Archive for December, 2006

Geordie\’s Pub Guide to Peterborough

neilr @ 11:27 am Sunday 31 December 2006

Even more important than usual, with the need to join in the New Year’s Day festivities, Upthesaddlers.com is proud to bring you the vital information contained in Geordie’s Pub Guide to Peterborough. Please drink sensibly!

Peterborough is something of a contradiction when it comes to the “day out” element of away trips. Many of the town’s bars, particularly those convenient for the football ground are really nice, however as a place it’s just so boring I always feel a bit unfulfilled and glad to get away.

So erring on the side of festive jollity, the hotel opposite the station (some 10 minutes walk to the ground) has a smart public bar that does real ale, and probably the cleanest pub toilets I’ve ever seen.

A little way down Westgate heading towards the town and one encounters The Brewery Tap, a cavernous bar that specialises in world beers and is home to Oakham Ales. The bouncers can be a little picky on match-days but once inside both beer and food are excellent.

Town centre wise there is another unusual pub called the Wortley Almhouse a little further down Westgate which like all Sam Smith’s pubs is very reasonable price wise.

If you fancy something a little more upmarket and pricey then Charter’s bar is moored on the Nene just as you cross over the river en-route to the ground, but like The Brewery Tap don’t expect to get in with colours on. Chinese food and real ale aplenty once more and only a five minute walk to the stadium.

The nearest pub to the ground is probably The Cherry Tree down Oundle Road, off to the right as you head over the river towards the ground. Its always been very a welcoming place for away supporters in my experience, and is well worth a visit.

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Walsall vs Bristol Rovers Preview

Neil @ 12:41 pm Friday 29 December 2006

Well, we’re safe at least! The welcome, hard fought and deserved home win by the ten men against Shrewsbury last time out not only gave us three points in a local derby (never to be sniffed at), but also, incredibly, sent us sailing past the 50 point mark, with just 24 of the 46 games gone. Normally, such a haul would see the team in first place running away with the League, but such is the uncompetitive nature of this division, that we still have three other clubs for company. That number has to be reduced to two (or less) as soon as possible, so winning the home games becomes vital. And so, on to Bristol Rovers.

Richard Money will have to make a decision as to who will replace the suspended Tommy Wright, following his sending off, but he has already suggested himself that it is likely to be Hector Sam. Sam’s form seems to be picking up again with the competition supplied by Wright and the pending arrival of Par Cederquist, so that may not be much of a disadvantage.

Dicky Dosh’s biggest headache is still likely to be central midfield. Even if Dean Keates does report in fit, it will be a difficult decision whether to bring him in for Craig Pead, in view of the former Coventry man’s second half performance against the Shrews. The other option, of Keates for Dobson, looks even more unlikely, as it would leave the central midfield looking far too lightweight. He has, of course, used Keates wide left before, but that didn’t work too well either! Darren Wrack should also be fit enough to play, if needed, so that’s another central midfield possibility. Who’d be a football manager?

Anthony Gerrard is still not allowed to play following his head injury against Boston, so it looks as if the defence, at least, will be unchanged. I’ll expect a starting line up of:

Ince, Westwood, Roper, Dann, Taylor, M Wright, Dobson, Pead, Fox, Sam, Butler.

The bench would then likely be:

Bossu, Keates, Demontagnac, Bedeau, Wrack.

Bristol Rovers Manager Paul Trollope has only one real injury worry, as it seems that 18 year old star striker Sean Rigg will still be missing after his notorious sock on the jaw in the FA Cup Tie against Barrow.

They do have several strikers on the books, but, despite that, it seems that goal scoring has been one of their major defects, with 22 goals from 24 games, compared with our 37, for example. Ex Villa youngster Richard Walker can always be a threat at this level, though.

Predictions?

The Gas come into this game in 12th position in the League, with 32 points from 24 games. Only 9 of those 32 have come away from home, however, where they have just 2 wins and 3 draws, so they do seem to struggle away from Bristol.

Walsall will be looking for a double here, of course, having won 2 – 1 at their place back in September, with goals from Scott ZiDann and Danny Fox. Both were headers and suggest that they may have a weakness from the set piece. We did, however, struggle in midfield in that game (as in many others away from home), so Dicky will need to consider his options there carefully. I’ll still go for a home win, however.

Walsall vs Shrewsbury – Report

neilr @ 10:33 am Wednesday 27 December 2006

I’ve said once or twice after decent results away from home – hard fought wins in darkest Lancashire, for example, that those are the games that win you promotion. Well, this was the sort of game that wins you Championships.

Roper and Butler came back into the fold from suspension, while Gerrard disappeared from the sixteen, following him being stretchered off at Boston. Walsall lined up, therefore:

Ince, Westwood, Roper, Dann, Taylor, Bedeau, Dobson, Fox, Wright (M), Butler, Wright (T).

It might be nice one of these days to see a team come to Bescot with four across the middle and try to play, but the Shrews weren’t going to oblige. They lined up in a 3 5 2, in an attempt to crowd out our central pair. For 45 minutes it worked.

Once Shrewsbury had played their trump card of bringing on their twelfth man, referee Andy D’Urso, the first half was always going to be a sterile affair.

Neither team was able to get a grip in the centre of the park and Bedeau and Wright were being starved of decent possession down the flanks. Consequently, Butler and Tommy Wright got no decent balls at all. The defence, fortunately, was in no difficulty at all dealing with the Shrewsbury attacks, other than a couple of headers from set pieces and Ince was not troubled at all.

Enter Mr D’Urso. Having ignored completely Cooke flattening Fox in the area, when he was going for man, not ball, and then also failing to book the same player for leaving his foot in on Scott Dann, he was quick to spot a lunging tackle from Tommy Wright and produced an immediate red card, on 32 minutes. At this point, despite a surging run from Butler followed by a shot that went just wide, most fans would have been happy with a point.

Money must have been thinking of changes at half time, but, with being reduced to ten men, it could only be personnel, rather than tactical. On came Pead for Bedeau, with Mark Wright going to the right wing and Fox to the left. The move had been made, presumably to give us more energy down the centre. It worked beautifully.

After 52 minutes, Kris Taylor, who, whilst defending well, had done nothing in attack all afternoon, went on a mazy run from left back, beating three of four players in the process. The ball was worked out to the right wing, where Mark Wright cut back inside onto his left foot and hit a curling shot come cross around the keeper and in off the far post.

From that moment on, Wright’s confidence grew and grew and the Saddlers took charge of th game. Fox curled another free kick very narrowly wide, Butler put a diving header wide which he really should have done much better with, Wright, Westwood and Dann all had powerful on target drives blocked by defenders and Langmead somehow managed to clear over his own bar following a good run down the wing from Pead.

Ince was dominating his box, catching everything, so it came as a surprise when, with the minutes ticking away, when Leo Fortune-West, on as a sub, finally got a chance, which Scott Dann deflected onto the bar. Mike Newell’s favourite woman official said it hadn’t cross the line, one of many superb decisions she gave second half, unlike Mr D’Urso.

There was nothing fluky about this win. The 10 men were easily the better side second half. Ince, Westwood, Dann, Roper and Taylor were superb, so much so that Ince didn’t really have a save to make. Mark Wright got over his poor first half to have a storming second, especially once the goal went in. Fox was far, far happier out wide and Dobson and Pead were quite magnificent together. My Man of the Match, however, goes to the selfless running and ability to lead the line on his own demonstrated by the superb Martin Butler.

Boston United vs Walsall Full Time

neilr @ 6:14 pm Saturday 23 December 2006

It seems that Walsall are unable to put together two decent halves at the moment. Fortunately, unlike the last away game at Wrexham, the second 45 was an improvement this week.

The midfield started to get far more of a grip on the game, which in turn mean that the wide men began to have more of an influence. The introduction of Demontagnac, for Sam, with Bedeau moving up front, had the biggest impact on the game, however.

The lately improved Boston United, with their direct style of play, still managed to take the lead, though. A big boot from the defence found N’Guessan between Gerrard and Dann and he slotted the ball home. It’s difficult to say which of the centre backs was at fault. In fact, you could argue both were.

Dicky Dosh’s men are made of stern stuff, however, and equalised when Tommy Wright bravely headed home a corner for what the Fat Controller considered to be a deserved point.

There was one worry for the Festive period, however, when Gerrard was stretchered off, to be replaced by Craig Pead, with Westwood moving to centre back.

Man of the Match? For the second away game running he’s given it to Chris Westwood, who is now really looking like the player we thought we were getting from Hartlepool.

Boston United vs Walsall Half Time

neilr @ 5:07 pm Saturday 23 December 2006

The Fat Controller reporting from the ground.

For those of you who decided to finish your Christmas shopping, it looks like it was a wise choice. This was a first 45 minutes in which almost nothing happened.

Whilst the back four and the goalkeeper have coped well with the aerial assault from the three big strikers, the two front men have been receiving very little service so far.

The reason, as usual, is the midfield. Mark Wright has been having a bit of a mare, to say the least, while Dobson and Fox have been under a lot of pressure from their more direct opponents. That also means that Bedeau has struggled to get into the game.

It looks as if changes will have to be made during the second half if we are to get three points.

Boston United vs Walsall Preview

Neil @ 1:10 pm Friday 22 December 2006

New ground tomorrow!

Well, fog permitting, the Saddlers will be preparing for the festive season by collecting another League ground tomorrow, with the visit to Boston United. It’s likely to be an important period for the team, as the gap between us and the rest needs to be maintained, given the lack of Saturday fixtures during January. What with the blank FA Cup weekend and Sky TV appearances, once the Bristol Rovers game is out of the way, the lads won’t be seen at Bescot again on a Saturday afternoon until the return fixture against Boston on the 27th January. Strange times we live in.

Given the departure of Mark Kinsella back to the frying pan that is Charlton Athletic, Richard Money is likely to have what will now be his number one choice central midfield of Dobson, recovered from ‘flu, and Keates, back from injury, available again. What with Darren Wrack declaring himself fit and Tony Bedeau looking more like the player he’s supposed to be last week, the midfield crisis seems to have eased, just in time for problems to have arisen elsewhere. Ian Roper and Martin Butler will both be missing tomorrow, thanks to picking up their fifth yellow cards of the season. Pity Par Cederquist and Geordie Lyall can’t appear until January!

I’d expect the line up to be something like:

Ince, Westwood, Gerrard, Dann, Taylor, M Wright or Bedeau, Dobson, Keates, Fox, Sam, T Wright.

Boston are also missing some key men. Definitely out are former Kidderminster striker Drew Broughton (on loan from Chester) and midfielder David Galbraith, who were both sent off towards the end of their win at Torquay last week. A defender, Mark Greaves, picked up his sixth booking of the season, no less, in the same game, so he looks like one to watch, while midfielder Paul Ellender will be walking a disciplinary tightrope, having received his fourth booking in the Torquay game to go with a single red from earlier in the season. I suspect this might turn out to be an eventful afternoon.

Boston go into this game in 20th position, just one place behind last week’s opponents Wrexham and only three points above the trap door. They are in severe difficulties, after being found guilty of financial irregularities during their promotion season from the Conference and all sorts of stories circulating about players not being paid. The club is certainly in turmoil at the moment.

As far as the home standings are concerned, they are still in a miserable position, being 18th, with a record of:

P 11, Won 4, Drawn 3, Lost 4

Predictions?

It’s never easy, especially in view of the suspensions of key men Roper and Butler, but a game against a team struggling towards the bottom of the League who have selection problems of their own, even away from home, means that we should be looking for three points. A lot will certainly depend on how the young and somewhat inexperienced looking probable centre back partnership of Gerrard and Dann peform, but I’ll go for a narrow away win.

Geordie\’s Pub Guide To Boston

neilr @ 4:57 pm Wednesday 20 December 2006

Well its a good few years since I’ve visited York St. and as with Accrington it was way back in their Unibond League days in the early and mid-90′s when I was covering Whitley Bay FC for the local rag up here. First time I went there I had an argument with the team manager on the bus the upshot of which ended with me doing the team-talk. Next year I was just settling down to a pint upon arrival when it came to light that no socks had been packed in the kit bag, and guess who got the job of legging it to the nearest sports shop for 15 pairs of blue socks??

So my memories of the pubs are dimmed both by the passage of time and the wastage of valuable drinking time.

Boston is however a pretty market town, with a river running through its centre that seperates the area between the town and the ground. Bateman’s is the local brewer and they supply The Coach and Horses just off York St. itself, although this pub used to get very crowded even in non-league days when, strangely considering their poor support now, Boston regularly attracted 1500 plus home gates.

If you venture into the town centre or are in search of food, then the Wetherspoons on the High St. (Moon Under Water) sets a standard that so many of its sister pubs have failed to achieve, well worth a visit.

For those arriving by train The Eagle on West St. is worth a look for a quiet pint as you head towards the town centre and the ground. Nearer the ground around the market place near “The Stump” tower on the river there are a couple of decent pubs the pick of which is The Still (food and real ale).

At the ground itself there is a spacious and well appointed clubhouse adjacent to the car-park at the opposite end to what is now the away end, and if you can get in there and get settled its probably the best place nearest the ground to be honest.

Once in the ground you will probably be pleasantly surprised after the Accrington experience, because its a proper four sided stadium with a traditional feel. The Town End where we will be accommodated is a cantilever covered terrace that used to be the home end back in the day when I was running around town hunting for socks, so a good opportunity to create an old-fashioned “Street End” style atmosphere.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to everyone by the way, see you at Peterborough for more beer by the riverside and covered terracing, hmmm lovely.

Nicholls Injury Nothing To Worry About.

neilr @ 4:14 pm Wednesday 20 December 2006

Young reserve striker Alex Nicholls, recently recovered from a broken leg, became an injury worry again this afternoon.

Nicholls was stretchered off in the reserves 2 – 0 win at Coventry, but the club are now indicating that the injury is not serious and may just be severe bruising. The game was a behind the scenes friendly, in which new signing Geordie Lyall made his debut as an official Walsall player.

In the game, Par Cederquist continued his impressive start, scoring the first and making the second for Manny Smith. Tommy Taylor and former Villa youngster Colin Marshall also figured.

Marshall is is a midfielder and began his career with Villa, for whom he won the FA Youth Cup in 2002. He spent the 2003-04 season on loan at Clyde, before being released in the summer. Over the next two seasons he had short spells at St Johnstone, Falkirk, Airdrie United, Stranraer and Dundee. He signed for Forfar at the beginning of August 2006, but left the club by mutual consent at the end of the month.

Darren Wrack, in the meantime, has given the club a boost by declaring himself fit for the festive programme.

Saddlers Sign Canadian Defender

neilr @ 10:45 am Wednesday 20 December 2006

Walsall have, today, completed the signing of Canadian full back Geordie Lyall.

The player has been one of the more successful performers in recent years in his home League. He has been with Vancouver Whitecaps for some years, proving to be extremely popular amongst the fans there. He was their defender of the year in 2002 and was nominated for the League’s defender of the year title last season.

He is described on the League site as a “versatile and speedy defender” who “has established himself as one of the club’s most consistent and valued players”.

The 5 foot 11 inch 30 year old decided to try his luck over here and has been on trial with Walsall, before signing until the end of the season. He will, of course, be unable to play until after January 1st.

Wrexham vs Walsall Full Time

neilr @ 6:14 pm Saturday 16 December 2006

The second half was a different story as Wrexham manged to get on top.

Llewellyn manged to compound his diabolical miss in the first half by doing the same thing again, missing a free far post header, which he really should have buried.

Llewellyn finally made up for his profligacy in front of goal by getting the equaliser for the home side in the 68th minute, hitting a 25 yard left foot shot into the corner of the net.

Tommy Wright had come on for Hector Sam and Bradley for Bedeau, but neither looked as effective as the men they replaced in the second half and Tommy Wright, indeed, missed just about the only chance we had post the interval, as the midfield just failed to get a grip on the game, as they had in the first forty five minutes.

The downside includes booking for Roper and Butler, both of whom will now suffer a one game suspension, having reached five yellows for the season.

Despite his mistake in the first half, the Fat Controller’s MoM award goes to Chris Westwood.

Boston, meanwhile, warmed up for the Saddlers’ next away game by winning away at Torquay, but had two players sent off in the process, so they will have reduced numbers next week. Peterboro obliged us by losing at home and Wycombe lost at Franchise, which meant that only the Dongles, Swindon and Lincoln made up any ground, and they were all at home.

The top ten looks like this, tonight:

1 Walsall 22 48
2 Swindon 22 43
3 Dongles 22 42
4 Lincoln City 22 41
5 Wycombe 22 38
6 Peterboro 22 38
7 Hartlepool 22 35
8 Notts Cty 22 34
9 Bury 22 32
10 Chester 22 30

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