Archive for April, 2006

Gillingham vs Walsall Match Review

neilr @ 9:34 am Sunday 30 April 2006

It was a useful pre season workout for Pelsall IIIs yesterday at Woverhampton Royal School versus Penn.

Skipper Danny Clenton lost the toss, but the Pelsall team reacted well for the first 35 or so overs, following the excellent start of two quick wickets from Gareth Williams. Rustiness, however, let Penn gallop away for the last 15 overs and they posted a challenging 196. The reply was again encouraging, as several players got in without being able to capitalise, including Ravenscroft, Priest, Instone Sr and Instone Jr, but the mainstay . . . . . .

Oh, wrong game is it? Sorry!

Walsall went down to Kent yesterday and actually came back with an away win against the old enemy.

Kinsella had lost the injured Smith and the disappointing Timm and decided, thankfully, to also dispense with the services of Leary, leaving only the most hungry of the loanees, Mills, Claridge and James in the team. Back came Wright, Roper and Demontagnac in a straight 4 4 2, with Mills and Keates holding and the wingers breaking forward.

This was no classic game, with the hosts looking poor as well as not that bothered, but it was a welcome, fighting one. Gillingham, despite having three golden chances in the first half, couldn’t score and the match was won when their ‘keeper spilled a not terribly difficult Keates free kick into the path of Claridge, just three yards out, who gleefully hit home his opening goal for the Saddlers.

Claridge also, of course, had the pleasure of scoring against a former employer, but, in his case, just about every goal he scores must be!

Even the Gillingham Rivals site, GillsConnect, admitted that the Saddlers deserved all three points (and, incidently, complimented the travelling fans and wished us well for next season):

Perhaps the thought that is best to hang on to here is that the history of this football club really changed one afternoon at the Priestfield Stadium, when a bunch of no hopers, tipped by the Bookies to go down, scrapped and fought for a 1 – 0 win, which came courtesy of an own goal.

The Manager that day was Ray Graydon and the team went on that season to gain promotion to the second tier of English football and the rest is history.

Perhaps the Priestfield yesterday saw the start of the fight back that will wipe out the pain and suffering of the last two appalling seasons. We’ll see more next week against Barnsley.


Gillingham vs Walsall Preview

neilr @ 12:08 pm Friday 28 April 2006

“Are we there yet, Dad?” Unfortunately, we’re not, as this disastrous season still has two games to go, but at least we’ve arrived at the last away game. It’s just a pity it has to be at the home of the team which was Colin Lee’s nemesis and which sent us down last time we were relegated with that 0 – 0 draw at Sjoke City. Let’s just hope that salt isn’t well and truly rubbed in the wounds and Darren Byfield gets a winning goal, or the notorious Tommy Black (remember him?) goes down for a penalty in the last five minutes. One or the other probably will, though, in the spirit of “Life’s a bitch and then you die”.

Mark Kinsella will be taking charge for what looks like being the first of only two games in charge, with his options limited with the end of loan periods. Mads Timm has gone back to Manchester United, thus saving his vastly inflated salary, and Grant Smith, who will be missed, back to Bristol City to recover from his injury. With Oakes in goal, therefore, the defence will line up from:

Pead, Gerrard, Roper, Mills and Fox. Westwood is, of course, suspended following his ridiculous sending off in last week’s debacle.

In midfield, we have a choice of Wright, Leary, James, Osborn, Keates, Kinsella himself and Demontagnac.

Up front, it looks like Claridge with Constable, Barrowman or the returned Atieno.

The interesting thing may well be if any of the more promising youngsters, such as Bradley, get a chance.

Gillingham seem to have a few injury and selection problems. Defender Brent Sancho will be missing, after his sending off last week at Yeovil, whilst old “friend” and former Grimsby midfielder Alan Pouton is injured. They will also have to give fitness tests to three strugglers, defender Danny Jackman, veteran defender Ian Cox and former Dingle Gary Mulligan, one of seemingly three million forwards out on loan from Sheffield United.

Predictions? Well, this is an historic occasion, being no less that the 100th League game between the two sides. At times this season, it looked as if this might turn out to be a six pointer at the bottom of the table, but that is long past. Last week’s defeat at Yeovil (which, indirectly, was the final nail in our coffin again), ended a superb run of six consecutive wins and the sending off of Sancho might well have been the only thing that stopped them achieving a magnificent seven. With a run like that, even with the players relaxed and the pressure off, I can’t see us getting even a point from this.

It’s a very long, lonely road back from darkest Kent. Oh dear, another metaphor.

Geordie\’s Final Pub Guide – Gillingham

neilr @ 7:07 am Thursday 27 April 2006

Well, old age comes to us all, but it’s going to stretch Geordiesaddler’s mental abilities next season remembering what some of the hell holes we’ll be visiting look like. I’m sure he’ll pull together his beer addled brain cells long enough to provide his invaluable service, however. So, for the final time this season, the wonders of the “Garden of England”:-

Sadly the last pub-guide of the season sees us having a farewell drink with League 1, on a trip that has traditionally been at the cusp of our recent history’s twists and turns.

A time for reflection I guess, whether it be hiding behind the bogs at the infamous McKnightmare game, that wonderful sunny afternoon that marked the start of the Graydon era, the victory on way to survival in Lee’s first full season, or his Priestfield demise twelve months later, Gillingham and its pubs has that sort of feel.

The Will Adams on Saxton Street is the best pub in town, with a lovely atmosphere and well kept ale. Landlord (Pete if I remember), often greets away fans with a handshake and a yarn about a trip he made to Fellows Park or some such tale, Well worth taking the 15 minute walk from the ground.

Train travellers could try the Southern Belle opposite the station which itself is only about 8 minutes walk from the stadium, but the pick of the pubs near the ground is The Livingstone Arms which runs the Will Adams close for friendliness, and is also handy for the away end that is accessed by a little alley way nearby.

The pub itself is filled with football memorabilia and the staff are absolutely spot on. There is also a chippy opposite and a bookies around the corner.

Have a pint on the steps outside and pretend its August 1998 and those magical moments before the Graydon team took its bow. The relegation we thought would occur that year has finally arrived eight years later but at least a trip to The Livingstone gives us a chance to drink a toast to the days of Rambo, Ada, Marshy, and Whacka, proper Saddlers.

Merson – Walsall Fans Incandescent

neilr @ 3:23 pm Wednesday 26 April 2006

Paul Merson finally came out in his true colours last night, with what can only be called an extraordinary attack on Walsall fans.

He came out with lines such as:

“Walsall have spent all their years, bar a handful, in the third tier and that’s where their natural position is”.

In case he hadn’t noticed, we were in the second tier when he took over and he PROMISED automatic promotion in his first season and the play offs in his second. Who was he deluding, himself or the fans?

“Some fans are deluding themselves in expecting, demanding more than that, the sort of fans who think they know everything and yet know absolutely nothing”.

Criticising people for believing the lies you told them then, eh Paul? It was YOU who said we were too good for the Division.

“I’ve never known supporters like it at Walsall. If it had not been for the five idiots behind the goal at Brentford who couldn’t wait to get out their ‘Merson Out’ banners, I would have had another week in the job and I think there’s a good chance I would not have got the sack”.

I thought that it might have had more to do with the five goals we shipped than the fans behind the goal, Paul, not to mention the overall spineless performance that day.

“I made mistakes, of course I did. I got it wrong tactically away from home, for example. I got the sack after five away games in a row against decent teams. But at home? At home, I would have backed us against anyone and who knows how things might have turned out with that extra week”.

I always thought the season consisted of 23 home games and 23 away games and never realised you were allowed to pick and choose which results counted, Paul. We have been relegated because of our record over the whole season, the vast majority of which you were in charge.

“I was told that the club was fearing a riot if they kept me in the job for another week. A riot? They don’t have enough people for a riot at Bescot”.

Petty insults, even.

“If Walsall had to play Barnsley at Bescott on the last day of the season and needed to win to stay up, you would get 8,000 there. But where are they the rest of the time?”

I might believe you cared about this club if you actually knew how to spell the name of the ground.

“But without those crowds they are always going to be fighting an uphill battle. Without those crowds, a Matty Fryatt will always have to be sold.
He’s scored goals in the Championship so how many would he have got for us. Goalscorers are the lifeblood of any team – if Arsenal sell Thierry Henry tomorrow they won’t win the Champions League. Simple as that”.

I couldn’t agree more! So who was the man who valued Fryatt in December at 250,000, as he didn’t have enough pace? Who told the Chairman we would only get 350,000 at most for him? I’ll spell it out: P. . A . . U . .L . . M . . E . . R . .S . . O . . N.

“But without more than 3,000 or 4,000 coming through the Bescot turnstiles, club such as Walsall will always have to survive by producing and then selling players. That’s the blunt truth”.

Too true. It’s just a pity that two years of you in charge reduced gates from 6,000, then isn’t it? It might be also prudent to remember what two decent managers, in the shape of Chris Nicholl and Ray Graydon, managed on those sorts of gates that you are complaining about. But, then again, they knew what they were doing, didn’t they and certainly didn’t waste the budget on 50 players in one season.

It’s about time that Mr Merson stopped trying to justify the two years he spent ruining a perfectly good little football club with his mis-management and admitted the huge contribution he’s made to its demise. But that would reflect badly on his new job of being on the tele, telling his betters how to do their jobs, wouldn’t it?

Smith Goes Home To Bristol City

neilr @ 6:23 pm Tuesday 25 April 2006

Grant Smith has returned to Bristol City following his loan spekll at Bescot.

The left sided midfielder has been one of the few relative successes out of the raft of Merson loanees this season, but even his contributions have been cut short by injury.

His latest setback is a groin strain that shows no sign of clearing up in time to make any contribution in the last two games, so temporary manager Mark Kinsella’s choices are restricted even further, as he has no cover for left back Fox, or left winger Demontagnac, as well as missing his possible presence in central midfield.

Thanks, Grant, at least you put more effort in than some.

What A Shambles

neilr @ 1:22 pm Monday 24 April 2006

The inevitable occurred this morning, as Walsall parted company with Kevan Broadhurst.

Broadhurst was bought in to try and save the club from relegation and Saturday’s defeat at home to Huddersfield Town meant that he has failed and the parting of the ways had to come.

His record as manager will, unfortunately, go down with some of the worst of those that had preceded him, being:-

Played 11, won 1, drawn 4, lost 6.

However, that also has to be seen in context. He was given a near thankless task, taking over after the transfer window had closed and with a squad riven by cliques and which had been mismanged, badly put together and badly coached for so long. He did his best, but his best was never going to be enough and one would question the wisdom of making such a short term appointment in the first place, when someone could have been brought in to make a fresh start, looking ahead to next season.

Which brings us to what Jeff Bonser will do next.

His tenure as Chairman and owner has been a catalogue of mistakes and disasters since his refusal to back Colin Lee at Christmas, following the Cardiff game. The culmination of that, coupled with the ruinous reign of the hapless Paul Merson, has been relegation to the bottom tier of League football, the sacking of two managers in two and a bit months and a squad which is demoralised, dejected and demotivated. The ability of the next man to change things is even limited by the farcical number of long term contracts Bonser let Merson grant.

So Jeff, tell us, where the Hell do we go from here?

Broadhurst goes

roger6 @ 10:30 am Monday 24 April 2006

Kevan Broadhurst has been sacked as Walsall manager this morning following the club’s relegation to League 2. His reign lasted just 11 games, during which time the club managed one win. It will be interesting to see what Broadhurst says publicly, if anything, about the state of Walsall FC, as he was intending a major clear-out and revamp if he’d been given next season as well. Expect there to be some sort of confidentiality clause as part of the financial settlement between the club and Broadhurst.

Mark Kinsella has been put in temporary chance. Meanwhile we wait to hear who is next in line to receive the permanent chalice from chairman Jeff Bonser.

Walsall vs Huddersfield – Party Over

neilr @ 9:24 am Sunday 23 April 2006

It was good while it lasted, wasn’t it? The flirtation with the higher reaches of football? Well, it’s well and truly over now.

Walsall became the first team to be relegated from Division 1 this season, when all of the teams we were competing with seemed to pick something up – but we never really looked like it, against a team possibly heading for automatic promotion.

It’s worth reporting that the efford was there, but not the skill.

It’s worth reporting that Oakes looked edgy all afternoon and his uncertainty helped no one. I’d question why he didn’t get closer to the first goal as well.

It’s worth saying that Pead did OK and Fox not so well in a 3 4 1 2 formation, but neither will ever make a wing back, as they supplied few crosses.

It’s worth saying Mills, Gerrard (especially) and Westwood looked OK in a back three until Westwood’s disgraceful sending off for kicking out in retaliation after being fouled.

It’s worth saying that Osborn played reasonably well until he tired, Keates ran around a lot, but created nothing and Timm looked a world beater for 15 minutes until Jackson dropped a man back to mark him, at which point his productivity vanished, shortly to be followed by the player with what looked like a hamstring problem. Oh , and Leary scored with a defelected shot.

It’s worth pointing out that Claridge and Constable tried, but the contrast between them and the movement of the Huddersfield forwards was the main difference between the two sides. When they needed to, they could just hit the ball into the channels, knowing that the run was being made. That’s not Claridge’s game and Constable just didn’t have a clue, anticipating nothing, not making the runs and never trying to get across the defender.

Oh, and James replaced Timm and did some nice things, but disappeared a lot.

Oh, and there was a demonstration aginast Bonser after the game, of around 200 people (I counted). That wasn’t terribly exciting either.

The effort was there, but we were rubbish in comparison to the opposition and, quite frankly, that’s been the case all year. Roll on the cricket season.


roger6 @ 4:57 pm Saturday 22 April 2006

Grim reality today for all Saddlers supporters as Walsall became the first club to be relegated from League One, and face life in the basement next season for the first time since 1995. Match report to follow, and full reflections on a season that has seen Merson sacked, 50+ players used, Bennett and Fryatt sold – where do we go from here?

Your view please

Walsall vs Huddersfield Preview

neilr @ 10:29 am Friday 21 April 2006

Tomorrow could see the final end to what has been a desperate season, as a defeat against Huddersfield will be enough to send us down if Yeovil get anything at home to Gillingham, given their (and Rotherham’s) vastly superior goal difference. Given that we have the second worse defensive record in the League and the fifth worse attack, the home win looks unlikely. So much for the promise of attacking football this season.

Out for the game are, of course, Nicholls and Wrack with their long term injuries, but Kevin James may be fit at long last, Westwood looks like being available despite pickling up an ankle injury on Monday and Gerrard has recovered has recovered from his knee problems.

Oakes will, therefore, be in goal and the defence will be from Pead, Roper, Gerrard, Westwood, Mills and Fox.

The midfield will come from James, Timm, Standing, Wright, Osborn, Keates, Leary, Smith, Demontagnac and Daryl Taylor.

Up front, the choices seem to be Claridge, Barrowman, Constable, and James (again).

Huddersfield’s problems consist of the suspension of skipper Worthington and full back Andy Holdsworth, who also seems certain to miss the trip. He is struggling to overcome the groin injury which forced him off against Chesterfield and is rated very doubtful.

Manager Peter Jackson cannot finalise his squad or, indeed, team planning because he also has doubts over illness victims Tom Clarke and John McAliskey.

Experienced defender Martin McIntosh is added to the squad after confirming his fitness in a goalscoring return to the Reserves against the Saddlers in the week, while striker Andy Booth and keeper Phil Senior have both returned to training today after injury.

It’s difficult to assess where their main threat will come from, as they have no fewer than three players in double figures this season (Pawel Abbott, Booth and Taylor-Fletcher), plus another, the on loan David Graham, who has scored seven in 13 games since arriving from Sheffield Wednesday.

Predictions? Huddersfield are in fourth spot in the table, just three points behind second place Colchester United. However, that doesn’t quite tell the whole story. They are only 10th in the away standings and that is what has been letting them down in their promotion charge. They also seem to be getting a terrible case of run in nerves too, as they have picked up a mere 5 points from their last five games, losing at home to Chesterfield last time out.

This would, normally, with Huddersfield’s current record, be a game I would be looking to win, but, with a team that couldn’t score if they were millionaires in a brothel with no other customers, I can’t see us winning and giving us a chance of survival.

For those that remember such things, of course, think back to last season’s fixture at Bescot when, with the crowd restless and Merson on the brink, following the 5 – 0 thrashing away at Colchester in the previous game, we were 0 – 2 down to the same opponents. Enter Matty Fryatt,“that” goal and a hat-trick, to save the Manager’s skin. Pity, wasn’t it?

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