It was a strange sort of game at Bescot today. A game definitely of two halves.
Jorge Leitao passed a late fitness test and Walsall, to the home fans’ surprise, lined up 4 4 2, with Leitao and Fryatt up front and a midfield of Wrack, Standing (returning from illness and injury), Osborn and Surman.
The Saddlers completely dominated the first half, with Fryatt hitting the post, Surman drawing a good save from the keeper and several other reasonable chances being spurned. Despite all that, they still managed to go in at half time 1 – 0 down, thanks to a 19th minute free kick from Schumacher that went in just inside the far post, but which left the home fans slightly disatisfied, as they all felt that Murphy should have done better. The one over-riding memory of the 45 minutes, however, was of Walsall working Wright time and time again into great crossing positions, but with no decent dleivery from any of them. On the strength of the build up play, decent delivery would have seen the Saddlers well ahead.
Merson decided to make the change at half time this week, howver, replacing Surman with himself and switching to the 4 3 1 2. His plans went awry straight away, however, as Wrack went offf injured to be relaced, surprisingly, by Daryl, rather than Kris, Taylor on the left of midfield.
From then on, the second half can only be described as frantic, as Walsall threw men forward in search of the equaliser. Chances came and went, with Matty Fryatt in particular, having a one man battle with the Bradford keeper. Finally, as the game entered the final fifteen minutes, a curling cross from Merson was glanced in by the reliable head of Neil Emblen.
It all sounds as if it was a case of Walsall getting the point they richly deserved, which is true to a certain extent (in fact, they probably just about deserved all three), but the play, while exciting, was also a little disorganised at times, being far too open, and Bradford could easily have grabbed another goal from one of the three or four good chances they had in the second half. In some ways, Walsall’s football was better in the first half, but the final ball was always lacking.
Michael Standing won the sponsor’s man of the match and, indeed, he played well second half, but I thought he was a little off the pace in the first forty five minutes as he got back to the pace of first team football. Man of the Match for me was the goal scorer, Neil Emblen, who hardly put a foot wrong all afternoon.