Archive for April, 2007

Walsall vs Wrexham Report

neilr @ 9:33 am Sunday 29 April 2007

This was a much better performance against a much better team than last week’s efforts, although it still had that “nothing at stake, end of season” feel about it.

Money did make changes, going with a line up of:

Ince, Bedeau, Westwood, Gerrard, Fox, Wright, Dobson, Keates, Demontagnac, Benjamin, Butler.

The bench had Bossu, Wrack, Deeney, Smith and Pead on it. Harper’s absence was unexplained, but Cooper’s was, in that some of his lackluster performances for us might have, as a cause, the fact he has now been forced to return to Cardiff for a knee operation.

Let’s get one thing straight. Wrexham were a neat, well drilled team, but their problems were probably explained by the fact they were relatively punchless. Virtually all of the chances that came along, came to the men in red, although there were precious few of those in the first half.

Butler was the first to show, breaking through, but then just failing to get to the ball before the ‘keeper. He then received a superb 30 yard pass from Benjamin ??!!!, to set up Keates, who screwed the shot well wide.

Demontagnac, playing well, if not with the same impact as the previous week, then won a corner, which was taken by Mark Wright and, in one of his few positive contributions of the half, he placed it right on Gerrard’s head, who put the ball just wide, when he should, probably, have done better. The last real action of the half saw Benjamin out muscle a defender, only to fire high.

The news soon circulated at half time that Hartlepool were trailing and the Saddlers came out with much more positive intent. Money had switched Bedeau to right wing and Wright to full back at half time, in a move no one could quite understand, but was done, presumably, to try and give us more threat down the right. Bedeau had done OK defensively, but hadn’t got forward at all and Wright had been missing in action for 45 minutes. Whatever his reasons, he changed his mind quickly, however, as, after 5 minutes, he took Bedeau off for Pead, who went to full back.

Demontagnac then made another excellent run and found Butler. He slipped in Mark Wright, whose powerful drive went just over the bar. That seemed to be the catalyst Wright needed, as he suddenly started to play with a little more confidence.

Not that long afterwards, he was put through down the right, cut inside and produced a piledriver of a strike, which the ‘keeper could only parry and Ishmel Demontagnac was there to smash the ball back across goal into the roof of the net. He then unfortunately, got himself booked for celebrating with the crowd.

From that moment on, the Saddlers settled down and the result seemed in little doubt, despite all of Wrexham’s efforts. Demontagnac and a by now settled and confident Wright were buzzing, Dobson and Keates had the centre midfield sewn up and Dobbo even found time to produce a couple of sumptious passes for Butler and Wright which almost lead to goals.

The Wrexham right back, who will be having nightmares about a red shirt with a number 20 on it, then viciously scythed down Ishmel from behind, without any sign of the deserved card and the flash of temper (understandable for once) from the youngster made Money decide to replace him with Wrack. Benjamin was replaced by Sam at around the same time, to a round of appreciative applause from the Wrexham fans, who, obviously, remember him with affection..

Sam then found time to put a header from a Dean Keates header narrowly wide and then, after being set up by Mark Wright, miss a one on one chance to score yet again against his old club. Mark Wright also had a chance as he broke into the area, but got a horrible bobble as he was about to put the ball across.

Apart from that, the game petered out, with Chris Westwood looking superb at the back (easily my man of the match) and Dobson and Keates in complete control.

Hartlepool and Swindon lost – job done.

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Walsall vs Wrexham Preview

Neil @ 12:45 pm Friday 27 April 2007

Even after a successful season, it seems to have been an age since last August. Whilst the last three seasons have seen the club battling against relegation, with all of the stress and strain that causes for the fans, this promotion season seems to have been almost as bad. On top of that, after the well below par performance last Saturday, when Hartlepool had given us a chance to reclaim top spot, the fans, who had been so ready to celebrate promotion, are certainly owed a good parting shot in the last home game of the season

The only players missing from the first team squad are defenders Ian Roper and Scott Dann, although both are reported as progressing well, with every sign of being fit for pre-season, and Welsh under 21 International Mark Bradley, who has been suffering from an injury he picked up in the reserves a couple of weeks ago.

Richard Money may well be considering reshuffling the pack, however, as he was less than pleased with the performance of some individuals last week. However, there is also an argument to say that, having been told off, they should be given another chance. Fortunately, that’s the Manager’s call, not mine.

Hector Sam, one who didn’t disgrace himself last week, will be hoping to get a start against his old club and Ishmel Demontagnac will also be hoping his good 45 minute cameo means he will get a start and the Express and Star is hinting that that will be the case. Keates and Dobson are likely to start in centre midfield, with Butler up front and Harper on the right, but changes could happen almost anywhere else. Mark Wright and Par Cederqvist will be hoping for a chance after scoring for the reserves and Tony Bedeau had a good game at full back in the same match. Allan Picken and Geordie Lyall are both now fit and will also be desperate for a chance. Fans will feel that Cooper, Talyor and Fox may well be the players under the most threat.

Dean Keates will, of course, be picking up his Player of the Season award before the game.

Wrexham have a clean bill of health for the game, skipper Neil Roberts having returned for their 1 – 0 at Gay Meadow in the week.

Their danger man is likely to be the scorer in that win at Shrewsbury, Michael Proctor. The player is, of course, on loan from Hartlepool and will, doubtless, want to do his club a favour by taking points off us!

Predictions?

Wrexham go into the game 20th, just three points above the relegation zone. They have won 5, drawn 4 and lost 13 away from home, so that looks good on paper. The game, however, isn’t played on paper.

The team are on an excellent run of form, having won the last three games on the bounces, all without conceding a goal. Five clean sheets in the last seven games shows just how much Brian Carey has improved the defence since the departure of Denis Smith, at which point they were starting to look doomed.

Wrexham, if they win, would be safe from relegation and even a draw would be enough if Boston were to lose against Torquay, so this is a far from easy game. All the same, I think Saddlers fans will get the win they want to make up for last week.

Small Town In Poland

Yes, roll up, roll up folks… Issue 5 of Small Town In Poland makes a belated appearance on Saturday. Featuring some fantastic wit, rubbish, humour and tripe, it’ll keep you entertained during half time, or during the match if its anything like Bury… Some predictable articles on promotion, crying babies and Everton shirts and Exile’s fantastic ‘What kind of fan are you?’ quiz, plus Mick Kearns Learns and an article on Walsall and Wrexham *legend* Bobby Shinton…

Forget buying a hot chocolate with the powder glued to the bottom of your plastic cup as it burns your hand, find a zine seller and exchange that grubby £1 coin for a piece of literay genius.

Sellers at the entrance to the Hotel, the main entrance to the ground and one up by the retail park corner as per usual.

Save the Turf Hotel, Wrexham

Neil @ 9:37 am Thursday 26 April 2007

Most football fans are supporters of keeping the traditions in the game that give it such a rich and varied history. It’s a matter of regret, therefore, that our own current sponsors and, it’s rumoured, future ground sponsors are involved in a process which could see the end of a part of football history.

The Wrexham Supporters Trust have been in contact with UTS to see if Saddlers fans can help their campaign to save the historical Turf pub (which adjoins the
Racecourse ground) from possible demolition.

The Racecourse ground is the oldest international football stadium still in use (Wales v Scotland March 1877 and Wales v New Zealand May 2007) and this, therefore, makes the Turf pub the oldest surviving building in the WORLD to have been used for international football , as the changing rooms were in the pub and continued to be used by Wrexham AFC until the 1950′s. Sadly the building is not the most architecturally significant building and as such it has failed to be granted listed status by the powers that be.

They fear, as concerned Wrexham FC fans and residents of the town, that the
developer who is looking to build on the land to the rear of the Kop End (which is land which our club is selling to clear the £3m debt incurred to allow the club out of admin last year) is being greedy and is trying to convince the Wolverhampton and Dudley Brewery (that’s Banks’s, of course) to sell the Turf and adjacent car park to them so they can build a row of retail units (you could say the the icing on their cake). The brewery, in private, are stating to the Trust that they wish to retain the Turf as a community pub and, hopefully, this will be the final outcome. In the meantime they are bringing this all to the public’s attention so hopefully keeping the brewery on side and it is for this reason they will to asking for signatures on a petition outside Bescot before the game on Saturday.

They have attached links to the relevant web-sites and would be greatly indebted for any help people can offer:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Turf_Hotel

http://www.ipetitions.com/petition/savetheturf/index.html

The Battle Of Burntwood

neilr @ 7:44 am Tuesday 24 April 2007

On Sunday 29 April 2007, Chasetown Specialist Sports College will be playing local rivals Chase Terrace Technology College at The Scholars Ground (home of Chasetown FC) in Staffordshire to raise awareness of cystic fibrosis and funds for the Cystic Fibrosis Trust. Admission on the door is £5 for adults and £3 for children/senior citizens.

The match, which kicks-off at 6pm, will feature current sixth formers/teachers along with players and managers who have cult status at Aston Villa, Birmingham City, Walsall, West Bromwich Albion and Wolverhampton Wanderers as well as appearances from some very special guests.

Turnstiles open at 4:30pm and supervised parking will be available at Chasetown Specialist Sports College.

Confirmed to play are West Bromwich Albion’s former midfield maestro Richard Sneekes, ex-Birmingham and Walsall stalwart Martin O’Connor and former Wolverhampton Wanderers, Walsall and West Bromwich Albion striker Don Goodman.

*Star player number four will be named later this week*

Chasetown will be managed by former Southampton and Walsall boss Chris Nicholl, who in his playing days as an uncompromising centre-half was capped 51 times by Northern Ireland and also made over 200 appearances for Aston Villa, while Chase Terrace’s boss will be Walsall head of youth Mick Halsall.

Premiership referee Alan Wiley, who officiated last season’s Carling Cup and FA Cup finals, will be overseeing proceedings and half-time entertainment comes from world-famous football freestyler Mr Woo.

Additionally, nine local schools (Chase Terrace Primary, Chase Terrace Technology College, Chasetown Community, Chasetown Specialist Sports College, Fulfen, Hagley Park, Ridgeway, Springhill, St Joseph & St Theresa) are all holding non-uniform days on Friday 27th April with proceeds going directly to the charity. Boney Hay and Friary are fundraising for the cause independently.

E-Mail: cfmatch@inbox.com
Website: www.justgiving.com/cfmatch

Walsall vs Bury After the Lord Mayor\’s Show

neilr @ 9:04 am Sunday 22 April 2007

The dustcart well and truly arrived at Bescot Stadium yesterday, with one the poorest performances of the season at home from the Saddlers.

Quite what it was, it’s hard to say. They didn’t look as if they had one foot on the plane for their holidays and seemed quite up for it, but a possible mixture of the pressure of the Championship being in their own hands and, certainly, the fact that the team fighting to stay in the League just wanted it more put paid to the day. Let’s face it, Bury fought like tigers.

Everybody seemed to have an off day, even the Manager, who mistimed some of his substitutions. Ince was reasonably commanding of his box and had little to do in terms of saves, but he also looked hesitant on a couple of occasions. Westwood was his normal reliable self (and did produce the best cross of the game in the second half, put out for a corner just as Ishy was about to pull the trigger and Taylor did OK at left back. The emergency pairing of Gerrard and Fox was, however, a complete disaster as Fox looked at sea all afternoon, even after being swopped with Taylor, and Gerrard was beaten time and time again by perfectly straight balls in the first half, one of them leading to the comic goal, when he had ample time to hoof it clear, but, instead, headed it onto the Bury forward’s head, from whence it rebounded into the net without the player knowing much about it.

In the midfield, Keates played very well and Dobson also did well, up until he was sacrificed to go to a very attacking 4 3 3 and then a 4 2 4, but Harper looked a little out of sorts and Cooper, back from injury, started OK, but lost it after a few minutes (and, it has to be said, the first heavy challenge) and was replaced at half time by Demontagnac. Ishy? Started like an express train and looked like getting us back into it at least on his own, but then slowly faded as Bury doubled (and even, at one point, trebled) up on him and, when he did get clear twice late on, his lack of composure meant he failed to deliver a telling cross. Darren Wrack had little time to have much effect.

Butler worked and worked, but Benjamin was never going to be the answer in the second half, playing with the strong wind, and Sam, who looked threatening, should have been bought on much, much earlier.

Keates, probably rightly, got the sponsor’s Man of the Match. If we’d have been having a non Man of the Match, it would have been too close to call, but I’d have given that to Fox, narrowly from Gerrard.

Lastly, congratulations to Bury. That was their ninth away win of the season, the same number that we have achieved. The players yesterday certainly played as if their jobs were on the line.

Walsall vs Bury Preview

Neil @ 12:57 pm Friday 20 April 2007

With promotion in the bag, the Saddlers will be turning their attention to hunting down Hartlepool for the title tomorrow against Bury, “where all black puddings is made”, as they say in the poem. With just three games to go, Walsall have the easier home fixtures, but the more difficult away fixture, but the Hartlepool also have the advantage of going first – at home to Notts County tonight. We can only hope that they do what we did when runners up in the equivalent of this Division, blowing up in our last two home games to present Huddersfield Town with the title!

Just to add a little spice to the occasion, our opponents are far from certain to keep their League status, although they are not favourites to go down, following a very poor season.

Walsall will, of course, be without long term injury victims Ian Roper and Scott Dann, but Anthony Gerrard will be fit to return after his head injury last week. Other defensive worries surround Craig Pead, who went off injured in the same game, and, as Geordie Lyall is still injured, Tony Bedeau had to play at right back for the reserves in the week. He showed that he has played there before by not doing too bad a job. Allan Picken might well be available at last, however.

Kevin Cooper’s knee problem still hasn’t cleared up, so there is a doubt about him and Per Cederqvist’s back problem is now over. I would, therefore, expect a line up of:

Ince, Westwood, Gerrard, Smith, Fox, Harper, Dobson, Keates, Wrack, Butler, Benjamin.

The bench should be something like:

Bossu, Sam, Taylor, Picken and any from Bradley, Demontagnac, Bedeau, Cederqvist, Deeney and Pead (if fit).

Bury will be missing defenders Brian Barry-Murphy, who has been out for a few weeks, and former York man Chris Brass.

They do also have some familiar old faces in the side, coupled with a lot of kids, which tends to explain their troubles this season. Typical of the older players are former Tranmere and Stockport long throw expert Dave Challinor, the former Norwich and Stockport defender Colin Woodthorpe and the much travelled striker Glyn Hurst and even more travelled goalkeeper Alan Fettis. The on loan Andy Warrington is likely to start between the sticks, however.

Their dangerman should need no introduction, as it is 21 goal Andy Bishop, released by us back in the glorious days of the Championship and who went on to make his reputation in the Conference with York City

Predictions?

Bury go into the game in 21st place, three points out of the relegation zone. One curious thing about them, however, is their away record. They are rock bottom of the home form table, having picked up a mere 18 points from 22 games. Away, however, they are an incredible 11th, having won 8 and drawn 3 of the 21 games, so there is a threat there. If their away record were as bad as their home record, they’d have been virtually relegated by now.

That all being said, I’m going for a home win – possibly a comfortable one.

Money On Promotion

neilr @ 8:24 am Thursday 19 April 2007

Manager Richard Money has opened up a little more to the BBC about how he feels, both about this season and the future, following the club’s promotion to League 1.

He started by saying that he sees the Saddlers’ promotion success to be a launch pad for further progress, not the limit of the club’s ambitions and is determined to keep the momentum going, starting with a bid to go up as champions by wresting the title from the grasp of leaders Hartlepool in the closing weeks of the season.

He said: “There was a great expectation around the club that we should have a good season and I genuinely felt we would have a chance. Having a good start got us into a good position and we have been able to see it through. Now we want to try and see it through even further by pushing Hartlepool for the title.

“We have probably got to win all three games. If we win our two home games that will give us a chance going to Swindon on the last day of winning it.

“We have been in the top two since the fifth game of the season and were top for 25 weeks in a row so I think we deserve to still be in contention and we will give it our best shot.”

As for the season as a whole, he said:

“We were outstanding in the first half of the season and our football was of a really high quality.”

The second half was a bit more of a struggle. Results have come in recent weeks but the pitches have been poor and the football tends to become a lot more nervy.
I would like to think that, even though we still have to do the right things to win matches, we can play with a bit more freedom now.”

“The two top teams have done it in different ways,” he added. “We got off to a good start and have been able to maintain it in the main, while they got off to a poor start and then have come like the proverbial express train. The run they have had has not been a good run, it’s been a once-in-a-lifetime run.”
His expectations for next season are plain to see:
“There’s still a re-building job to do done,” said Money. “It was important that we arrested the slide and we have been able to do that.
“Now we have to try to be as positive as we can over the summer and try to build a team capable of competing in the next division.
“Every club that gets promoted feels they need to strengthen and we will be no different.

“There are a number of players out of contract and the first thing is to secure those we want to stay and then look to add some who can help push us onto that next stage.”

“We know what type of people we want, although they are not easy to get because those players are sought after,” he added.

“This club has a history of being well run and that is not going to change. But the chairman will do his best to give me a budget to work to which will give us a chance.”

He once again stressed his desire for an out and out goalscorer as being the big priority:

“In the next division it’s the forwards that make the difference and when you move up to the division above it’s the same. I would suggest pretty much everybody else will be after the same thing,” Money said.

Money\’s Future?

neilr @ 7:38 am Wednesday 18 April 2007

Chairman Jeff Bonser has said that he will be sitting down to discuss the future with Richard Money as soon as he returns from holiday.

With promotion in the bag, the club needs to move forward and the Chairman obviously feels the same way, but his statements to the Express and Star also suggest that he might well be considering what to do about holding on to the Manager.

“I’ll be having discussions with Richard next week about the future and how he sees it”, Bonser said. “We’ll talk about his plans for next season, the new training ground and how he wants to move his management career forward.

I’m coming back on Friday in time for the Bury game and I’m sure myself and Richard will sit down and speak some time in the following week. I have been very happy with him, and, having got to know him, the fact we’re up at the top of the division doesn’t surprise me.

I know Richard is very ambitious but we have just invested a lot of money in a new training ground and Richard has had a lot of input in saying what he wants there and I see no reason why Richard cannot be our manager for a long time to come.”

Bonser said he was happy with the anti poaching clauses we have in the Manager’s contract, given that he is bound to be attracting attention from other clubs after this season.

“I’m comfortable at the moment with the protection the club has,” he said.

Money On Next Season

neilr @ 7:25 am Tuesday 17 April 2007

Ricahrd Money has been speaking to the Birmingham Mail about his intentions for next season, confirming what he said to the Express and Star yesterday. He is intending to start negotiations with the players out of contract as soon as possible, now we know what Division we will be playing in, and has also some target areas identified for signings:-

“We will enjoy the next few weeks but also step up the planning for next season,” the manager said. “We have been planning for a while.

“I made a big thing about not talking to anybody about contracts because I didn’t want anything to distract the players. If you start talking to one player, then other people who are out of contract say ‘well what about me?’

“There are a number of players we would like to try and sign for next year and we will start talking to them very soon.

“And, while this group of players has done magnificently, we also definitely need strengthening. In the cold light of day we will sit down and try to make the right decisions.

“We have already identified what we think we need. Over the next few weeks we will start to identify who the players are going to be.

“There is still a big rebuilding job to be done because I don’t want to go into the next division just to make up the numbers – and I don’t think the club does either. We want to have a real go at it.

“Whether that means a season of stability first we don’t know yet. Let’s see what the summer brings – who stays and who we can bring in.”

Target Hunting

neilr @ 1:17 pm Monday 16 April 2007

Well, the dust may not have settled on our promotion yet and there is still the Championship to play for, but Richard Money isn’t letting the grass grow under his feet.

Money has made it clear in the press that his number one priority is still to find that elusive 20 goal a season striker

Despite the sterling efforts of Martin Butler and the number of goals that have come from the rest of the side, this is still the one piece of the jigsaw that most fans would see as missing. Trevor Benjamin was always likely to be a stop gap measure, Hector Sam is more of a creative player, young Troy Deeney is just that, young, and the Per Cederqvist gamble doesn’t seem to have come off.

I would expect the forums to be rife with rumours from now on!

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