Archive for January, 2007

Constable Leaves For Kidderminster

Neil @ 12:17 pm Wednesday 31 January 2007

As was expected, James Constable has left Walsall for a permanent move to Kidderminster.

The former Chippenham Town striker was bought in by former manager Paul Merson, supposedly under competition from other Division One sides.

He managed to score just three goals in his 23 appearances in the League for the Saddlers (14 as sub), two of those coming in the same game, at home to Blackpool.

It became obvious early on in new manager Richard Money’s reign that he didn’t seem to rate the player and he was sent out on loan to non league Kidderminster, for whom he has notched 5 goals in 10 games.

The fee is undisclosed, hardly surprisingly as it involves Walsall, but is rumoured to be in the region of £20,000.

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Boston United – A Reflection

Neil @ 9:54 am Monday 29 January 2007

So, he is human, after all?

Let’s get one thing straight immediately. One of the biggest influences on the outcome of this game was one of the most appalling exhibitions of refereeing I’ve ever seen. From the moment early on, when Hector Sam was one on one with a central defender, knocked the ball past him, then to be cynically flattened in the perfect example of a yellow card offence, only for the ref to wag an admonishing finger at the offender and no more, the standards were set.

By half time, we’d had Gerrard go down in the box clutching his face after being struck by another defender. It was either a yellow for Gerrard, or a red for the Boston player. The ref, of course, did neither. He also went on to prove his total ignorance of the rules when Keates and Fox worked the ball forward, only for Fox to be flattened. The ref waved the advantage, the ball was hit forward and Butler was offside. Did he call play back for the free kick? Of course not.

However, as much as the referee played into the hands of a team fighting (literally, at times) for their lives, by letting them get away with murder, in that he hadn’t produced a single yellow by the interval when I saw at least four bookable offences, this was also a failure on the part of the Saddlers.

We did let ourselves get bullied out of this game far too easily.

The problem has to lie at the door of the Manager for this one. The midfield line up of Wright, Dobson, Pead and Keates always did look unbalanced and, even if he had wanted to solve the problem of Pead’s good form and Keates’s return by playing Dean wide left, it became obvious during the course of the first half that it just wasn’t working.

Given the fact the Money’s whole tactical system is based on having two solid central midfielders, with the creativity coming down the flanks, the fact that Keates just isn’t a wide player already put pressure on Mark Wright to produce. The fact that he had one of his “off” games just compounded the problem, witnessed by an incident in the second half when Keates and Dobson worked the ball well out to him on the wing, when he didn’t have a player within 20 yards of him and he still managed to hit the first defender. The game was crying out for the injection of pace on the flanks that Ishmel Demontagnac finally gave us. Mind you, I don’t know if he’d have got any protection from the ref either!

One of the major problems over the last two years was Merson’s complete inability to learn from his mistakes, to the extent of making new ones on top of the old ones, but let’s hope Money shows his worth by learning the lessons from this one. Let’s face it, it all gets harder from here on in, as clubs like Boston will be fighting for their lives.

Walsall vs Boston United Preview

Neil @ 1:59 pm Friday 26 January 2007

Last week’s surprise defeat at Mansfield means that the pressure is back on Richard Money and his Walsall squad for tomorrow’s home game. The Saddlers can, therefore, count themselves fortunate that the visitors are struggling Boston United, in what will be the first meeting between the two clubs in Walsall.

Money does, at least, have a clean bill of health for the game. Allan Picken will not be considered, as he needs some reserve games after finally recovering from his knee problems. The Aussie defender did, however, feature in a friendly against Aston Villa this week, lasting 60 minutes, which bodes well.

Anthony Gerrard and Darren Wrack both played the full game in the 3 – 3 draw with Villa, so they will be both back in contention, as will Dean Keates and Hector Sam, left out of the starting line up last week.

Given all of that, it wouldn’t surprise me to see something like:

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

Subs: Bossu, Pead, Gerrard, Wrack or Demontagnac, Cederqvist.

Money will also be making a decision after the game as to whether to leave James Constable on loan at Kidderminster. The fact that the sixteen tomorrow might not include Demontagnac or Wrack, Bedeau and Picken shows just how much competition there is for places now.

Boston have struggled both on and off-the-field this season, but have managed to sign the experienced Shane Nicholson on loan from Chesterfield and Stephen Vaughan from Chester City recently. However, their financial problems, part caused by the punishment for the irregularities in their promotion season, means that they had already lost former Saddlers’ loanee, Julian Joachim to Darlington earlier in the season, plus Anthony Elding (to Stockport County), Tim Ryan (to Darlington) and Paul Tait (to Southport) during the January transfer window.

Drewe Broughton and Francis Green are the main threats up front, having linked up well, with Broughton notching four goals in his 11 games for the club since his loan switch from Chester City in October.

Predictions?

Boston fans have seen their team win two and lose two of their four games so far in 2007, losing 3-1 at home to Swindon Town last weekend. Accordingly, they go into the game in 19th position, but it is their away form that’s giving them the most trouble. Their record reads:

Played 14, Won 2, Drawn 2, Lost 10, For 15, Against 32, Points 8.

That means they are second from bottom in the away form table to Wrexham, having conceded more goals than anyone other than Grimsby and with the equal worst goal difference (with Wrexham) of -17.

It’s time for the Saddlers to put last week’s poor performance behind them and make sure of putting the three points in the bag.

No Contract Talks Until Position Secured

Neil @ 2:30 pm Wednesday 24 January 2007

Richard Money has told the Evening Mail that there will be no contract extension talks with any player until it has been decided which Divsion the club will be playing in next season.

Money is wants no distractions for his squad as they strive for promotion (and, indeed, the Championship).

Some of the senior group of players, including player-of-the-season candidate Clayton Ince, have contracts which expire this summer.

“There will be absolute no negotiations on contracts until our job is done,” Money said. “We have achieved absolutely nothing yet and there is a lot of hard work ahead if we are to achieve what we want to achieve.

I won’t allow anything to dis-tract the players from that objective.”

Pitch Invasion

The Saddlers are also hoping to avoid punishment from the Football Association for a handful of supporters getting on to the Bescot pitch and holding up play late in the game against Grimsby last week.

Walsall have until the middle of next week to reply to an FA demand for an explanation for the incident. Their previous good record of controlling their supporters means it would be harsh for the FA to impose a serious penalty.

Mansfield Town vs Walsall Preview

Neil @ 2:12 pm Friday 19 January 2007

Mansfield, what can I find say that’s nice about Mansfield? Yes, you’re quite right, very little. Apart from being in the heart of Robin Hood country and having some good pubs, there’s very little left. Certainly, Mansfield Town have made little impact on the football world over the years.

Manager Richard Money has a virtually full strength squad to choose from for the game tomorrow. Geordie Lyall’s International clearance has come through and Darren Wrack will be hoping for a start, given the frustrations he expressed in the Press this week. Danny Fox is available again, so the only doubt for the Saddlers surrounds Allan Picken, who was held back from the game at Boldmere St Michaels in the week, as he felt a twinge in the troublesome knee and the pitch was heavy. I would expect a starting line up of:

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

The bench is likely to have five from Bossu, Gerrard, Keates, Cederqvist, Demontagnac, Wrack, Bedeau and Lyall, with Picken a possibility.

When the entire squad is fit, it’s easier to see why Money may have forgone the option of bringing in another player during the transfer window, as we do seem to have an abundance of riches, especially given the form of the first choice eleven.

As for Mansfield, recently appointed Manger Billy Dearden will be without midfielder Giles Coke who was forced out of the 3-2 midweek defeat at Accrington Stanley with a knee injury. Striker Michael Boulding, reputedly a former target of Paul Merson (but, then again, who wasn’t?) is expected to be on the bench despite saying he was “extremely disappointed” to be dropped, following his scoring performance for the Stags last week.

Their dangerman is likely to be an old friend, in the not inconsiderable shape of Barry Conlon, who has scored 2 in 2 for Mansfield since his move to his eleventh club from Darlington. He was signed to replace former star striker Richie Barker.

Mansfield go into this game in seventeenth place in the table, four points above the relegation zone. That means that they are in a similar position (one point better off) to last week’s opponents, Grimsby. Possibly of greater value than this, of course, is their home record, which stands at:

Played 12, Won 5, Drawn 3, Lost 4, For 19, Against 16, Points 18.

All in all, hardly an inspiring home record and they managed to lose 3 – 2 in the week at plummeting Accrington Stanley, which doesn’t bode well for them.

Away games are never easy, but, with a full strength side and Dicky Dosh seeming to be allowing no signs of complacency to creep in, I’ve got to fancy a draw at least from the game, if not another away win.

Geordie\’s Pub Guide To Mansfield

Neil @ 2:00 pm Thursday 18 January 2007

The Mansfield trip brings another one of those nearly local derbies that punctuates this season in the basement division, and our first trip to Field Mill for many a year feels all the closer for the construction of Mansfield Town railway station, seven minutes walk from the stadium.

The nearest pub to the station is The Railway Inn which is somewhat tucked away down Station Street. Traditional style pub with food to match and Bateman’s real ale on tap.

At the ground itself there is the American theme Early Doors pub about 50 yards from the home entrance, does what it does reasonably well, proximity to the ground being its main attraction however.

A better bet for those arriving by car and thus approaching from the A38 (Sutton Road) is the Lord Byron, (the last pub before the ground when you get to Quarry Lane off Sheepbridge Lane). Only five minutes walk to the stadium, and boasting well kept ale, food and a friendly landlord.

On Sutton Road itself The John Cockle provides the service of chain pub-eatery which is useful for families although a little bland, while just a little further along and set back from Sutton Road there is the excellent Bold Forrester which offers more variety and a better atmosphere.

On the other side of the stadium the second nearest pub to the ground is probably The Fabulous Talbot (that’s its name not my opinion!). A better bet than the Early Doors, it can be found on Nottingham Road opposite the garish pink restaurant thing that used to be the rather excellent Plough pub, now sadly no more.

The town centre (about 15 minutes walk from the ground) is another one of those that boasts plenty of bars per radius yardage. Personally my favourite has always been The Wheatsheaf next the pedestrianised shopping area near the bus station, which is nice because on Saturday I will mostly be arriving by bus…..don’t ask!!

Enjoy your day… weather permitting.

Walsall vs Grimsby Town Report

neilr @ 8:53 am Tuesday 16 January 2007

No one expects the Spanish Inquisition, you know. Our main weapons are fear, surprise and a ruthless efficiency. Well, the last one is certainly true, as the League 2 strugglers were duly dispatched.

From the moment that Scott Dann drew a good save from the keeper in the first minute (watching the replays, it was a good save, as Barnes had started going to wrong way), this was a game that Walsall completely dominated, to the extent that Grimsby’s only shot on target came with the last kick of the match.

Pead was running at the defence from the start, causing panic and mahem, and he had a chance to open the scoring, but shot weakly. Keates was the next to miss a chance, as he was set up by Ian Roper, following a set piece, but Grimsby were being forced further and further back as the Saddlers probed their defence.

Finally, the dam burst when Dobson produced a superb ball down the right channel, Sam not only held off the challenge, outsprinting the defender, he also rode a blatant hack at his ankle, before switching to his left foot and delivering an inch perfect cross onto the head of Martin Butler. Martin duly planted home his first goal since September.

Three more chances arrived before half time, as Butler chested down a free kick, but his second touch was too heavy, Keates missed a glorious chance on his right foot (unfortunately) and Hector Sam dragged a shot wide, following a flowing six or seven pass move from our own penalty area that would have been a goal of the season contender.

Walsall were cruising in second gear at this point and it looked as if the only way back into the game for the Mariners would be complacency. Instead, the Saddlers stepped up their game.

Scott Dann made probably his only mistake of the game, misjudging a curling cross which went narrowly wide, but the Walsall defence, covered superbly by Dobson, was looking its usual mean self.

Wright them produced a good hanging cross which Sam put narrowly wide as the Mariners were pushed back again.

There were several close things, with good blocks and narrow interceptions, before Hector Sam was replaced with half an hour to go by debutant Cederqvist.

He soon got in a header which was fumbled by the keeper and Keates nearly got to the rebound, then good work from Westwood led to a cross which flashed across the goal with no one getting a touch.

With 12 minutes to go, however, the game was settled when Cederqvist got in a header from another dangerous free kick, the keeper fumbled the ball for the fourth time on the evening and, this time, Butler was on hand to force home his second.

Keates was replaced by Demontagnac, whose first contribution was to cut inside on his right foot and produce a good, low drive, saved by the keeper, then Cederqvist again showed his promise with a glorious header that went just over.

In injury time, Roper was replaced by Gerrard, after going down with cramp, and there was just time for the new man to completely misjudge a straight through ball, which found North, but his shot was tipped over by Ince, for his only save in anger of the entire match.

Man of the match went to Butler, but virtually anyone could have picked this one up, even Ince, whose catching was exemplary. An honourable mention has to go, however, to Hector Sam, who seems to thrive on competition and, boy, has he got some competition in the shape of the impressive Cederqvist!

Walsall vs Grimsby Town, Return of a Legend

neilr @ 11:09 am Sunday 14 January 2007

Well, the little period of consecutive Saturdays with no matches has ended and, contrary to the worries expressed beforehand, the Saddlers are still sitting pretty on top of the League, three points clear of Swindon with a game in hand, and with two games in hand on the rest of the pack. It’s time to welcome a former hero back to Walsall tomorrow with a team refreshed and renewed from their break in Gran Canaria, with the new signings on board and, hopefully, with a resounding win in front of the cameras.

For the first time this season, the Saddlers will be reporting a clean bill of health, as even long term absentee Darren Wrack has been declared fit and Allan Picken did play a full part in the sessions while the team were away. That means that it is likely that only Daniel Fox will be absent, thanks to his suspension, along with Tommy Wright, returned to Barnsley.

New signings Gerodie Lyall and Par Cederqvist will be looking to play some part, but I would think it’s probable that only the Swede might start, giving a probable line up of:

Ince, Westwood, Gerrard, Roper, Taylor, Wight, Dobson, Pead, Keates, Butler, Cederqvist.

The bench is probably gong to look something like: Bossu, Dann, Lyall, Sam, Bedeau.

Back in charge at Grimsby is, of course, Saddlers legend, former star striker and manager (and still record signing) Alan Buckley. He has been out of football for a while and was bought in to try and halt Grimsby’s inexorable slide down the table. It seems he has a real job on his hands.

There isn’t any injury news from the Mariners at the moment, as you might expect on a Sunday, but one player they will certainly be missing is Tony Pulis’s son Anthony. The midfielder, who has been on loan at Blundell Park, was injured in the last game and returned to Stoke City. Former Notts County midfielder Paul Bolland missed that game, but is expected to be fit.

Old friends to look out for? Isiah Rankine has got a few goals against us over the years (including a winner at Bescot for Brentford two seasons ago), but has found goals hard to come by this term and forward Michael Reddy is a familiar name to many also. The fact that he and Rakine have just two goals between them this season says a lot about Grimsby.

Predictions?

Grimsby go into the game in 19th place, just three points clear of danger and on the back of four defeats on the bounce. Their away record is:-

Played 13, Won 2, Drawn 3 Lost 8, scoring a meagre 8 goals in the process.

Even given the Saddlers’ well known ability to cock things up in front of the cameras, it’s difficult to see anything other than a home win.

Wright Returned To Barnsley

Neil @ 2:09 pm Friday 12 January 2007

On loan striker Tommy Wright’s loan at Walsall has been terminated and he has been allowed to return early to Barnsley.

There could be several reasons for Manager Richard Money’s thinking here:

Wright did make a promising debut for the club, but his form since has not been too good.

Wright’s disciplinary record suggests that he might be something of a liability, in that he could have been sent off in his first game and has also received a red card during his spell at Bescot.

James Constable’s performances at Kidderminster may have suggested that he it quite capable of performing the third or fourth choice striker role.

It is just about possible that Money has another player in mind to bring in and even that the long standing rumours about Paul Peschisolido trun out to be true.

One, some or, indeed, all of these might be true. There may be interesting times ahead at Bescot.

Loans To Beef Up Squad In Run In?

neilr @ 8:40 am Thursday 11 January 2007

Richard Money was quoted in the Express and Star yesterday that the club were not likely to make any more signings during the transfer window, following the aquisition of Par Cederqvist and Geordie Lyall, which came as a surprise to many, as he had been looking at a couple of midfield players. Jeff Bonser, however, has revealed in the Evening Mail that the club may be pursuing a different tactic.

“Although the window closes on January 31 we can still make loan signings until March,” the chairman said. “And that could be an option we pursue.

I can foresee a situation where we bring in a couple of highly experienced players for the last 10 or 12 games.

We don’t know how heavily suspensions and injuries are going to impact on the squad but, towards the end of a gruelling season, bringing in some experience could be just what’s needed.

Cederqvist and Lyall are fantastic signings and there is a little bit of money still there if Richard wants to spend it. What we won’t do is collect players like we did last season.

Richard has a background in youth football and monitors our youth system very closely. Unless a potential signing is clearly better than the players we already have I think he would rather give youth its head, which is the way it should be.

Scott Dann has really come through this season. The likes of Mark Bradley and Alex Nicholls have been in the squad and I’m sure they and other youngsters will get further chances. I’m told the young players are really impressing in the Canaries this week.”

Walsall’s 22-strong squad are due now to return from a week-long training break in Gran Canaria and Bonser has no regrets about paying out for the trip.

“Richard felt that going abroad, where the training conditions are spot on, was required,” he told the Evening Mail. “It has certainly not been a jolly out there. The players have been training twice a day and Richard is confident this trip will set them up correctly for the rest of the season.”

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