhat surprisingly, failed even to make the bench. Birch was also omitted from the squad whilst Gavin Caines – a young central defender – made the bench.
Walsall began brightly but Sunderland forged ahead after only 17 minutes when a loose ball fell to Arca on the left hand side of the area and he fizzed a volley past Walker into the net. Walsall seemed to be lacking in ideas, with Aranalde isolated down the left and Wrack – clearly injured – reluctant to venture forward on the right. Wrack was forced off by injury at half time and replaced by Mark Wright. Steve Corica –also just back from injury – lasted for even less and was replaced by Saturday’s villain, Matias.
After the break, Sunderland almost made it 2-0 but somehow, Jimmy Walker miraculously turned Kyle’s header onto the bar and then the Saddlers restored parity. A corner was cleared as far as Matias, who flashed a volley across goal which Emblen nodded past Poom. Immediately Sunderland hit back; sleepy Saddlers were caught out by a short corner and Kyle – who had spent most of the game lying on the ground appealing for and getting free kicks – nodded Oster’s cross into the net.
Bracewell threw on Fryatt for Samways as Walsall switched to a 4-3-3 formation in search of an equaliser. Nine minute from time, Sunderland secured the points when Stewart fired home from a McAteer cross. Walsall continued to press and Paul Ritchie struck the bar with a towering header whilst Leitao managed to spurn a late chance when clean through. Darren Byfield made a late appearance for Sunderland and was roundly booed – who remembers that Cardiff day three years ago when a certain centre forward fired home a stunning winner to get us to the position which today’s team seem set to squander? Darren Byfield? If only we still had him…
Things are looking dire at Bescot and little can be expected from next week’s match at West Ham. Walsall are increasingly in danger of going down – and what is most disappointing is that they seem to be going down without a fight. One bright spark was Matty Fryatt, who battled for everything during his 20 minute substitute spell and looks to have a real future in the game…hopefully at Bescot in the first division.

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