Archive for February, 2005

Walsall – Focus Group on Monday

neilr @ 5:31 pm Sunday 27 February 2005

A reminder to everyone that the next Fans Focus Group meeting will be in The Saddlers Club tomorrow night (Monday, February 28th at 8.00pm).

As promised at the last meeting, following long discussions on the fighting before and after the trip to Wrexham, the theme will be ‘crowd safety and spectator behaviour’, with Walsall FC Safety Officer, Gary Wilson and Police Liaison Officer, PC Pete Matthews both in attendance.

The last two meetings have been well attended in comparison with previous ones and, accordingly, Roy Whalley and the club have been taking note of the fan’s views.

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Southampton Loan Stars?

neilr @ 10:21 am Sunday 27 February 2005

As was predicted on the message board here at Upthesaddlers during the week, it appears that Southampton may be prepared to loan Walsall one of their exciting young centre backs next season, according to the Express and Star.

Message board users had already named Martin Crainie or Matthew Mills as the players likely to have been offered by Harry Redknapp during the negotiations for a season long loan for Andrew Surman.

Cranie is thought to be the most likely player to be offered by Redknapp, although Mills is a possibility.

Cranie, the England under-19s captain, can play anywhere across the back four and has returned recently from a loan spell at Bournemouth, while Mills has just joined the same club for a month, having spent time at Coventry earlier in the season.

Walsall 1 vs Bradford City 1

neilr @ 6:57 pm Saturday 26 February 2005

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.

Walsall vs Bradford City – Preview

neilr @ 1:22 pm Friday 25 February 2005

It’s a sign of the current form of the two teams facing each other at Bescot on Saturday that a few weeks ago, this would have looked like a difficult fixture for the Saddlers. Indeed, Bradford’s away record suggests that is still the case, being

Played 17, Won 8, Drawn 3, Lost 6, For 19, Against 21, Points 27.

Their current form, however, is abysmal, being on a run of Won 1, Drawn 2 and Lost 3 of the last six games (although the win was away at Sheffield Wednesday). Accordingly, they have slipped out of the immediate play off picture and are now a mere 5 points ahead of Walsall.

Bradford boss Colin Todd is sweating on the fitness of the dangerous Nicky Summerbee for the game, as he is struggling with a groin strain. In addition, the Manchester United on loan midfielder Paul Tierney (hamstring), defender Darren Holloway (calf) and midfielder Tom Kearney (hernia) all miss out, while defenders David Wetherall and Lewis Emanuel begin suspensions. They are thin on the ground at the back, to say the least. They have got midfielder Marc Bridge-Wilkinson in on loan from Stockport today to help out.

For the Saddlers, Jorge Leitao will have a late fitness test, while Marvin Robinson (scorer of the Walsall goal on his debut in the draw in the away fixture) is definitely out with a groin strain. Simon Osborn is expected to play, despite the pain from his foot injury, as he will be missing next week after picking up his fifth booking of the season at Luton. Kinsella and McKinney are, of course, both still out and the only other doubt surrounds Kris Taylor, who, according to WM last night, rang in sick yesterday, although there is no mention on the official site. Standing is, of course, available to come in if the is missing.

Predictions? Merson has promised a more attacking line up than in the last game, but his options seem to be limited up front, especially if Leitao doesn’t make it. If that is the case, he could play Surman up front and bring himself back in a 4 3 1 2, or could play 4 4 1 1, with himself playing off the front man. Either way, I’ll go for a home win, especially in view of their current form and injury and suspension problems at the back. 3 – 1 to the Saddlers.

Kolge Boldclub Take Two Youngsters

neilr @ 7:44 pm Wednesday 23 February 2005

Danish second division club Kolge Boldklub have taken youngsters Scott Dann and Sean Platt on loan, if International clearance comes through (which should be a formality).

Scott Dann is well known to most Walsall fans, as he is the fourth choice centre back at the club and has made the squad on a few occasions. Platt, however, has only broken into the reserves this season and is a former full back turned midfielder. He is being sent out on loan immediately after signing his first professional contract.

This should be good experience for the two youngsters, as they will be playing in the second tier of Danish football, at the club with the former Bag Ladies board member, Clive Stapleton, as Chairman.

Their web site URL is http://www.koge-boldklub.dk/

Luton game – Hatters view

roger6 @ 10:52 am Wednesday 23 February 2005

UpTheSaddlers asked Hatters season ticket holder Loz for his view on the game – and here it is:

There was a moment last night when I had given up on three points and thought we’d be lucky to get one. Walsall are one of the best teams to come to Kenilworth Road this season. Better than Hull, Huddersfield and Sheffield Wednesday but not quite as good as Doncaster Rovers who played for the full 90 minutes and got their reward. Along with the four teams mentioned above, the Saddlers can separate themselves from the rest of League 1 on the basis that they came to KR and played football.

I can understand how Saddlers fans feel that we are hoofing, long ball merchants as for long periods of last night and for most of the game at the Bescott, that is what you reduced us to. The few (about 300?) who made the trip to KR last night will have heard from the Luton faithful the frustration at how we were playing. There is definitely something in the way you play against us that forces our defence to bypass our midfield. We are not long ball merchants, honest!!!

Both teams started fairly brightly with chances at both ends and Luton having the best of them mainly because they got their shots on target. A couple of tasty challenges on Coyne and Nicholls went unpunished within the first seven minutes and not for the first time this season Hatters fans wondered if the challenges had been the other way round, maybe the yellow card would have come out.
For most of the game Howard was well watched by the two Walsall central defenders, in fact so close was the marking that they’ve probably woken up with flu this morning. Howard was not really himself last night after suffering with flu for the last two days and only just deemed fit to play at the last minute.

The first half was ok from a Luton perspective and we just felt that if we were patient a goal would come, but the second half was very different. Luton replaced Robinson at half time, still not sure why, but with him gone there was no calming influence in midfield and Walsall slowly took charge. Until the 80th minute, when they clearly just decided that a point was enough. 11 men behind the ball hoofing it into empty areas of the pitch. I was gobsmacked. Why, when you’re well on top in a game and looking threatening, would you just stop attacking? All Walsall lacked in the second half was a quality final ball and they could have been 2 or 3 up and before the 80 minute mark I thought you’d get the goal you deserved.

Mike Newell saw the same thing we all did and threw on the extra attacker in Enoch Showunmi and we pounded the Walsall goal for the last 10 minutes. When the penalty came (and it was a clear pen) it felt inevitable and yet for most of the half we weren’t in it. I know how that feels. More than half of our away games last season ended with a goal against us in the last 5 minutes. God knows how many points we threw away but it ended with us in mid-table which is pretty much where you guys are headed this year. Nicholls dispatched the penalty bravely after missing one on Saturday and we just hope we can keep this luck going for one more game. That’ll be our 5th in 14 days. Then the lads can actually have a week’s rest and perhaps not look so jaded as they have done in the 2nd half of the last two games.

Thanks Walsall, you probably didn’t deserve that.

Luton 1 Walsall 0

neilr @ 11:06 pm Tuesday 22 February 2005

Despite the coach breaking down so the team arrived late and a “backs to the wall” performance in the first half, the Saddlers gradually got themselves into the game at League leaders Luton Town tonight, only for the referee to hand the home team the points courtesy of a late penalty.

The 4 5 1 formation gain proved its worth tonight, as the Saddlers, despite losing Jorge Leitao to injury, put up a battling display at top of the table Luton. The runaway League leaders had three or four good chances in the first half, but Walsall slowly began to frustrate them in the second, led by the outstanding Simon Osborn, and a third consecutive clean sheet and a very welcome point looked certain until the referee gave the home team a penalty late on. It looked soft at the time, but the replays on Sky Sports News suggest there was a push by Emblen, who had got “wrong side” of his man.

The current defensive improvement is a welcome development in the Saddler’s season.

Ex Walsall Men On The Move

neilr @ 1:16 pm Tuesday 22 February 2005

Former Walsall “favourite” Michael Ricketts is one the move again. He has gone to Stoke City from Leeds United on a month’s loan.

Ricketts came up through the ranks at the Saddlers, and scored 15 goals in just over 30 appearances before moving to Bolton Wanderers. There, he scored 24 goals in their promotion season and also started like a train in the Premiership, with 15 goals by January, leading to his one and only England cap. He later moved to Middlesborough, where he met with little success, then Leeds, where he met with even less. His signing would seem to mean former Walsall target Adi Akinbiyi’s move to Sheffield United will go ahead.

Meanwhile, a poster on the Rivals site is saying that Moreira Herivelto has signed a one year contract with Chonbuk Hyundai Motors, one of the South Korea K-League’s top teams. This would seem strange, considering the fact that Walsall said he had been released to move back home and I always thought he was Brazilian, not Korean. The club’s own site has not yet confirmed this, however, and it may be a wind up!

Luton Town vs Walsall – Preview

neilr @ 1:47 pm Monday 21 February 2005

Following the disappointment of Saturday’s goalless encounter with Franchise FC at Bescot, Walsall have the perfect chance to get back to winning ways with a nice easy winnable away trip on Tuesday night. Well, that would have been nice wouldn’t it? Instead, of course, we’ve got a visit to the runaway league leaders Luton Town, who are now seven points clear at the top.

It’s going to be decision time for Paul Merson again in terms of team selection and tactics. Mike Newell’s men will not only be wanting to maintain their lead at the top, but also have a 2 – 0 defeat at Bescot to avenge. The question for Merson is whether to play the 4 5 1 formation which was so successful at Bristol City, but which created so little against the Franchise. In view of the opposition’s goal difference at home being plus 20, scoring at a rate of nearly 2 a game and conceding less than 1 per game, I’d go with flooding the midfield!

The Saddlers should have Michael Standing available following his illness, especially as he did not figure on Saturday. There is no news on Simon Osborn’s fitness, after he limped off in the Franchise FC game, but he should hopefully be fit, especially given the influence he’s had on the last two outings. Marvin Robinson was apparently left out the last game because of a groin problem and is fifty fifty, but Mark Kinsella and Richard McKinney are definite absentees.

There is no news yet on the Luton injury front, but they had several players either returning from injury or about to for their trip to Bradford at the weekend, which resulted in yet another away win for them, so they should be close to full strength.

Luton’s home record this season is:-

Played 16, Won 11, Drawn 4, Lost 1, Goals For 30, Against 10, Points 37

Only Hull and Hartlepool have a better record.

Predictions? They don’t like you saying it, but they are big and awkward and like to hit the front men early. In Brkovic they have one of the most skilful players in the Division (and one not afraid to take a blatant dive in the box, as his winning of the penalty at Bradford on Saturday showed). Although we beat them 2 – 0 at home in one of our best performances this season, anything from this game would have to be a bonus. Despite the encouraging win at Bristol City in our last away game, I can’t see anything other than a home win.

Next Focus Group Set

neilr @ 4:45 pm Sunday 20 February 2005

The club have announced the details of the next Focus group meeting. The last two meetings have been well attended and, accordingly, Roy Whalley and the club have been taking note of the fan’s views.

The meeting will be in The Saddlers Club on Monday, February 28th at 8.00pm.

As promised at the last meeting, following long discussions on the fighting before and after the trip to Wrexham, the theme will be ‘crowd safety and spectator behaviour’, with Walsall FC Safety Officer, Gary Wilson and Police Liaison Officer, PC Pete Matthews both in attendance.

A good turn out can, hopefully, be expected again.

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