Archive for December, 2004

Murphy Stays

neilr @ 1:52 pm Friday 31 December 2004

The club have announced that Joe Murphy will be staying until the end of the season, after West Bromwich Albion extended his loan until then. There had been fears that they may have recalled him, following the release of their fourth choice keeper, Simon Miotto, but they have now put in an official bid for Leeds youngster Scott Carson.

The only downside of this agreement is that he will still be subject to a 24 hour recall.


Walsall vs Doncaster Rovers Preview

neilr @ 12:38 pm Friday 31 December 2004

Walsall welcome Doncaster Rovers to Bescot Stadium on New Year’s Day, hoping to bounce back from the disappointment of two defeats so far over the Christmas period. They are one point and two places above The Saddlers, so it looks like a tough proposition – until you study their record. Like Hartlepool, they are in that position because of their home record and they do struggle away, with just two wins from 12 League games away from Belle Vue.

Paul Merson was talking in terms of making changes for this game, in light of the poor last 20 minutes against Tranmere, but his options seem limited. Three of the poorer performers on the day were Wrack, Standing and Aranalde, but there is no natural replacement at left back and two changes in midfield might be too many. The options up front are severely limited as well. Although the Saddlers may be welcoming back Matt Fryatt for the New Year matches, following him making better than expected progress from his knee ligament injury, a start would seem very unlikely and newly signed South African International striker, Toni Nhleko is still waiting for the necessary paperwork to be completed, so he is unlikely to figure until the 15th January.
Ian Roper’s injury hasn’t responded as well to treatment as Fryatt’s and he is still a couple of weeks off. Paul McShane was only taken off as a precaution against Tranmere, following the knock he got in the build up to their first goal, so will be available.
The two wide men. Herivelto and Daryl Taylor are both available, which may presage a move to 4 4 2, especially if Merson feels he cannot manage the four games in eight days.
Simon Osborn apparently broke his nose in training on Thursday, so Mark Kinsella is likely to be back (although Osborn can play).

Doncaster Rovers have a doubt over forward Gregg Blundell who has a thigh problem, but defenders Simon Marples and Jamie Price are available again following injuries.
Up front they have local boy (born in West Bromwich) Simon Johnson, on loan from Leeds United, who scored twice on Boxing Day. Big target man, Leo Fortune-West is out injured, but they have a possible ready made replacement in the not inconsiderable shape of Guy Ipoua. Former Walsall player Jermaine McSporran was sent off in their defeat at Hull City earlier this week, so he’s suspended.

So, a prediction? Rovers’ away record is:- Played 12, Won 2, Drawn 3, Lost 7, For 12 Against 24 Points 9, which means they have lost more away than we have, although the extra win means they’ve got 1 point more. This looks like a good opportunity to get back to winning ways against a team that struggles away from home, but I seem to remember saying something similar before the Brentford (and Tranmere) games! Still, 2 – 1 to the Saddlers.

Nhelko and Fryatt

neilr @ 5:18 pm Wednesday 29 December 2004

Reports have reached UTS (via the Express and Star!) that there is a chance that Matt Fryatt may indeed be nearing fitness and could feature in Monday’s game at Brentford. Given the poor performance in the home game against Tranmere, this can only be good news.

The paper is also confirming MMF’s posting on the message board that delays with the paperwork from South Africa mean that Toni Nhelko may not be available until the 15th January game.

Walsall 0 Tranmere 2 – Deja Vu

neilr @ 7:12 pm Tuesday 28 December 2004

Walsall decided to ring down the curtain on 2004 with a performance as disappointing as many during the course of the year. Merson decided to make changes, resting Kinsella and bringing in Osborn in his place and Bennett returning following his suspension. The on loan Paul McShane moved to right back and Mark Wright to the bench.

The first half of this game was a reasonably good advert for the Division, with two teams looking to play football. Walsall certainly shaded the half, with Standing going close and several other half chances, but Tranmere too were always looking dangerous, with both their wing backs finding acres of space against the narrow Walsall midfield. Wrack and Standing were curiously ineffective and Osborn was certainly the pick of the midfield. (Osborn haters to note, it was 30 minutes before he wasted a pass). What turned out to be the defining moment of the game, however, came late on in the half when Osborn superbly found Leitao who was unceremoniously brought down from behind by the Tranmere defender, Sharps, on the edge of the box. The referee bottled the decision and we got neither the foul, nor the automatic red card. Merson was promptly booked for his protests. Not long afterwards, Osborn again picked out a player with a superb through ball, but Merson’s cushioned volley floated wide, when he should possibly have done better.

It was obvious at half time that changes were needed, as Tranmere’s 3 5 2 formation had been giving us trouble all through the half, with both full backs struggling to cope. The Tranmere wing backs were getting all the space they needed to cause damage. No changes came, however.

As the second half progressed, Tranmere started to get a greater and greater measure of control over the game and Walsall became more and more ineffective. They rarely threatened to score howver, despite Bennett dropping one dreadful clanger, with McShane rescuing him with a wonderful tackle. Aranalde on the other flank, was finding it harder and harder to cope with the wing back running into space and it seemed that the pressure would tell eventually. The surprise was, however, was that it came form an attack down the Saddlers’ right flank. McShane put in another tremendous block, but jarred his knee in the process. While he was on the ground, it appeared the whole team switched off and the ball broke to Mcateer, whose twenty yard speculative shot found the back of the net with Murphy looking a little flat footed.
Walsall almost got straight back into the game, when Jorge Leitao hit the post from the edge of the box with one superb effort, but the team seemed to subside into a strange kind of lethargy and eventually the impressive Ryan Taylor, the right wing back, skinned Aranalde and hit a speculative bobbling shot which some how crept through Murphy’s grasp and into the corner.

Altogether, this was one game well worth forgetting, with only Osborn, easily the pick of the midfield, Bennett, McShane and sponsor’s Man of the Match Emblen coming out with any credit. Wrack was dreadful, Aranalde worse and Standing and Merson completely ineffective.

Nhelko Joins Walsall

neilr @ 9:15 am Tuesday 28 December 2004

The Express and Star have now confirmed that striker Toni Nhelko has signed an 18 month contract and the club are only waiting for a work permit.
The 25 year old six footer Nhleko (real first name Nkosinath), who has nine caps, spent last season with FC Dallas in Major League Soccer in the United States having played for Norwegian side SK Brann in 2002.
Before that he spent four years with Jomo Cosmos in his homeland. He also played for his country at the Sydney Olympics in 2000.
Paul Merson is quoted as saying:-
“He is quick and strong and can score a goal. He wants the ball over the top and that’s really all he is interested in. But that’s what we’ve been looking for and he will give us that something different that we’ve been needing. “

Tranmere Preview

neilr @ 8:27 pm Monday 27 December 2004

The return of Julian Bennett will be the major boost for Walsall’s clash with Tranmere at Bescot tomorrow.

Ian Roper and Matty Fryatt should be out with their knee injuries, but there is a chance Fryatt could be fit for the bench. Neil Emblen is expected to carry on despite his neck problem and Herivelto could also feature after failing to make it off the bench against Wednesday. Mark Paston has, it transpires, a trapped nerve in his leg, which is the injury that has been the cause of some worry of late.

As for Tranmere, defender Gareth Roberts picked up an ankle knock in the draw with Barnsley but should be fit, while Gary Jones may return after a groin problem. Number one Keeper John Achteberg is sidelined with a knee ligament injury the Dutchman suffered at Hull, while Congolese striker Calvin Zola may again miss out due to problems with his UK residency.

Tranmere are currently third in the table with 42 points and are the sort of team we should be aspiring to beat at home, if we are to make a realistic promotion bid. Their away record is P 11 W 4 D 3 L 4 Scored 11 Conceeded 18, which is OK, but not the best, so I would expect a win for the Saddlers, 2 – 1.

There are also reports on the message board that South African striker Toni Nhleko has signed a contract, pending the transfer window opening and a work permit. We will bring you news of this as soon as we can.

Major boosts for UptheSaddlers

roger6 @ 7:23 pm Monday 27 December 2004

We’re delighted to announce the signing of Neil Ravenscroft as news editor for Neil has been plying his trade over on TheSaddlersFC where he has consistently broken major stories involving Walsall FC. Now thanks to Neil, Saddlers fans will be able to read the very latest news on this site, before our competitors, and contribute their opinions via our message board. Since its relaunch just over two weeks ago, UptheSaddlers has enjoyed record-breaking visitor figures, and with Neil at the reporting helm, 2005 should see the output move from strength to strength.

Supporting Neil will be OneNil and 4two, who have done a great job in covering Saddlers news and match reports on this site in recent months.

In another boost for UptheSaddlers, it has been confirmed tonight that AskTony Quiz Nights have signed a new 7-year sponsorship deal with this site guaranteeing the continuing publication of UptheSaddlers until at least the end of 2011. With continuing doubts as to the financial viability of other advertising-reliant official and unofficial Walsall sites, Saddlers fans can rest assured of the continued existence of this particular one.

Sheff Wed 3-2 Walsall

4two @ 10:34 pm Sunday 26 December 2004

The Saddlers will have left this game knowing they deserved more than a 3-2 defeat. A spirited performance blotted by a couple of defensive mistakes has cost the Saddlers their 6th game without defeat.

The game saw Paul Mcshane make his debut, while Paul Merson put in a relatively influential midfield performance.

Merse will have been pleased with our start, as we managed to keep it all square up and till the half our mark when Jones connected well with the ball, and volleyed the Owls in to the lead. Our equaliser came via Marvin Robinson. The bustling front man got his 4th goal in his third Walsall appearance, connecting well with an Aranalde cross.

The owls edged in front 20 minutes in to the second half. Some comedy defending from Wright and Mcshane led to the ball finding it’s way in to the back of the Walsall net. The own goal was given to a certain Mr Mark Wright.

Wendy went on to make it 3-1, as Steven MacLean won, then converted a penalty. Neil Emblen was adjudged to have given away the spot kick. We did claw it back to 3-2, as we benefited from another Paul Merson through ball that allowed Paul Mcshane to grab a debut goal. We pushed on in the last 10 minutes, but were unable to bring a point back to the Bescot Stadium.

Interesting things to note were that Merse played a full 90 minutes, while Herivelto stayed on the bench. Mark Kinsella also played 75 minutes. Can we read anything in to this for the Tranmere game. Will the ageing – but influential legs of Merson and Kinsella last the X-mas period.

Merson speaks about debt

4two @ 11:24 am Sunday 26 December 2004

Paul Merson has been speaking about the joys of football management with Peter Higgs of the Mail on Sunday. The papers Sporting supplement has dedicated a whole page to our player manager.

His positive outlook will bring cheer to the hearts of Walsall fans. He speaks frankly about the pressures of management – something he clearly enjoys.

“I’m not gambling at all. I try not to do anything. I can’t say I don’t’ have days because I do, but life is taken up with so many things – training, sorting out problems and trying to bring players in – that it’s enjoyable”

The gist of the piece is that Merson wants to repay the faith shown in him over the last 12 months. It’s nice to know that is this is the one and only debt he cares about this season.

McShane signs on loan

roger6 @ 12:24 pm Thursday 23 December 2004

An early Christmas present for the team today with the news that Manchester United youngster Paul McShane has joined the Saddlers on loan for a month. The 18-year-old, who can play as a centre-back or a right-back, has been a regular in the United reserve team, and cancelled plans to travel to Ireland for Christmas to join Merson’s men at Bescot.

With Julian Bennett missing the Boxing Day clash with Wednesday due to suspension, McShane could be thrown straight into the first team. The deal provides an answer to the disquiet voiced by a number of Walsall fans over the apparent lack of any real benefits to the tie-up between United and Walsall announced with a big fanfare last year.

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