Archive for October, 2005

Barnsley vs Walsall Report

neilr @ 2:52 pm Saturday 29 October 2005

Paul Merson sprang a surprise this afternoon, lining up with an apparant 4 5 1, consisting of Standing, Kinsella, Taylor, Demontagnac and Sztybel across the middle. Osborn was left out completely, with WM Radio reporting that his hamstring strain hadn’t cleared up.
Whatever the explanantion, the line up didn’t work, as the Saddlers were pushed further and further back as Barnsley (and McPhail in particular) completely dominated possession in midfield.

Michael Standing had to go off injured after only eight minues and, strangely, Anthony Gerrard came on into midfield in his stead, rather than Joe Broad.

Posession was totally in Barnsley’s favour and only some stout defending and some very good goalkeeping from Joe Murphy kept Barnsley down to one goal, scored early on by Hayes, after 12 minutes.

The only bright spot at half time was that Barnsley had been playing with the wind behind them in the first half and the Saddlers would have that advantage for the second 45 minutes. However, we also had both Roper and Gerrard booked.

Merson decided to make the changes for the second half and took the ineffective Mark Kinsella off for Jorge Leitao, moving to a 4 4 2 formation.

The move had an immediate effect, as Walsall stated getting better possession and looked like getting back into the game, although the only shot we had came from Kris Taylor, easily saved by Colgan.

It seemed that the Saddlers had decided to completely shoot themselves in the foot after Craig Pead took it upon himself to run up to Howard and kick him while he was lying on the ground. A straight red card and an immediate three match ban.

Ian Roper was lucky to escape a second yellow after a bad foul, but it seemed the ref didn’t wan to send a second player off.

Against the run of play, Jorge Leitao went on a good run and set up Matt Fryatt to score from open play for the first time for some games. Merson took the immediate decision to switch from the 3 4 2 we had been playing since Pead’s sending off to 4 4 1, to try and protect the point and, within two minutes Barnsley struck again with Hayes’s second goal.

Bennett immediately made a tremendous block to stop the Saddlers going three down.

Matt Fryatt had a goal disallowed for offside, probably rightly, but the rest of the game seemed to be petering out, hardly surprisingly, with the another downside of Walsall picking up more yellow cards, with Leitao and Taylor joining Roper and Gerrard in the book.

This was a spirited performance in the second forty five, considering Walsall were reduced to ten men, but the home side had far the better of the chances even so and this was a game which we should have got a point from normally. The first half performance, however, was completely shocking, described from the ground as one of the worst team performances seen from us for a while, and Barnsley probably deserved the points for that, well as we played second half.

Merthyr looms, with no experienced ‘keeper and no right back

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Smith Shocker

neilr @ 12:03 pm Friday 28 October 2005

In a totally unexpected move, Walsall have sent Paul Smith back to Gillingham on loan, initially until the end of December.

The former Gillingham skipper had got off to a poor start in his Walsall career, with injury preventing him from having a proper pre season and was then thrown into the side too early by Manager Paul Merson, when still not match fit.

Lately, however, Smith has started to show the sort of form that made him a fans’ favourite at Priestfield and this news comes as a complete shock.

Keeper Target Named

Meanwhile, the Express and Star has named Merson’s goalkeeper target as 28 year old Murphy Akanji, the former Nigerian number two, currently playing for Sliema Wanderers, in Malta.

He has played for Sliema since the 2001/2002 season, moving there from Nigeria.

Barnsley vs Walsall Preview

neilr @ 9:33 am Friday 28 October 2005

It’s back on the road for the Saddlers tomorrow, as they travel to meet a team almost as inconsistent as themselves, as well as visiting one of the country’s least attractive towns, in the shape of Barnsley.

Last week’s narrow win did take some of the pressure off Paul Merson, but Walsall are desperate to maintain their away form. At the moment it’s won 2 drawn 2 lost 3 and is helping keep the pressure off the home form, which is mid table only. So, what are the prospects?

Merson said that he wanted to keep the same side this week that performed so creditably in the second half against Doncaster, but his hopes were soon dashed. Mark Wright picked up a knock in that game and, whilst waiting for the substitution to be made, got another which means he’ll be out for some four weeks minimum. With natural replacements Wrack, Daryl Taylor and Gillett all injured, youngster Jay Stzybel has been called up to the squad. The fans’ attempts to chant the right winger’s name should be interesting. On top of that, Dario Larrossa picked up an injury in training and may be unfit. Leitao is the likely replacement, but cover on the bench up front will be a problem. Osborn will, hopefully, have recovered from his stiff hamstring which forced him off last week.

The other long term injury victims missing are, of course, Oakes and Merson himself and Steve Staunton has picked up yet another calf strain.

What of Barnsley? Well, they are just above us in the table, both in terms of position and points, spookily just like Doncaster last week. In another parallel, they have also had a couple of good results recently, with a draw away at Southend and an away win at Rotherham. At home, their last two games have been a disappointing draw with Blackpool and a 4 – 0 spanking of Oldham. Their inconsistency is shown by the game before that, however, when they contrived to lose 3 – 0 at the so far extremely disappointing Bristol City.

Of the players common to the two sides, Matt Carbon is injured at the moment, so Manager Andy Ritchie has brought in the highly promising Chelsea youngster Steven Watt on a month’s loan. Chris Shuker is having an excellent season so far, however, and may well prove a handful.

Men to watch include former Leeds midfielder Stephen McPhail, who ran the show for them in midfield last season and Jacob Burns, third in the most fouls committed in the Division chart! Former Manchester United striker Daniel Nardiello also seems to give us problems, but at least Michael Chopra is back at Newcastle.

Predictions? Roper’s back where he should be, the centre of the defence, and his partnership with Bennett looked promising last week. The main defensive problems in the Doncaster game came from a lack of cover in midfield and, hopefully, that will have been addressed. As Merson’s plans to play the same 4 4 2 have been dashed, we may even see a return to 4 5 1, especially if he plays both inexperienced wingers, Stzybel and Demontagnac. If he does, I would expect a close game and a good chance of a point, or even a narrow win.

Goalkeeping Shenanigans

neilr @ 1:46 pm Thursday 27 October 2005

According to an interview on Team Talk which has quoted Paul Merson, it appears he is having a change of heart again over the goalkeeping situation for the Merthyr Tydfil Cup Tie.

Originally, with Sunderland refusing to let Joe Murphy be cup tied and Dean Coleman already having played for Halesowen on loan in the competition this season, Merson had said that he was happy to use Rene Gillmartin in the game.

Following the reserves 6 – 0 defeat against Rotherham yesterday, it seems that Merson has changed his mind again.

The Saddlers boss said: “I’m looking for a new keeper in time for the FA Cup game because Mick has said Joe definitely can’t play. I’d like to keep Rene involved but our reserves lost 6-0 this week and I’d imagine that’s shaken his confidence because it’s certainly shaken mine. We do have one other option though because we’re looking at a keeper who’s based abroad.”

Quite what this is doing for the confidence of the players involved and the planning for next week’s televised game remains to be seen.

Geordie\’s Pub Guide to Barnsley

neilr @ 6:00 am Thursday 27 October 2005

Barnsley, as a Saddler what can you say? Rotherham’s terrible twin?

The typically styled “good news/bad news” half-time phone call home can often begin with “ at least you’re not here, now for the bad news”.

Unless you alight the train with a tongue like Ghandi’s flip-flop then don’t bother with the town centre, life’s too short to start with, and can get potentially shorter wandering around the pubs near the station. Don’t get me wrong, there are a couple of good pubs in Barnsley but they are out of the way in the “old town”, and as you are faced with a 20 minute walk anyway just don’t bother is my advice.

If you must, then the Courthouse Station is at least adjacent but there the good news ends.

I’m afraid it doesn’t get much better! Near the ground, especially if parking at the leisure centre, you would be well advised just to go in Rigby’s bar in the Britas Empire style centre itself. It’s away friendly and serves a good selection of beer (including Stella and Kronie) provided you don’t mind paying slightly high prices and the smell of chlorine.

The staff are really nice, but real beauty is as you walk out, down a hill two minutes to the away end.

“Tip” do not walk immediate left upon exiting as you need to walk straight out and left where you see the service road; it’s very embarrassing if you don’t!

If you fancy a trip back in time then walk to the home end and try The Mount on the corner of Pontefract Road. Unsurprisingly it’s very home orientated, but not exclusively home fans as a couple of years ago.

I went in before and after the match last season and had no problems, the beer is incredibly cheap (dark Magnet and Sam Smiths) and the locals were what I would describe as “curiously” friendly. Their curiosity seemed to centre on the fact that I wasn’t bald or at least 20 stone in weight. I felt a bit like Richard Dreyfus in the landing scene of Close Encounters. Thankfully none of the occupants got round to actually feeling my hair, Sky-Sports proving an adequate distraction (just).

Rather annoyingly last season beer was not available in the away end, despite the existence of a bar, but hopefully a rethink may have occurred, as the way we usually play at Oakwell demands a half-time slurp.

Demontagnac Gets A Call Up

neilr @ 12:12 pm Wednesday 26 October 2005

The FA have announced that promising Walsall left winger Ishmel Demontagnac has been called up to the England under 18 squad for their away friendly in Turkey on the 15th November.

The youngster, who has quickly made a favourable impression with Saddlers’ fans, is one of 6 players in the squad who have got first team experience this season, four of whom having done so in the League.

The other name to note is Paul Merson’s summer loan target, Everton striker, James Vaughan.

The Turks will provide very stiff opposition, having given a good account of themselves in the recent under 17 World Championships.

Premiership Loan Link

Meanwhile, ClubCall is again linking us with a loan approach for Birmingham City’s highly rated Neil Killkenny, while Mark Wright is injured.

As Killkenny made his first team debut for Blues at the weekend against Blackburn, this one seems a little unlikely, but you never know.

Merthyr Keeper Woes

neilr @ 10:20 am Wednesday 26 October 2005

Sunderland have apparently told Paul Merson that they do not want Joe Murphy cup-tied, so the Saddlers will be left with a problem for the trip to Merthyr Tydfil.

With club product Dean Coleman also cup tied, after playing for Halesowen in a previous round, whilst on loan there, Merson seems to be left with having to play virtually untried Irish youngster Rene Gillmartin in goal, with youth team ‘keeper Luke Tilt as the only back up.

Following the disaster of the first round exit at Slough last season, this will come as a blow, although the Saddlers ought to have more than enough in their locker to deal with the Welsh non league team, no matter how inexperienced the goalkeeper.

Merthyr Only 390 Seats!

neilr @ 3:19 pm Tuesday 25 October 2005

We have been granted a mere 390 seats for our FA Cup first round game at Merthyr Tydfil on Friday, November 4th (kick-off 7.45pm).

According to the Official Site, tickets will only be available to season-ticket holders, on production of Voucher C. The cost will be £12 for adults and £9 concessions.

Details of when the tickets go on sale and other arrangements will be announced shortly, but postal applications are being accepted now, with the details on the official site.

The Walsall FC Away Travel Service will be running coaches to the game at a cost of £14 per person, departing Bescot Stadium at 3.30pm.

Wright Out For A Month

neilr @ 12:47 pm Tuesday 25 October 2005

Paul Merson’s plans to play the same eleven on Saturday that he did in the last game have been dealt a fatal blow.

Right winger Mark Wright, creator of the all important goal against Doncaster Rovers, has suffered medial ligament damage and will be out for at least four weeks. With Darren Wrack out with a broken leg and Daryl Taylor still not back from the injury he picked up while on loan at Hereford last season, this means that the Saddlers will be without an orthadox right winger for the game on Saturday.

Injury Update Simon Osborn

neilr @ 7:37 am Tuesday 25 October 2005

Simon Osborn was taken off at half time on Saturday as a precaution, as he had a hamstring problem .

The lastest from the club is that the injury was just a “tightening” and that he should be fit for the away trip to Barnsley this weekend.

Manager Paul Merson has already said that he wants to keep the same side at the weekend, in order to try and get some consistancy going.

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