Archive for March, 2008

Southend vs Walsall Preview

Neil @ 12:48 pm Friday 28 March 2008

Down to Sarfend tomorrow. Sarfend, the playground of the Cockneys. What a depressing thought that is – thousands of people trying desperately not to sound like Dick Van Dyke on crack – or should that be trying to sound like him?

Not that I’ve ever been there for a holiday, of course, but the thought of spending any length of time with anybody even remotely resembling a character from Eastenders or Birds of a Feather is somewhat less than appealing. Even worse, judging by the wife’s TV viewing, it seems that Jamie Oliver has the habit of visiting with his nephews and nieces. Worst of all, it’s even in Essex!

If the Saddlers are to make a final challenge for that play off slot, then the mini slump has to end now. Ian Roper’s 94th minute equaliser on Monday just about kept us in the running, but it seems that he might well be the scapegoat for the sudden loss of form, with the arrival of loanee Aaron Brown from Reading. If Brown is match fit, then he is likely to start in the long serving Roper’s place, something which is likely to mark the beginning of the end for one of the club’s truly loyal servants. Let’s hope he can get his best form back, but time is getting on for the thirty year old.

Midfielders Michael Dobson, Edrissa Sonko and Darren Wrack are all rated as doubtful, due to a flu bug at the club, which could mean starts for Mark Bradley, Richard Taundry and Alassane N’Dour. Michael Dobson was easily the pick of a poor midfield on Monday, so that could be a blow, but Wracky’s place was probably under threat with the return of Bradley from international duty and Taundry from suspension. N’Dour showed some nice touches when he came on which may well influence whether he starts.

Ishmel Demontagnac is also doubtful with a knee injury. He’d be only likely to be on the bench anyway, with Lee Holmes being the better option out wide.

Up front, it will be interesting to see if Money goes for two or one, and what part Stefan Moore might play, given his goals for the reserves in the week.

Southend Manager Steve Tilson also has no new injury worries, with only newly acquired (in January) striker Alex Revell missing. He returned for the reserves after recovering from a hernia injury but is not expected to be fit enough to resume first-team duties yet

Predictions?

Southend have beaten us once already this season, of course, in our early season bad run. At that time, they looked odds on promotion candidates, but they have had their ups and downs, which means they are really competing for a play off berth. They are unbeaten in their last eight games, which doesn’t bode well, but there may be a chink in their armour, in that nerves may be setting in for them too, as they have only managed draws in their last two home games. Still, that’s better than 1 draw and 2 defeats in the last three!

There may be a weakness there, but the question for the Saddlers will be how well the midfield can do in both keeping the pressure off the defence and in supplying the wings with enough decent possession to create chances. We know we are capable of it, so it’s time for the players to stand up and be counted.

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Reading Defender Signs

Neil @ 5:54 pm Thursday 27 March 2008

One thing that Richard Money has proven over the last two seasons is that you really shouldn’t take much notice of what he says in the Press.

After the story ran in the Express and Star today that he was not planning on making any loan signings before the window closes at 5.00pm, he has promptly gone out and signed Reading’s central defender Aaron Brown.

Brown is a local lad, who signed for Reading from Tamworth in November 2005, having previously played for England’s non-league representative side.

He was loaned out to League One side AFC Bournemouth in February, playing four times for the Cherries, but broke his ankle in July 2006, ruling him out for the entire season, as well as the beginning of the 2007/8 campaign.

He’s a six foot tall, 24 year old central defender and shouldn’t be confused with the Gillingham player of the same name.

Walsall 1 Crewe 1

roger6 @ 7:12 pm Wednesday 26 March 2008

A last-minute equaliser by Ian Roper rescued a point for the Saddlers at Bescot on Monday – these were the match views of WFC Rob given on the message board:

The fact that we needed a 93rd minute Ian Roper header from a corner to salvage a point at home against a side who I don’t think have been out of the bottom 6 all season speaks for itself.

To be fair, their goalkeeper had a very good game and we could have been 2 up by half time. That would have been papering over the cracks however (much like the result may well have done) as we looked completely lost for ideas. Holmes is our only outlet going forward who ever looks like delivering anything with any quality. I think some of the comments on Betsy have been a little over the top, but it has to be said that when he goes forward, you just hope we get a corner or a throw in as a result, because he gives little end product.

Mooney looks a shadow of his former self. He can get the fans going all he likes, but fans don’t win games, goals do.
Whether his ineptitude in front of goal has anything to do with his contract situation doesn’t matter – he’s not doing the business and should be replaced with someone with the balls to join a club with an outside chance of playing at Wembley and making a real name for themselves. Ideally, we’d go out and get 2 strikers, but we’ve already wasted money on Moore, so I won’t hold my breath.

I actually thought Dobson had a decent game today. I’d even go as far as saying he’d have been my man of the match. Laugh all you like but without him, they’d have trampled all over our midfield for fun. As has been said by myself along with others on here before, what you see is what you get with Dobson. Play him in midfield with someone with any attacking nouse about them and it’ll work well as he’ll be allowed that hole in front of the defence to sweep up. Ask him to do anything else however, and you’ll begin to see his flaws. Wrack might as well have not bothered getting out of bed today, and that’s coming from a Wrack fan. Dobson was generally neat and tidy, only being made to look wasteful by the lack of movement around him and an increasing oweness on him as the game went on to do more than just his defensive duties.

The back four played as we’ve come to expect. Gerrard was generally solid and won everything in the air, Boertein was alright if not a little shakey, Weston was excellent defensively and got forward to good effect at times too. Roper was Roper – did the bare minimum when required to clear the ball and make the odd block, but was incapable of offering anything more. Deserved his first booking and we have to thank the fact that we had a reasonably sensible referee who gave him the ‘one more and you’re off’ talk before half time, for not giving him his marching orders before he popped up with the goal.

Other than echoing the point which has constantly been made since January, that we need at least 2 new players, there isn’t really anything else to say. Nicky Maynard is a prime example of how keeping your best players will pay off. He took his goal really well today, to go along with the goals he’s been scoring for fun recently. We don’t have a player in our squad capable of doing what he did for the goal. And as much as it’s done and dusted now, had we not sold Scott Dann, I’d like to think Maynard wouldn’t have had that opportunity.

Leeds 2 Saddlers 0

roger6 @ 10:16 pm Saturday 22 March 2008

It’s not often the Saddlers are on the TV, which is just as well – because with one or two exceptions, we’re always poor. None more so than tonight, when Leeds deservedly took the points leaving the Saddlers slipping 3 points from the play-offs. Moaning Saddler was at the game, and offered this honest assessment of the performance and the players on the message board:

Just back from the game and relaxing in our luxury waterfront apartment. Thought we were well and truly found out today. Leeds were nothing like the threat that Forest had in attack, but simply had to wait until the inevitable defensive error(s) from the once impregnable Saddlers.

How Betsy was allowed to stay on the pitch for the whole game is baffling. Truly an inept, gutless performance. Dobson did what Dobson does. Breaks up play effectively, then seems to become blind to anything going on around him. The gift pass that he teed up for Leeds winning goal was an accident waiting to happen. Mooney – too slow and wasted the best chance of the game. To be fair to him, the support for him was generally woeful.

Wrack – great servant to the club but the last few weeks seem to have been a step too far for him. The way he weakly gave away possession to end what had been the Saddlers best spell of the game seemed to sum up the exhaustion of his Walsall career perfectly. Roper – what you see is what you get. Beckford is a class act, and eats journeymen defenders (which is what Roper has become) for breakfast. Sonko – dfficult to comment since I did not see much of him, particularly in an attacking sense.

Gerrard, Ince, Weston – the usual decent performances that we have come to expect.

Holmes – our sole attacking threat. Our only period of attacking intent coincided with Holmes stepping up a couple of gears in the second half. Boertin – OK but does not look confident venturing over the half way line.

Very disappointed tonight to have been so comprehensively outfought.The wheels look to be coming off, and it isn’t difficult to pinpoint the cause. Fans were generally excellent today, and the stewards were a cut above the Forest lot. Although why they allowed the Leeds Creche to sit so close to the away fans was a mystery. The result apart, it was a real pleasure to go to Elland Road today. A real football city, even if they have an unhealthy obsession with the 15 point “loss”.

Leeds United vs Walsall Preview

Neil @ 5:06 pm Friday 21 March 2008

Live texts from fans at the game
Give your view on the game
It’s the second game of the season against Leeds, but it seems that the prospect might not be as daunting as it did last time – although we don’t tend to perform that well in front of the TV cameras!

When we played Leeds at home, there was some trepidation about taking on a club with the resources that it had got at it’s disposal (resources which should have gone on paying their creditors more, of course). Now, to be honest, that home draw against them looks more like two points dropped than one gained. That was in the period immediately after Gus Poyet left and before it had sunk in what a difference his leaving was going to have on the team. Poyet left Leeds on the 29th October. Since then, they have played 27 games, of which they have won 9, drawn 8 and lost 10, the equivalent of 35 points from a possible 81. The losses even include lowly Cheltenham doing the double over them. With the Saddlers badly needing a point as a minimum to maintain the promotion challenge, it could be a tense night at Elland Road.

Richard Money will be missing Richard Taundry, through suspension, but, fortunately, Rhys Weston’s fifth booking of the season last week is past the deadline and he can play (he’s got to reach ten at this stage of the season to earn a suspension). mark Bradley will be playing the last game before he departs on International duty, so the sixteen will come from:

Ince, Weston, Roper, Gerrard, Boertien, Betsy, Bradley, Sonko, Wrack, Dobson, Holmes, Mooney, Moore, Deeney, Nicholls, McDermott, N’Dour, Bossu, Demontagnac, Smith.

A lot will depend whether Money goes for a 4 5 1, or a 4 4 2, but, if he does go for two strikers, then Moore’s goal for the reserves should give him some confidence.

As for Leeds, Andrew Hughes misses game after picking up his 10th booking of the season at Port Vale, with loanee Alan Sheehan favourite to replace him. They may also have skipper Jonathan Douglas back, after a lengthy injury break. Manager Gary Macallister’s biggest problem, however, will be trying to decide which 11 of the supposedly cash strapped club’s 29 man squad will play (and that doesn’t include the EIGHT they have out on loan elsewhere. O how glad I am they didn’t owe me any money).

Predictions?

Like at Forest last week, I think we have enough to come away with a point at least, as long as the players don’t freeze in front of the large hostile crowd. Let;s face it, if they actually look at Leeds’ record instead of the name, they will realise that there isn’t a lot to be frightened of!

Leeds Pub-guide

Geordie_Saddler @ 1:37 pm Thursday 20 March 2008

A rare opportunity to visit one of football’s Walter Mitty clubs, as they plummet through our neck of the footballing universe en-route to division four. A path notably worn by our neighbours Wolves, and their near buddies from Bradford. Unlike the former duo, the Leeds trip does afford the chance to visit one of the nations most improved city centres, and one which is a pleasure to visit for a drink.

Train travellers can descend the stairs in the peculiar round structure outside the station itself, then cross the road to the robust and bustling Scarborough Hotel, an all time personal favourite of mine. The atmosphere is good, and the beer and food are excellent. Don’t be put off by the scruffy looking exterior or the life-threatening experience of crossing the main-road where cars seem to hide round the corner then speed at you when half-way across.

As for the city centre itself, well apart from the Scarborough knowing where to start is the major problem. All the usual chains can be found to the north west of the station area in what could be described as an attempt to construct a “cafe quarter”, Pitcher and Piano, Wetherspoons, Revoloution, Yates, All Bar 1 etc.

My favourite pub in Leeds, and a must for anyone looking for traditional food is The famous Whitelocks, set back on a a back alley from Briggate, the main pedestrianised shopping street. I counted eight real ales on my last visit, superb effort of a city centre establishment that could easily rely just upon its location to make its money.

There are a plethora of other pubs within five minutes of this pub, but all fall into the “lazy city centre” genre that the Whitelocks so eminently avoids.

If you have the time another place worth seeking out is the former Baroque – now Mister Foley’s Cask Ale House which is on The Headrow, just up from Westgate heading towards the university.

Heading towards the ground away fans need to be a little moor discerning. The Cross Keys is a neat little back-street effort on Water Lane in Holbeck, some 15 minutes walk to the stadium kind of in between the City and the ground. While on Elland Road itself the Old Peacock is obviously a home pub, but in my experience has always been fairly welcoming in spite of a reputation for the opposite, no doubt exaggerated and gained from the days when Man Utd and Chelsea were regular visitors. The Wheatsheaf near the busy road island on the approach to the ground is middling, as is the bog standard fizz that is served in the stadium.

Enjoy your day.

(Admin writes: we have a nice message into UptheSaddlers from a Leeds fan working for South Yorkshire police. To help guide the drinking on Saturday:

There is a pub called The Drysalters, found walking to the ground but on the opposite side to the city centre.
Reasonably friendly for away fans as long as they are not too boustrous.

As for the fizz at the ground, it is average but some of your more discerning supporters (ie – those without ten points of Stella Artois on board) may try to walk into ‘Howards Way’ – this is a bar on the outside of the West stand at Elland Road (near to the junction with the South Stand).
Average but pleasant and friendly football ground style bar — You can get in here with children and as long as supporters aren’t shouting, will pass the doormen without problem.

All the best and enjoy your visit

PS – We are Leeds

Forest 1 Walsall 1

roger6 @ 7:12 pm Sunday 16 March 2008

No win for Forest in something like 10 games now against us and the Saddlers came away from the City Ground with a well-earned point. Plastic Hawk offered his thoughts on the message board:

Good performance today and a good result. 1-1 was probably a fair reflection, but it could have been more too as we had an effort cleared off the line and Bradley hit the bar – both at 1-1 – and we had a 4-on-3 break in stoppage time that I thought Gerrard rather wasted by shooting from range (in fairness, I guess Ormerod missed a sitter at 1-0 so Forest probably felt they could’ve won too, but they barely tested Ince). Basically a classic Walsall away performance, soaking up pressure and then hitting them on the break. Can’t ask much more than we got today.

I think it’s very, very harsh to blame Roper for the goal. There wasn’t much wrong with his clearance – it went into the Forest half and they had a lot of ground to cover to get to the goal. Personally, I thought that the guy who put the cross in was offside when he was played in beyond Weston, so I’ll be interested to see that again.

Anyway, a vastly improved performance from everyone and we did well to peg them back after going behind. Bradley, while maybe not back to his best, looked much better in midfield. Having Dobson alongside him making tackles and playing it simple looked to be a big help to him (although I think Wrack was unlucky to miss out on the bench). Mooney was much better up front too and Sonko made a difference coming back. I still think we look very laboured going forwards a lot of the time though. I’d like to see us running at men and driving on towards the goal a lot more – especially Betsy who looks like he has the ability to be a very good player, but for one reason or another (and it could just be confidence) doesn’t seem to want to beat his man.

DD waved at us too. As always with an away game, that was the most important thing!!

Nottingham Forest vs Walsall Preview

Neil @ 1:50 pm Friday 14 March 2008

Live texts from fans at the game
Give your view on the message board

There’s two ways of looking at Forest, I suppose. You might say that, after a disastrous week, losing two home games, the last thing we need is an away game at Forest, a team with a squad that ought to have them in the automatic slots. However, we do have a better away record than home and this is Forest we are talking about.

Let’s not forget, we are their bogey team. They just seem to find us impossible, so much so, in fact, that we haven’t lost to them in the last ten games between us. From when we memorably beat them in the League Cup (thanks in great part to Andy Watson), despite them having the young Jermaine Jenas in the side, through Jorge Leitao giving a youthful Michael Dawson an absolute roasting, the referee gifting them a point with two ridiculous decisions at their place to get them back to 3 – 3, when the extra two points that season would have kept us up, to Paul Merson having one of his few good all round games for us (and Gary Birch scoring!) in a 4 – 1 home win, right up until Michael Ricketts’s winner at the Banks’s this season, we have just had the Indian sign on them. So much so, in fact, that we now have Forest regulars on the message board (yes, I do mean you, Bitter Tree Hugger!). Let’s hope the trend continues tomorrow, as it needs to if our play off hopes are to survive.

The Saddlers will be without Richard Taundry, of course, following the loss of his appeal against Tuesday’s red card. Edrissa Sonko will be hoping to be back, as will Alesanne N’Dour, as Money may be tempted to play the 4 5 1 that has worked well away from home.

The team is likely to be from:

Ince, Weston, Roper, Gerrard, Boertien, Betsy, Wrack, Sonko, N’Dour, Bradley, Holmes, Mooney, Moore, Demontagnac, Nicholls, Deeney, Dobson, Bossu, Smith.

Forest will definitely have Nathan Tyson starting, according the their manager, as he has almost recovered full fitness following an injury. He’ll be needed, as loan striker Will Hoskins has returned to Watford suffering from a back injury. Former Saddler Julian Bennett has also had an injury, but he’s expected to be fit to play. Amongst the best news, however, is the absence (almost certainly) of the dangerous and influential Kris Commons, also through injury.

Predictions?

Walsall go into this one fifth, Forest in fourth, with three points more and a game in hand. Walsall do, however, still have the third best away record in the Division, following Swansea and Doncaster, and there is the small matter of that record against Forest. I think we might well get ourselves back on track tomorrow, something we badly need to do, as there are now seven clubs below us within four points. It’s tight at the top.

Walsall 1-2 Brighton: Not quite a match report

Exile @ 1:25 am Wednesday 12 March 2008

For all the gory details on how we played tonight there’s plenty of post and perspective on the match thread. I was going to provide the match report, but being based in NZ I’d have had to rely on Mick Kearns and his encyclopaedic understanding of the game, and being so far away I couldn’t quite keep up with him.

All I can say is that we started well, both sides had shots saved in the opening minutes, and we looked the better in the first half. Gerrard’s goal sounded absolute class – a power header stranding Brighton’s keeper; the chance created from a Moore free kick. I noted that Moore and others also had efforts saved in a blinding display from Brighton’s keeper.

I heard that Brighton equalised when Roper got left behind by Forster, whose shot left Ince for dead – whether he was unsighted or just absolutely dumbstruck remained unsaid.

I also learnt that our opposition had flown to Carlisle at the weekend, and that Dann and Fox play together quite well, still. Mick, bless him, is easily distracted, and is happy to chat away about any old thing regardless of the need for us internet fans to actually hear about what’s going on.

The half-time pitchside announcer was too loud for us to hear Mick’s standard half-time drivel, sadly.

Second half, and I had to go into a meeting, so I’m afraid I missed Mick’s dulcet tones in favour of a discourse on sales strategies and hull particular average pricing. Not sure which would have been the better to listen to.

I came back to find that we’d lost a player, lost the plot, lost the game and everyone lost their heads, both on here and in the post-match interviews! Gutted, totally.

Where to from here? Pick our socks up and get on with it would be my advice. We’ve still got everything to play for, even if we have just made it a lot harder for ourselves. One thing I know – this squad is capable of bouncing back, and can. Stop moaning and get behind the lads for the next two games at Forest and Leeds – we’re still 5th, and still in control.

Walsall vs Brighton Preview

Neil @ 1:59 pm Monday 10 March 2008

Following Saturday’s disappointing result against Northampton Town, this week’s other home game, against Brighton and Hove Albion tomorrow night, takes on a whole new significance. Whilst a failure to get three points wouldn’t be a disaster, as far as promotion hopes are concerned, it would put the club very much on the back foot with some difficult away fixtures to come. Of course, you could argue that wins or draws in those away games would have double the impact, but you cannot afford to have that sort of pressure put on your away form by poor results at home. That play off spot is surely too tantalisingly close to throw away now, even if it is far more than most of us expected at the beginning of the season.

Richard Money does have some worries ahead of the game, however. It was a weak central midfield performance that was at the heart of Saturday’s defeat and he will be hoping (and there have been times I never thought I would be typing this) that Edrissa Sonko is available for the game. He has, however, been looking better and better lately and Wrack and Bradley (especially) were both out of form against Northampton. N’Dour’s presence might well be welcome as well, as the lack of creativity in the centre of the park was thrown into stark relief when Holmes was getting so little change out of his full back. It seems we have come to depend a lot on the little left winger.

One man unlikely to be playing in midfield, however, is Michael Dobson, as he might well be covering for Weston, who limped off on Saturday. Dobson’s performance at full back was one of the big positives from that game, including as it did one crunching tackle to prevent a break, when he was one on one with the forward.

There is also the chance that Money might bring someone in on loan in defence, but he’s left himself with a massive problem there. The departure of Dann and some decent performances since mean that the central pair are quite settled and it’s extremely unlikely that any loan player will want to come and sit on the bench. Problems, problems.

It’s still too early to expect any team news from the Brighton camp, but they did line up as follows at Carlisle:-

Kuipers, Whing, El-Abd, Elphick, Richards, Thomson, Fraser, Westlake, Martot, Forster, Murray.
Subs: Sullivan, Lynch, Robinson, Loft, Hart.

The ever dangerous Forster is, of course, the man to watch.

Predictions?

Brighton go into this one in 12th place, but just 6 points behind the Saddlers. It’s their away record that’s the weaker part of their record, as they have lost half of their games on the road. They do not, however, concede many goals. I think that we do have enough to win this one, but we cannot afford any more slip ups.

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