Archive for November, 2005

Walsall News Round-up.

Geordie_Saddler @ 12:35 pm Wednesday 30 November 2005

One or two snippets of news as we build up to Saturday’s game and beyond.

Firstly as expected Joe Murphy will not be allowed to play on Saturday, although the “E and S” is reporting we are hopeful of making his signing permanent in January.

Rene Gilmartin sat out last night’s impressive reserve team win at Sheffield United, in which James Constable scored the first goal. The Official Site reports impressive displays from Daryl Taylor, Ant Gerrard, and sub David McDermott.

In an effort to reverse the falling gates the club have also announced a cheap ticket deal for the Wycombe and Hartlepool games. A double ticket priced at £20 can be purchased enabling admission to both games, while individual general admission for Wycombe is only a tenner, £ 8 for Season Ticket holders upon voucher production and concessions will be priced at £2. Any hope of a capacity crowd is a forlorn one however as the upper and middle “Floors 2 Go” are closed.

There are also a raft of different deals for the trip to Forest such as: kids for a quid, students for a tenner, and general £2 discount for advanced tickets, which also avoids attendance at the woefully slow City Ground ticket office. Best to visit the Official Site for the details of said offers, deals, incentives, secret-handshakes and passwords. One day some bright spark might actually come up with the notion that it’s not a good idea to charge £23 for mid-table third division football.

Looking even further ahead, the visit of Blackpool to Bescot on New-Years Eve now has a 1.30 kick-off, and a reminder that Bradford away on Wednesday the 28th December is a night match, for anyone who like me had totally lost their bearings regarding this year’s Bank Hols.

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Walsall vs Rotherham

Geordie_Saddler @ 2:19 pm Saturday 26 November 2005

There was a surprise in the Walsall line up at Bescot this afternoon with Ian Roper passed fit to play. Saddlers also included Julian Bennett and Steve Staunton in the starting 11 and lined up in an apparent “4-4-2ish” formation with Fox in midfield and James Constable on the bench. Larossa was absent from the 16 with Leitao up-front and Demontagnac on the right.

Team:

Murphy, Pead, Fox, Roper, Bennett, Staunton, Demontagnac, Leitao, Osborn, Skora, Fryatt.

Bench: Constable, both Taylors, Gerrard, Gilmartin.

Match details courtesy of Martin at Bescot.

Yeovil will be quaking in their gloves after The Saddlers notched an impressive fourth straight home win against haplass Rotherham at Bescot. Walsall’s first double of the season duly arrived courtesy of a Matty Fryatt brace in the three minutes before half-time, although up until then the game had been a fairly subdued affair.

Once in-front the Saddlers controlled large parts of the game with Roper effective against the threat of Burton and Jorge Leitao added a third with a neat header mid-way through the second half.

Skora was once again influential in the middle and he along with fit-again Osborn contributed assists although Jorge took the sponsor’s man of the match for another industrious performance.

Bennett looked a little ill at ease at left-back and it was disappointing to concede a sloppy goal to Rotherham substitute Hoskins 12 minutes from time.

But this has been a good week to be a Saddler, and we look forward to next week’s cup encounter with renewed optimism and the hope that this season is finally about to come to life.

Walsall Host Wycombe In LDV

Geordie_Saddler @ 10:46 am Saturday 26 November 2005

Saddlers are at home again following this morning’s draw for the area 1/4 finals. Wycombe, managed by John Gorman will be at Bescot in the week commencing 19th December. The Chairboys have had a record breaking unbeaten start to their League Two campaign, although they were soundly beaten by Northampton in the FA cup, and trounced by Villa in the League cup.

Wycombe edged passed Gillingham courtesy of a penalty shoot-out in the last round, and have some familiar names in their line-up with Tommy Mooney, Rob Lee, and ex-Saddler Stefan Oakes all currently plying their trade at Adams Park.

Despite Wycombe’s formidable league form, a home tie against League Two opposition represents a great opportunity for the Saddlers to get within two rounds of the final.

Elswhere in the Southern section favourites Swansea host Peterborough, and Franchise are at home to Colchester.

On a more sombre note it has been announced that a one minute silence will be observed this afternoon before all games to mark the passing of the one and only George Best.

Rotherham Preview.

Geordie_Saddler @ 9:27 am Friday 25 November 2005

Walsall welcome out of sorts Rotherham and enter a crucial phase in their season buoyed by some astute transfer dealings and a run of three home wins.

And on paper it’s a perfect opportunity for the Saddlers to further galvanise their home form against the Millers who are without a “proper” win in 14 competitive games dating back to September 10th.

The feel good factor has been created with the extensions to Fox’s contract and the loans of Murphy and Skora, and the news that Simon Osborn may also figure. Likewise the positive sub appearances of debutant Constable and long term injury victim Daryl Taylor on Tuesday suddenly has us bristling with attacking options which will make tomorrow’s line-up both interesting and even more difficult than usual to predict.

The Millers have etched a few useful away draws despite their woes, notably at Franchise and Barnsley where the Saddlers failed in their respective recent away trips.
They will be missing influential defender Colin Murdoch who was one of three sent off at Barnsley last week, although ex-Saddler Deon Burton should figure after sitting out the mid-week defeat to Macclesfield.

Unfortunately for us both Ian Roper and Chris Westwood are injured meaning a further defensive reshuffle, and Kinsella is also unlikely to feature.

This represents an opportunity for a rapid double against the team we beat on the opening day, and really falls into the category of “must win” if we are to at least maintain mid-table stability whilst progressing in the cups.

The area quarter final for the LDV is due to be played in the week before Christmas, but as yet there’s no mention on the Soccer AM site to say the draw is on tomorrow’s show.

Walsall vs Bournemouth Preview

neilr @ 4:53 pm Monday 21 November 2005

It’s the LDV Trophy tomorrow night and the question might well be “How Many Will Turn Up?”

The game against Bournemouth is highly unlikely to attract many away fans and the LDV rarely seems to capture the imagination of the punters until the later rounds, so it may well be a case of “spot the crowd”. Saddlers fans will, however, get a chance to see a new signing, so that might make some difference.

After the unusual and unsuccessful experiment with 5 4 1 on Saturday, we can expect a change back to a far more attacking line up for the visit of the Cherries. Craig Pead is available after suspension, but there is no news yet of the possible return of any of the injuries. Merson is surely likely to take the opportunity to give the over tired Demontagnac a rest, so we may well have another strange looking line up. Daryl Taylor is likely to play some part, along with new signing James Constable, so I’d expect a 4 4 2, something like

Murphy, Westwood, Roper, Bennett, Fox, Skora, Pead, Taylor K, Taylor D, Leitao and Fryatt, with Demontagnac, Larrossa, Constable, Gerrard and Gilmartin on the bench. Others who might play a part include Staunton and Sztybel, of course, especially if he decides on the other major option, a 3 5 2.

There is no indication form the opposition camp as to whether they will be fielding a full strength team or not. Certainly, they will likely be without the injured local lad Steven Cooke and midfielder Coutts, who has german measles. Danger man Fletcher may well play some part, however, as he returns from injury.

Ones to watch for the opposition include the man who needs no introduction, Andrew Surman and on loan Pompey striker James Keene, who has just extended his successful loan for another month.

There is no real applicable form guide for this game, as the LDV seems to have its own rules, but, while we had a bye into this round, the Cherries beat Conference side Aldershot 4 – 1, which is no mean feat. Their other cup tie recently, however, was the embarrassment of losing to Tamworth and their defence was looking leaky at the weekend, when they let in four at Doncaster.

Predictions? In the LDV? You’ve got to be joking. Should be a home win, but a freezing cold night in a second rate competition? It might well be whoever is most “up for it”.

Murphy to Stay

Meanwhile, the club are about to announce that Sunderland have agreed a two month extension to Joe Murphy’s loan, taking that up until January the 21st. As with all long term loans, however, they will have an instant 24 hour recall option.

Hunting A New Mick Kearns?

neilr @ 4:01 pm Sunday 20 November 2005

Walsall could bring in their THIRD Irish goalkeeper in the New Year with a move for Total Network Solutions’ Ger Doherty, who impressed everyone in their Champions League clash with Liverpool earlier this season, even saving a Dietmar Hamann penalty in the second leg.

Doherty played both legs of the European qualifier against the holders in July.

The 24-year-old former Ireland Youth International ‘keeper joined Derby from his hometown club, Derry City, in 1999, but failed to make a single first-team appearance in more than two years at the Rams.

He then had a spell at non League Ilkeston Town, before joining Welsh League megabucks outfit TNS, but he could return to the Football League after an absence of more than four years if Paul Merson follows up his initial enquiry with a firm offer in January.

Merson already has, of course, two Irish goalkeepers in Joe Murphy and Rene Gilmartin in his squad at Bescot Stadium.

Franchise vs Walsall Match Report

neilr @ 5:14 pm Saturday 19 November 2005

No first hand report from the Fat Controller today during the match, but WM and calls after the game at least let you know what happened!

We’re starting to get used to strange formations from Merson, but today’s looked the strangest yet, as we lined up Murphy, Westwood, Roper, Staunton, Bennett, Fox, Leitao, Gerrard, Skora, Demontagnac, Fryatt. Kris Taylor, who the Official Site had been predicting to return yesterday, was only on the bench. 5 Centre Backs, including one in midfield? Had we swapped Merson for Megson and not been told?

It looked every bit like a team set up for a nil nil, which was a shame, as Franchise got an early goal, when, despite the five centre backs, Izale McCleod managed to get between Roper and Westwood to put home a diving header from six yards out.

The Saddlers were looking all at sea, with a new formation and players out of position, but after 15 minutes or so began to settle down to the task. Skora was taking every opportunity again to break forward from midfield to join Fryatt, the loan striker and, eventually, sent Leitao away, then got up himself to receive the pass and slot the ball home for his second goal in two games.

The rest of the half and the first thirty minutes of the second, Walsall had the edge. Despite never committing too many forward, they did make the better chances of the two sides and Westwood and Leitao could both count themselves unlucky in the first half and Leitao should have done better with a couple of chances in the second, althought it has to be said that the best save on the afternoon was a one handed effort from Murphy to deny Clive Platt after he got goalside of Staunton.

Eventually, however, the threat from Demontagnac down the left flank began to receed as tiredness from his busy week took hold, as it did from Leitao on the right, but it did come as a surprise when Leitao was replaced by Daryl Taylor, rather than Demontagnac and the other one of the only two central midfielders in the squad, Kris Taylor, never got on at all.

Finally, on 83 minutes, Franchise got a free kick a long way out, courtesy of an Ian Roper foul, Murphy fumbled the shot and Aaron Wilbraham, an early sub for the injured Izale McCleod, turned the ball home. There was no real way back from there, despite replacing Bennett with Larrossa and Murphy going up for corners and Franchise ran out 2 – 1 winners.

The Saddlers were unlucky to come away without a point today, but, it has to be said, to go to a team fifth from bottom at the start of play, and which had only won two homes game all season and to play 5 4 1 (not 3 5 1 or 4 5 1, this was out and out defensive 5 4 1), if you lose you have only yourself to blame.

Franchise vs Walsall Preview

neilr @ 8:41 am Friday 18 November 2005

It’s already the first return fixture of the season (will that fixture computer ever get these things right) and a trip to the concrete wasteland that is Milton Keynes. If ever there was an example of the perfect soulless new town, this is it. If you thought Telford was bad . . . . .

It’s going to be all change again, in the midfield, as Mark Kinsella, who played so well in freeing Eric Skora to go forward last week picked up yet another calf injury in training this week and is very doubtful. Osborn hasn’t got over his hamstring problem., so it looks as if Kris Taylor will be partnering the Frenchman. Leitao will, we assume, continue on the right wing, but Merson may also be reluctantly forced to play Demontagnac, despite his hour long appearance for England under 18s and the long flights to and from Turkey.
He also has the option of using Daryl Taylor on the bench, after 45 minutes this week in a practise game, but that would be very, very risky, so Joe Broad may yet make an appearance.

In defence, expect Staunton to play or be on the bench, but last week’s line up seems the most likely, with Pead missing the last of his games through suspension. It is, officially, Joe Murphy’s last game, unless his loan is extended.

Long term injury victims Standing, Oakes, Merson, Wrack and Wright all will be missing.

Franchise’s main injury worry would seem to be ex Saddler Clive Platt, who picked up a knock while scoring the two goals that got them past Lincoln City in the Cup. There were stories that they had a couple of others likely to be missing, but their official site says Ricketts and Smith should be available

Franchise go into the game in 20th place in the table. Their current record at home is:

Played 9 Won 2 Drawn 6 Lost 1 For 9 Against 8 Points 12

So, in the home table, they are a respectable 15th, with only their habit of turning wins into draws stopping them making further progress.

Their danger man is always the pacy Izale McCleod, famous for his dubious falling over habits when at Derby.

Predictions? A late, late Julian Bennett equaliser in a game from which we deserved nothing doesn’t bode well. It was only the fact that McCleod and Platt hadn’t bought their shooting boots with them kept us in the game. However, Skora’s performance last week showed that, if we can give him the base to work from, he can deliver. Whether Taylor is as capable of doing that as Kinsella (or Osborn) remains to be seen. The left flank also worries me, as the effects of the long, tiring trip on Demontagnac could give us problems. Given the opposition’s record, a draw, I think.

I’ve included a link to their fanzine preview, as it will provide the odd laugh

http://www.thebucksfizz.com/preview/wal-prev2

Geordie\’s Pub Guide to Milton Keynes

neilr @ 9:09 pm Wednesday 16 November 2005

Milton Keynes, where Blake’s Seven meets Sunshine Deserts.

A strange, almost other-worldly place where one wouldn’t be surprised to find a contrived franchise of a football club and a collection of chain pubs dotted between the concrete and offices. It certainly delivers.

Good news about the station is that it’s near the ground and something I especially like about MK is that the station announcer sounds like Holly off Red Dwarf. You half expect him to start pouring out his life’s woes over the tannoy to the weary delayed passengers below.

Shout Bar is situated above the bus station next door to the train station, and is probably the nearest to the ground.

My advice is, from the station traverse the concrete in a diagonal right (a virtual arrestable offence in this city) until you reach Avebury Boulevard, which at the station end is a dog muck ridden concrete walkway that leads up towards the centre, strange because you never see any dogs.

About 7 minutes walk you will encounter Wetherspoons (Moon Under Water, or some such name) tucked behind the Red –brick Abbey National office. It’s here that you are best advised to set up camp in what is a fairly salubrious environment with surprisingly good service for JD’s. That Wetherspoons real ale favourite “sorry not available” was also pleasantly conspicuous by its absence on my last visit.

Don’t forget to drink a toast to Milton Keynes City FC, the club whose dismembered traditions along with those of Wimbledon, were used to create MKDFC. Unlike Wimbledon, for them there was no re-incarnation and the ground that boasted the country’s oldest stand lies derelict.

Should you be chomping at the bit to get in some early Christmas shopping then cross over to Midsummer Boulevard and walk right up to the top of it (tap dancing to Singing In The Rain if you prefer) and head left into the Silbury Centre which is a very impressive shopping emporium that boasts the usual collection of shopping centre eateries.

Upon doing so you will encounter a further Wetherspoons, an All Bar One, and a Café Med, none of which are particularly better than the first Wetherspoons, but at least its downhill on the way back to the ground.

More Loans and More Trials

neilr @ 10:06 am Wednesday 16 November 2005

Paul Merson has said, when talking about Eric Skora’s performance last Saturday, that he is hoping to bring in another two loan signings to help bolster a play off push.

Quite how this news fits in with the current financial position of the club, it’s difficult to see, but, presumably, he will be free to use any savings from Paul Smith’s move back to Gillingham. That was, however, put under threat this week, with the resignation of Neale Cooper and a lot will depend on the views of any new appointment.

There have also been rumours for the last week or so that Vaughan and Platt have been told they can look for other clubs, which would also make some savings on the playing budget, albeit small ones. It may be that a left winger is still a priority, as Demontagnac cannot be expected to play every game at his age.

The other area Merson seems to be looking at stregthening is the strikers, having had two non League men on trial. However, the impressive James Constable is attracting lots of interest now and has gone for a trial with Swansea City, despite the fact that Walsall have put together a contract offer which Merson has been discussing with the player’s father.

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