Archive for March, 2007

Walsall vs Accrington Stanley Preview

Neil @ 1:41 pm Friday 30 March 2007

Being a traditionalist, I was quite pleased when Accrington Stanley got back into the League. You know, founder members of the Football League, going out of business in somewhat shady circumstances, thanks to the Chairman of nearby rivals Burnley, then having to suffer the humiliation of that damned Milk Marketing Board advert. Of course, that was before we won at their place and the Chairman likened us to a pub team of cloggers and the Manager started spouting off about how he didn’t know how we’d won, that they were as good a side as we were and the team would have nothing to fear fromthe Division if we were the standard it was measured by. Several months later, we’re second, they’re 19th, just three points above the trap door and I think he might have discovered he was wrong. I wouldn’t be disappointed if we lost them from the League now – this time with nothing to complain about.

Richard Money does, of course, have his problems for this game, especially in defence. Ian Roper was already out for the rest of the season and has now been joined by his fellow Player of the Season contender, Scott Dann, with a broken fifth metatarsal (now, he is in good company!). Money has also said that he won’t risk Allan Picken, even though he is now back in full training, as he thinks we threw him in at the deep end too early afeter his knee operation and that is the cause of his troubles since. Geordie Lyall and Craig Pead are the main candidates to come in, but the praise heaped this week on Manny Smith means that he might be in the running for the bench. A move for Michael Dobson to centre back and Mark Bradley, Darren Wrack or Kris Taylor’s inclusion are also possibilities.

Up front and in midfield, it’s difficult to see many changes unless Dobson moves to defence, which will mean a home debut for Trevor Benjamin, who made a decent first start last week at the National Hockey Stadium, having a perfectly good goal chalked off for offside.

As for Stanley, they have suffered a real blow with the suspension of David Brown, scorer last week against Hereford. He was sent off for violent conduct in that game anbd lost his appeal this week. They will also be without former Everton trainee Jay Harris and defender Leam Richardson who have both reached ten yellows for the season

Defender Phil Edwards, however, returns from a two-game ban (that’s another with 10 yellows – do I detect a pattern here?), while midfielder Romuald Boco may well return from injury. They’ll also be hoping for at least some of injury victims Ian Dunbavin (goalkeeper), Leighton McGivern (forward), Andy Tretton (defender) and Danny Ventre (defender) to be ready for some part in the action.

Two Liverpool youngsters, David Martin and Godwin Antwi have recently joined the club on loan to aid their survival bid. Martin is a highly-rated goalkeeper who has represented England at Under-19 and 20 levels, whilst 18 year-old Antwi hails from Ghana and was snapped by by The Reds from Spanish side, Real Zaragoza. Martin is also, of course, the son of former West Ham United and England defender, Alvin Martin.

Their dangerman is Paul Mullin, who has been around the non league scene for a while, with 13 goals this season.

Predictions?

Stanley have just had two back to back wins, their first for months, to help ease their relegation worries, but have lost their last three away games. Their away record this season is:

Won 3, Drawn 5, Lost 11, with 39 goals conceeded at a rate of over two a game.

This game is all about Walsall keeping their nerve. The signs of mental strength shown in coming back from a goal down at the Franchise last week seems to suggest that we haven’t lost focus and, even with the injuries at the back, I see this as one more win on the road to promotion.

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Sponsor saves UptheSaddlers

roger6 @ 3:56 pm Tuesday 27 March 2007

UptheSaddlers is pleased to announce the first sponsorship deal in this site’s 10 year history. From today UptheSaddlers is being financially supported by SR Print Management, one of Walsall’s leading companies, for an initial 12 month period.

The deal safeguards the immediate future of one of the most popular Walsall FC websites. UptheSaddlers regularly attracts 2,500 visitors a day and the message board has almost 50,000 posts.

www.srpm.co.uk

Time For Some Help, Richard?

Neil @ 12:29 pm Tuesday 27 March 2007

I got into an argument on the message board this morning on the merits of Ishmel Demontagnac and whether he should be starting or not. That got me thinking, as the argument shouldn’t really be about individuals at all, it’s just the way these things tend to go, just as criticisms of players are often more to do with tactics.

One of the areas that I believe should be improved around the club is the need for a number 2 to look after the reserves and bring on some of the youngsters AFTER they get made first year pros. Since the departure of Mark Kinsella back to Charlton, we haven’t had anyone fulfilling the function at all and he was relatively new and untried at the job.

Let’s make one thing clear. This is not a criticism of Mick Halsall and the wonderful job he has been doing in producing a talented crop of youth team players, this is about the all important transition from youth team, through the reserves, to first team squad.

I, for one, think that there’s an argument to say that Ishy has progressed much at all since making his debut and he isn’t the first, following in the footsteps of Williams, Taylor and others, and we almost, but for the grace of God, lost Dann because of it, as Merson admitted that he had been prepared to let him go last season.

Now, if I were going to criticise Richard Money for anything, it would be the fact he has done nothing yet to address this problem, but it won’t be solved by just throwing youngsters in at the deep end in crucial games in a promotion campaign (or, as Merson proved, in a relegation campaign). He might, after all, not see this as a priority, when measured against the stopping the rot we were in under the last but one Manager (and, let’s face it, in the position we were in, it’s hardly surprising if that’s the way he did feel), but the youngsters are now in danger of becoming victims of our own success. I was discussing last night how we now have, for example, two young goalkeepers in McKeown and Gilmartin whose contracts will be up shortly and there is an argument to say we don’t need one (or even both) and we could lose them in the Summer. Ishy hasn’t broken through and, to be honest, I don’t think he looks capable of it at the moment, and we have Nicholls and Deeney queing up in the reserves. What Eric McManus’s role is meant to be, I’m not sure, but, without a reserve team manager, there is a chance that these players will be stagnating at a crucial stage in their development, the 18/19/20 years. If we were safe in mid table, with nothing to play for, they (and Bradley and Sansara for that matter) might have got a chance to prove themselves by now, but not in the current circumstances, which means they might never get the chance to progress, unless their coaching needs are addressed.

What I do believe is that Dicky needs to address this problem and make the right appointment of someone who can develop these players into future assets for the club over what is always a tricky time in anyone’s career.

Site problems

roger6 @ 6:48 pm Monday 26 March 2007

We are adding more memory to the UptheSaddlers servers and doing some technical work in a bid to get rid of the problems of the last few weeks. In the meantime apologies for the outages.

MK Dons vs Walsall. Oh Mr Probert!

neilr @ 8:29 pm Sunday 25 March 2007

It’s a pity you can’t do something about the poor standard of refereeing isn’t it? Let’s face it, Mr Probert has made a fool of himself in front of the Saddlers fans before, but this pathetic display from the officials could have had a terrible effect on the Saddlers season.

The Franchise did, I hate to say it, have slightly the better of the game on the day and, in the shape of Jon Paul McGovern, certainly had the most creative player on view, but, apart from one great save from a deflected shot in the first half and a reasonably straightforward catch from a Clive Platt header in the second, Clayton Ince had nothing much to do, as the back four played superbly and were well protected by Dobson and Keates.

In fact, the Franchise goal, despite the pressure they were exerting at the time, still came as a bit of a surprise, coming as it did when Anthony Gerrard misjudged the flight of a McGovern cross, only for McCleod to chest the ball down and score. Apart from that, we did defend superbly.

Then comes the other end.

Well, the tv pictures clearly showed that, when Martin Butler chested a Dean Keates cross down in the first half, that no fewer than two MK Dons players had hold of his arms (one each) and dragged him to the ground. Mr Probert, perfectly positioned, presumably couldn’t make his mind up which one had committed the foul, so decided not to give the nailed on penalty. Ian Taylor and Steve Claridge couldn’t believe that he hadn’t given it at half time.

Of course, when the ball was lobbed forward to Trevor Benjamin to neatly lob Harper for a goal which the tv replays clearly showed was on side, that might have made up for his error, but he didn’t.

Martin Butler also was desperately unlucky in the second half to smash a diving header against the bar from a Kevin Harper cross with the ‘keeper completely beaten, before Mr Probert ruled another goal out for offside which the replays again showed to be on side. Benjamin was in an offside position, but was nowhere near interfering with play as Butler headed home.

Darren Wrack finally scored a well deserved equaliser from a Dean Keates free kick, with only his second touch of the ball, having come on as a sub, so perhaps the Football League have just changed the rules to say we have to score three times before one counts.

We lost Scott Dann towards the end when he went over on his ankle, but DD says it doesn’t look too bad and Trevor Benjamin had a surprisingly effective debut.

Oh, and my Man of the Match was Chris Westwood, with Dann, Dobson and Keates not far behind!

All in all, I’d have taken a point before the game, but, as an exhibition of how to counter attack, this was near perfect and we did, in effect, score three perfectly good goals and should have had a penalty as well, so the three points should have been on their way back to Bescot tonight.

MK Dons vs Walsall Preview

Neil @ 1:33 pm Friday 23 March 2007

I doesn’t seem right to me. Super Sunday? Football was meant to be played at 3.00 pm on a Saturday afternoon, wasn’t it? Ah well, I suppose times change, so we’re forced to watch a game against an artificially created Franchised football club on a Sunday in a twopenny halfpenny, uncomfortable hockey stadium. I never liked Wimbledon very much, but certainly don’t like the monster that’s replaced them! Nothing would give me greater pleasure than three points on Sunday, even though it’s the home games that will count on the final run in.

Into the squad, presumably, will come the newly signed loanee Trevor Benjamin, but the make up of the other fifteen is anybody’s guess. Ian Roper is the only long term absentee, but the picture is further clouded by the fact that promising youngsters Sansara and Deeney have been given squad numbers, which means they can’t be far off a place on the bench at least. Benjamin’s arrival and Deeney’s promotion do seem to not bode well for Par Cederqvist, however, and Sansara moving up the pecking order puts pressure on Kris Taylor especially. Whatever happens, I think there will be a lot of changes in the Summer.

I would expect a starting line up of:

Ince, Westwood, Gerrard, Dann, Fox, Harper, Dobson, Keates, Cooper, Butler, Sam or Wrack, but the make up of the five on the bench is very problematical. Bossu, of course, then Pead, Lyall, Bradley, Demontagnac, Benjamin, Cederqvist and Deeney should all come into the reckoning.

As for the Franchise, they bought in Watford winger Albert Jarrett on loan yesterday. The youngster had only just returned to Watford from a loan spell at Boston, playing, of course, alongside Trevor Benjamin. They also bought in central midfielder/defender Dominic Blizzard from Watford, as cover for some long term injuries, with Paul Mitchell out long term and Jamie Smith doubtful.

Dangermen for the Franchise are, of course, former Saddler Clive Platt, the diving Izale McCleod (no, I’m not going to forget his cheating performance at Derby) and Leon Knight, but, whilst they do score goals, their recent performances have shown that they have a tendency to let them in as well! Another former Saddler, Keith Andrews, will also be turning out in midfield.

Predictions?

Since the arrival of Cooper and Harper, the Saddlers little blip seems to have steadied, with two wins and two draws from the last four games, but this one is a very different kettle of fish. The Dongles will be desperate for the win, with a capacity crowd and their recent up and down form meaning that they can ill afford a loss. A Walsall win would see them 5 points behind, with just seven games to go and Lincoln and Swindon breathing down their necks. It could go either way, with that desperation meaning a good performance, or a nervy one that stops them playing completely, but I think that this is likely to be a narrow home win.

Ex Albion and Leicester Man Joins.

Neil @ 5:09 pm Thursday 22 March 2007

Walsall have bought in Peterborough striker Trevor Benjamin on loan until the end of the season.

The much travelled 6 foot 2 inch 28 year old has already been out on loan at Boston this season and has had recent loan spells with Swindon and Watford as well.

His best period was at Cambridge United, his first club, where he had the excellent record of 46 goals in 114 starts and 31 sub appearances. For some of that time, of course, he was part of a successful partnership with a young striker named Martin Butler. I wonder what happened to him?

MK Dons Make It All Ticket

Neil @ 5:47 pm Wednesday 21 March 2007

With just four days to go, the Franchise have made the astonishing decision to make this weekend’s clash all ticket.

It seems that they have sold out the home allocation completely and have announced that, because of that, the away fans will need tickets as well and that no tickets will be available on the day. To make that decision at this late stage just seems very, very weird.

Deal Extended For Stoke City Man

Neil @ 5:29 pm Tuesday 20 March 2007

The Official Site has announced that Kevin Harper’s loan deal has been extended until the end of the season.

The winger has been a hit so far in his second loan spell with the club and this will come as welcome news for the players, staff and fans alike, as the Saddlers push for an automatic promotion place.

In the meantime, the club are very close to concluding a similar deal to keep Cardiff City man Kevin Cooper until the end of the season.

Wycombe Wanderers vs Walsall Preview

Neil @ 11:22 am Friday 16 March 2007

Games don’t get much more important than this one. Normally, with our record, you would think that the team would be either well clear of the pack, or in a breakaway, with promotion looking a near certainty. The fact that it isn’t just goes to show the poor standard of most of the Division this season, as there are still six teams in with a realistic shot at the automatic spots and another with an outside chance. That seventh team is Wycombe, tomorrow’s opponents, so the game is vital for them. A Walsall win and, not only will our chances of going up automatically be greatly enhanced, but theirs will be virtually over.

Richard Money’s defensive options will be increased with the welcome news that Chris Westwood was back in full training last week and is available. Allan Picken is making good progress now from his knee injury, but this game is still way too early for him, though he could feature before the end of the season. Ian Roper, however, won’t, of course, be seen again until next season now.

The rest of the squad has no injury worries at all, as Darren Wrack has recovered from his dead leg received last week in that horrific challenge from Artell of Chester City. The two Kevins, Harper and Cooper will be hoping to make a good impression, as the club will be entering negotiations with Stoke and Cardiff next week to extend their so far successful loan spells.

The official site has again mentioned Mark Bradley in the match build up, so I expect he’ll be travelling with the team, if not appearing on the bench.

I’d expect a starting line up of:

Ince, Westwood, Gerrard, Dann, Fox , Harper, Dobson, Keates, Cooper, Butler, Wrack or Sam.

The bench could be any from Bossu, Pead, Wrack or Sam, Cederqvist, Bradley, Wright or Taylor.

Wycombe have a few problems of their own going into such an important game for them. Central defender, Williamson, is out for the rest of the season with a knee ligament injury and Will Antwi, another rdefender, will also be missing.

In midfield, former Saddler Stefan Oakes is also struggling and likely to miss the game, as are midfielders Sergio Torres and Tony McParland and striker Fola Onibuje (hamstring). Onibuje will probably have his mind elsewhere, however, having been called up to the Nigerian under 23 squad.

The dangermen are, of course, the experienced Tommy Mooney, scorer of 11 goals this season. More surprisingly, however, is that his partner will possibly be Scott McGleith, as Jermaine Easter has been a sub for the past four games.

Predictions?

Wycombe go into the game in seventh place, desperate to hang on to their chance of making the automatic spots, especially following their explosion post Christmas last season. They have been having a strange sort of season, having won eight games both at home and away, but losing 10 away and drawing 8 and losing 1 at home. Goals have been the problem, with only 22 scored in those 18 home games (and 21 in 19 away), but only 9 conceeded. This game has 0 – 0 written all over it, which means, with my prediction record, we’ll probably get a 4 – 3 win!

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