Archive for January, 2008

Geordie’s Pub Guide to Carlisle

Neil @ 4:50 pm Thursday 31 January 2008

Carlisle, the north’s forgotten city, can be a good day out depending on the mood of the locals. Despite the well earned reputation of a naughty minority I have always found Carlisle to be a welcoming away trip, even more so now that visitors are housed in the new East Stand rather than the exposed open terrace behind the goal. The new stand boats a bar amongst its excellent facilities, and there are plenty of other options for those in search of pre and post-match refreshment.

Carlisle “Citadel” station opens onto a modern café infested crescent which leads you up to the junction of several main roads, including Warwick Road where some twenty minutes walk later one catches first sight of arguably the most striking floodlights in the league, resembling outsized toothbrushes.

The immediate “beside the station” option comes in the shape of the half-decent Griffin, although colours are not to be advised. This bar does real ale and food and is large and bustling with decent service.

Heading into the town, on the splendidly named “Botchergate” – which is the main town centre street for pubs – Wetherspoons/Lloyds provide The Woodrow Wilson, and I have to concede this is one of the best Wetherspoons establishments I’ve come across, well worth a visit. Even better just a little further down the same street there is now another Lloyds outlet that is a bit more upmarket.

The Border Rambler (formerly The Albion) on the same street is probably one to tuck in those colours, though in my experience it’s usually a decent place for a bit of banter more than anything. A more traditional offering comes in the shape of The Cumberland Arms if you like wood panelling and real ale.

After trekking down Warwick Road The Beehive takes an age to appear on the right hand side of the road. This Theakstons establishment is probably the nearest pub to the ground and is very much a home pub, although again I’ve always found it welcoming to visitors.

Also near the stadium there is a bar at the adjacent rugby ground that is open on football match-days and again provides a pretty warm welcome.

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Walsall’s Championship Signing

Neil @ 1:42 pm Thursday 31 January 2008

Richard Money has strengthened his options before the end of the transfer window by taking Bristol City’s winger/striker Kevin Betsy on loan.

Betsy started his career at Woking before moving to Fulham during the 1998/99 season for £150,000. He went on to have loan spells at Bournemouth and Hull City before moving to Barnsley in March 2002 for a fee of £200,000. He made over 90 appearances for the club and scored 17 goals before moving to Oldham Athletic on a free transfer in September 2004. He them moved to Wycombe in July 2005, signing a two year contract.

Betsy was a regular in the Wycombe team during the 2005/06 season; playing on the right side of midfield and occasionally as a striker. He was also a regular goalscorer for the club; most notably with a hat-trick against Mansfield Town in September 2005.

In April 2006, Betsy was honoured by his fellow professionals by being named in the Professional Footballers’s Association (PFA) “Team Of The Year” for League Two.
In January 2007, Betsy joined then League One Bristol City for an initial fee of £150,000. He joined Yeovil Town on loan in October 2007. He returned to Bristol City on 7 November.

He has a grand total of 259 League games, with 46 goals for his various clubs.

Walsall vs Orient Report

neilr @ 8:26 am Wednesday 30 January 2008

Ever had one of those nights?

For all those people who assume 0 – 0 scorlines mean a boring game, Walsall and Orient gave a perfect reply in an entertaining encounter at Bescot last night as the Saddlers battered the Os nil – nil. Our visitors must have gone away perplexed as to how they hadn’t conceded.

Money sprang a surprise, not by resting Bradley, who had been looking a bit jaded of late, but by replacing him with Sonko in centre midfield. Nicholls was on the wing and Deeney up front.

The entire game was a story of the home team making chances and decent half chance, but missing them all, as the lack of the absent Michael Rickett’s guile was always a problem.

In the first half, first Deeney was put away but put his cross to close to the ‘keeper, then he had a header cleared away by a defender. Sonko, having a very good game in the middle of the park, then put a near post header across the face of goal froma corner, but no one had gambled on the far post.

Scott Dann was next to have a header just over, when he might have done better, then the same player, usually so deadly in front of goal, fired over from a loose ball, when he should have done much better.

Tommy Mooney was next to have a weak shot saved, which were coupled with some goal mouth scrambles, before Nicholls finished the half by dragging a shot wide after he had been put through

The opposition’s only reply had been from Terry, firing well over after a scramble.

Second half was more of the same, with some weak shooting from Mooney, Sonko, Nicholls and Deeney when all might have done better. Lee Holmes was acting as creator of much of the mayhem, as he had the right back on toast.

The misses of the half, however, came from Dann, when he mistimed his jump and didn’t connect properly with a virtually free header, and Wrack, appearing on the far post to head a wicked Holmes cross just wide when he should have scored.

As the Saddlers got more desperate, Money made some changes, with Nicholls, shortly after having one good shot saved, being replaced by Taundry, the impressive Sonko, injured in a tackle, replaced by Bradley and Demontagnac coming on for Deeney.

Ah, Ishy! More of him later.

Hokems then had a free kick saved well by the ‘keeper, but the Saddlers were running out of steam, so the Orient did mange to get a couple fo chances towards the end, which were ably dealt with.

Man of the Match?

Could have been virtually anyone. The sponsor gave it to Gerrard, but I wouldn’t pick any of the immaculate back four ahead of any of the others. The rest of the squad all did their bit too, it was just Rickett’s extra quality that might have made a difference.

Oh, and Ishy. He was dreadful. He didn’t even look awake. His cameo was summed up by him being put through on goal five minutes from time and actually, somehow, managing to trip over his own feet with a clear run at goal.

Still, never mind, we’ll play worse than this many a time and win.

Walsall vs Orient Preview

Neil @ 4:49 pm Monday 28 January 2008

Orient are the visitors tomorrow night, with the Saddlers looking to cement their place in the top six, after the hard-fought win at home to Gillingham on Saturday. The two games do have something in common, as Walsall have only lost away twice in the League this season – at Gillingham and Orient. A similar result to Saturday’s then would also help to avenge those away defeats.

The team news will surround three issues, I suspect. The first is the availability of Michael Ricketts. Despite the win, we still missed his guile and “nous” on Saturday (something I had remarked on to the Fat Controller just seconds before we scored our opening goal, of course) and his presence would be welcome.

The second is that there has still been no indication as to whether Mark Bradley will be fit. One can only assume that he was taken off on Saturday because he had picked up a knock, but there has been no indication from the club as to the reason.

The third is the return from suspension of Scott Dann and Ishmel Demontagnac. I can’t see Ishy making the team ahead of Holmes, but Dann is likely to come back in place of Roper.

If Bradley and Ricketts are fit, I’d expect a starting eleven of:

Ince, Weston, Dann, Gerrard, Boertien, Sonko, Wrack, Bradley, Holmes, Mooney, Ricketts.

If Bradley and Ricketts are missing then Dobson and Deeney are the likely replacements.

There is no team news from the Orient camp as yet, but they did line up at Northampton on Friday night like this:

Nelson, Oji, Mkandawire, Saah, Daniels, Chambers, Terry, Thornton, Demetriou, Barcham, Boyd.

Subs: Morris, Echanomi, Purches, Melligan, Corden.

Predictions?

Not many would have predicted it at the start of the season, but, with Walsall going into the game in fourth place and Orient in seventh, a point behind, this is a promotion six-pointer.

It’s Orient’s away form that is letting them down at the moment, as they have lost six times on the road this season so far, three times as many games as the Saddlers have lost. The last two away games have been particularly disappointing for them, having gone down 0 – 2 at Northampton last time out and 0 – 4 at Forest in the previous away trip.

I’ll take the Saddlers to win this one to further their promotion prospects, especially if they are back up to full strength.

Danny Fox Off to Coventry

Neil @ 12:53 pm Monday 28 January 2008

I’ve been waiting a week to use that headline.

As was expected, Danny Fox has finally signed on the dotted line for Championship Coventry City during the course of the weekend.

From the moment that the full back refused to sign a new contract, his departure during the transfer window has looked to be inevitable, as the club would have been mad not to cash in while it could. It was always more of a question of which club he would join.

Leeds United were first in the hunt, but the club turned down their offer as just not enough for the talented youngster. That was followed by Colchester and Coventry and the Sky Blues always looked like being favourites, as Colchester are locked in a relegation battle.

Fox had made 117 full appearances for the Saddlers since joining from Everton in 2005, plus 1 as sub, scoring 6 league goals. He has been a member, over the last season and a half, of one of the most successful back fours in the club’s history.

His appreciation of his time at Walsall is shown by his quote to the Express and Star, when he said:

“I have loved my time at Walsall. I have spent two full seasons there and I can’t speak highly enough of everyone at the club. I owe so much to Richard Money. He has made me the player I am today and without him I wouldn’t be signing for a club like Coventry. He is a great coach but more importantly he stuck with me through some tough times. There were times last season when I don’t think I played very well and there were a couple of times when he left me out, rightly so. But he showed faith and stuck with me and hopefully I have repaid him and the club with some good performances this season.”

He also apologised in the paper for handing in his transfer request, admitting that he should have been more patient.

The question now is whether Richard Money will be able to use the cash to strengthen the squad up front and in midfield, especially in view of the fact we have a more than adequate replacement at fullback in the shape of Paul Boertien.

Walsall vs Gillingham Preview

neilr @ 10:47 am Friday 25 January 2008

Gillingham tomorrow, then. They are, of course, one of only two teams to have beaten us away from home this season, having conceded two goals to them done at the Priestfield in September. What made that worse on the day is that it was an ex Dingle, Gary Mulligan, who scored both goals.

The Saddlers will be desperate to improve their home record which is trailing somewhat behind their away record (the best in the Division). If they were of a par, even, we’d be just two points behind Swansea in second place.

It looks as if we will have a clean injury sheet, with Richard Money saying that he is very hopeful of Tommy Mooney being fit, Michael Ricketts being ready to re-appear and Boertien and Dobson back in the squad. That means that only Danny Fox, due to sign for Coventry today, and the suspended Dann and Demontagnac will be missing.

The line up, however, is fairly problematical, but I’ll go for:-

Ince, Weston, Roper, Gerrard, Boertien, Sonko, Wrack, Bradley, Holmes, Mooney, Ricketts.

Of the outfield players, Dobson, Taundry, Manny Smith and Deeney are likely to make up the bench.

Mind you, with my record of trying to predict Dicky Dosh’s mind of late, expect to see Dobbo filling in for Dann!

As for the Gills, defender Simon King and midfielder Dennis Oli are expected to miss the game with hamstring injuries, and goalkeeper, Simon Royce is suspended after being sent off against Oldham in the nil – nil last game. That means that former Dunfermline and Dundee United ‘keeper Derek Stillie will be playing.

Manager Mark Stimpson, the former Stevenage boss, has used his non league contacts to bring in a host of players, including John Nutter, Mark Bentley, Stuart Thurgood, Adam Miller and Leroy Griffiths. All were well respected in the non League scene and it will be interesting to see if they make the step up, assuming they start.

They have also brought in Craig Rocastle from Port Vale on loan, as well as Adam Bygrave from Reading. Defenders Efe Sodje and Ian Cox stand a chance of making their come backs from injury.

All that means their line up is even harder to predict than ours. They did line up against Oldham like this, however:

Royce, Southall, Cox, Bygrave, Nutter, Bentley, Crofts, Thurgood, Miller, Cumbers, Mulligan.
Subs: Facey, Clohessy, Cogan, Stillie, Griffiths

Predictions?

Stimpson has managed an upturn in fortunes for the Kent club since taking over, but they are still not clear of danger, just four points above the relegation zone and eleven behind the Saddlers. They have managed only two away wins so far this season.

Against that, the Saddlers’ home record is not the best and badly needs to be improved if we are going to stay in the play off race. Let’s hope that doesn’t start preying on the players’ minds.
With the return of Ricketts and Mooney, I still think we are likely to have a little too much for them.

Leeds Beaten To Fox By Coventry

Neil @ 2:19 pm Tuesday 22 January 2008

Walsall have announced officially that they have accepted a bid from Coventry City for the services of left back Danny Fox and he has been given permission to speak to the Championship club.

The club have not stated the terms of the offer, but it is rumoured to be in the region of 200,000, rising to 400,000 on conditions. While apparently less up front than had been previously offered by Colchester United, the overall figure could turn out to be considerably more.

As far as the Saddlers are concerned, with cover at full back in the shape of Paul Boertien and Richard Taundry, the main question is whether Richard Money will be able to use the proceeds of the sale in order to strengthen Walsall’s promotion push.

Bristol Rovers vs Walsall Preview

Neil @ 10:14 am Friday 18 January 2008

It’s back to playing a “proper” rival tomorrow – weather permitting. Bristol Rovers are what you might call another “real” football club and have been long standing opposition for the Saddlers over the years. Who can forget, for example, that 4 – 3 win for the Saddlers down there in our promotion season? It’s just a pity, however, that they don’t play at a proper football ground. They have already had problems this season at the Memorial Stadium, which they share with Bristol Rugby Club, but, after losing their money spinning FA Cup replay against Fulham to the weather this week, they have week invested in a new pitch covering system which is supposed to have a blow up cover to protect it from the rain and heating to dry the ground out. We shall see.

The weirdest thing about the game, however, is that it’s the middle of January and this will be the first time we’ve faced Rovers this season – the last club to have that honour!

Team News

Richard Money’s injury problems seem to be clearing up at last. Dobson and Boertien both came on as subs at Millwall and both got 90 minutes in against Rushall in the Senior Cup, so they will be available. Ricketts and Mooney are also hoping to be fit (and we have certainly missed both badly). The Manager may decide to only risk on of them, however, if they are fit, in view of the probable conditions.

Bertrand Bossu, contrary to rumours about him having a row with Money did, in fact, injure his shoulder warming up in the week, so Rene Gilmartin has been recalled from his loan at Hednesford to sit on the bench if the big Frenchman doesn’t make it.

The other welcome returnee is Lee Holmes, prevented by FA rules from appearing on Tuesday, as he wasn’t with us at the time of the original game. He certainly showed enough in his first appearance to make fans think he could be a great acquisition.

Rovers have been having all sorts of injury problems themselves.

Sammy Igoe has been struggling with a hamstring recently, and Lewis Haldane, Byron Anthony, Craig Disley and Ryan Green have all spent some time out recently. There isn’t any team news from the Rovers camp yet, but they did line up at Tranmere last week:

Phillips, Lescott, Hinton, Elliott, Jacobson, Pipe, Coles, Lines, Campbell, Williams, Lambert.
Subs: Mike Green, Reece, Rigg, Walker, Disley.

Predictions?

We seem to have a habit recently of going to visit teams in a good run of form and Rovers are no exception. Their last five results have included wins at Tranmere and Southend, a 3 – 0 home win against Swindon and that draw at Craven Cottage. Their only poor result has been the home draw against Luton. However, Yeovil and Oldham were on impressive runs when we went to both and won!

Personally, this is another of those fixtures where I’ll be happy if we come away with a point. Mind you, another 4 – 3 win would be nice!

Ron Jukes. A Tribute

Neil @ 12:55 pm Monday 14 January 2008

Nice bloke, was Ron Jukes.

The last time I spoke to him was a few years ago, when I witnessed him in an accident at the bottom of Walhouse Road and stopped to give him my view of the incident for his insurance claim. Thought he was a real gent – and not just because we went to the same school!

No, Ron Jukes was one of the best scouts ever to grace a football club and it is especially sad that he should have passed away at a time when Walsall are producing one of the greatest crop of youngsters they ever have – because he was responsible for bringing to the club some of the greatest players ever to wear the shirt.

His finds included some absolute legends, in the shape of striker Allan Clarke, who went on to play for Leeds United and England, goalkeeper Phil Parkes, another England star, Colin Taylor and Tony Richards, record appearance holder Colin Harrison, Stan Bennett, Frank Gregg and many, many others.

He had two spells with the Saddlers, but also gave sterling service to Wolves (bringing Steve Bull to the club), Blues, Derby (under former Walsall coach Arthur Cox), Shrewsbury and Hereford.

He passed away yesterday in the Manor Hospital, at the age of 79.

Rest in Peace, Ron Jukes, Walsall legend.

Millwall vs Walsall Part . . . .

Neil @ 11:05 am Monday 14 January 2008

Oh My God, I’ve lost count!

It’s the third round replay tomorrow night, with a trip to the Ricoh Stadium and inconsistent Coventry City awaiting the winners.

This game is certainly one we could have done without, one would have thought, but Richard Money has said that he doesn’t mind, as he has such a young squad, well able to cope with the number of games. However, the fact that one or two of the kids have been showing signs of up and down form lately shows the strain that the programme can cause in the inexperienced. On top of that, of course, there is always the ever-present danger of the injury list mounting.

Dicky Dosh has a lot to ponder ahead of the game. At this point, we still don’t know whether Danny Fox will be accepting the offer he’s about to receive from Championship Colchester United. Unless he’s turned them down, he won’t be playing, judging by Saturday, anyway, even with Colchester already having gone out of the Cup. Taundry played well in the role on Saturday, however, and Boertien’s presence on the bench was most welcome.

That leaves the question of whether Mooney or Ricketts might yet be fit to face the Lions, as I have to say, as well as Deeney and Nicholls have done in their absence (I thought Deeney was outstanding again on Saturday), we have still looked a little lightweight in front of goal without the two star strikers.

Lee Holmes will be a little fitter after his outing against Swindon, when he gave a few glimpses of what he is capable of, despite the lack of decent possession we were giving him. Division 2 right backs will not be looking forward to the rest of the season on that evidence.

As for Millwall, it’ll be lots of changes from when we saw them at the Banks’s.
Midfielders Ahmet Brkovic and Marc Laird should be in, after signing contracts with the club at the end of their loan spells from Luton and Manchester City respectively. Both have had injuries recently as well, however.
Skipper Paul Robinson will be back from suspension, but his replacement at Vale on Saturday, veteran Richard Shaw, was red carded and will be missing. Midfielder Dave Brammer returned from a ban in that game, but striker Neil Harris serves the last of his three-match suspension. Danny Senda is expected to miss out with a knee injury while Bryan Hodge and Marcus Bignot’s loan spells are over.
Predictions?

Depends entirely on our performance in front of goal. At our best, we have more than enough to add yet another away win to the collection and give the Fat Controller, amongst several others, the chance to collect one of their missing stadia, with a trip to the Ricoh in the next round.

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