Archive for September, 2008

Saddlers 2 Carlisle 1

roger6 @ 10:01 pm Saturday 27 September 2008

Another match another win for the Saddlers, fresh from the 9-man triumph against Brighton, this time picking up 3 points at home to Carlisle. It takes Walsall up into the play-off places just 2 points off the leaders. Wyrley Saddler was there, and gave his thoughts via the message board:

Don’t mean to sound pessimistic, but I didn’t realy think we’d have a chance against Carlisle, a draw at best. But how I was proved wrong. The first half we completely dominated and looked very comfortable. Took the lead just before half time through a great header from Mattis. I think Mattis like the 44th minute, 2 weeks in a row now

After a dominant first half, the second was more even. Jabo deservedly got on the score sheet with a well taken goal. Carlisle attacked in the latter stages which was expected, but I thought we coped very well with the pressure.

Major talking points:
First penalty – I think it was. Clayton hesitated, then didn’t take the ball and caught the man. Great save to redeem his error.
Second penalty – From where I was I thought it was out the area, but I couldn’t realy see the lines. Plus I thought our player (can’t remember who it was) took the ball. The linesman on the WBBS stand side – he was crud, simple as. He seemed to have it in for us, and Jabo especially.

My man of the match was Alex Nicholls. Thought he was superb today, deserved a goal, and he was a threat to Carlisle most the game.

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Brighton vs Walsall Preview

Neil @ 10:22 am Friday 19 September 2008

Normally, a trip to Brighton would be reason for plenty of “gay capital of Britain” jokes and a few below the belt quips about their completely inadequate and farcical temporary (of sorts) home at the Withdean.

This week however, Saddlers fans should be contemplating whether this might be a pivotal point in the fortunes of the club this season. According to research done by Bernie, a regular contributor to the message board, last week saw us equal a club record and, if we concede again this week, it will be a whole twenty game since our last clean sheet.

Of course, you can argue that it doesn’t matter when your strike force and midfield fires as it did last Saturday, but, as I said in the Walsall Observer Column this week, scoring goals might win you matches, but it’s the ability to keep them out when your attack misfires that wins you promotions.

One consistent complaint this season has been the lack of a balanced midfield, something which was addressed through circumstance at the Bristol Rovers, where the Taundry/Mattis combination worked well. One defensive player and one attacking is the answer. Now we need to defend far better as a unit than we have so far this season, and then optimism might not be misplaced (at least until the January sales!).

Mullen, reportedly, will have all of his outfield players available for the first time this season. That should mean a back line of Ince, Weston, Gerrard, Roberts and Boertien.

Up front, Ricketts and Iberhe pick themselves at the moment, which leaves the choices all being in midfield.

Reich right or left? Nicholls or Deeney? Taundry or Hughes? Bradley or Mattis? (At least, I hope that’s the choice!), Demontagnac, or Zaaboub, or Reich? Time will tell, but you do have to wonder how good our summer re-building was when there is so little competition at the back and up front, ye so much in midfield.

Brighton are without Colin Hawkins, Kevin McLeod and Joe Anyinsah while the vital Nicky Forster is a doubt.

Centre-half Hawkins (hernia) and winger McLeod (knee) underwent operations this week and the Seagulls do not yet know how long they will be missing.

On-loan Preston winger Anyinsah was sent off on his debut at Yeovil last week and serves a one-match ban while striker and captain Forster suffered a dead leg at Huish Park.

Joel Lynch is fit after a calf problem and should deputise for Hawkins against the Saddlers, while Jake Robinson could start on the wing after overcoming concussion.

Adam Virgo, who has been used predominantly in midfield this season, could fill in at the back or up front while Gary Hart is also in contention for a striking berth.

Predictions?

The side will be brimming with confidence after last week and the two teams have very similar records this season (they are just one point behind us), but they have already suffered one hammering at home this month, losing 1 – 4 to Scunthorpe. A lot will depend on the fitness of Forster, but, if he is absent, I think we might just manage that elusive clean sheet and an away win.

Brighton Game All Ticket

Exile @ 12:34 am Tuesday 16 September 2008

Those of you heading South for the weekend, or even just a day should know by now that the game is all ticket, so best get your skates on if you’ve yet to get one.

If you have got your ticket, inclusive of your travel voucher to the stadium at the back of beyond, you’ll probably need to get your map out to find your way between coach / station / bus stop / car park and the ground itself.

Once there, you’ll kick yourself as you realise you forgot your binoculars so can’t tell who’s who or where the ball is. After this realisation, you’ll decide a pie might be in order, then realise that they sell out about 1.15pm. Bottles of pop are sold with the lid on though – even full, they’re not aerodynamic enough to reach the pitch when thrown.

After the game there’s complimentary transport (if you’ve not torn up your voucher along with the ticket to use as confetti) back to YGA South Central, if you can find it, and if it’s not full. Last shuttle reportedly leaves at 4.43pm.

In case you don’t know (and I didn’t!), a condition of Brighton’s permissions for the use of Withdean is that ALL games are all-ticket. Bet they can’t wait for their new ground.

Your Football Club Needs You!

Neil @ 11:59 am Monday 15 September 2008

After eight years of involvement with the Walsall Supporters’ Society [formerly the Trust], Phil Sturgess [Secretary], Dave Roe [Treasurer] and Richard Hall (Chairman) have decided to resign from the Society Board. They have taken this decision for a number of reasons. These include their increasing non-football commitments, alongside a sense that they have taken the Society as far as they can. They believe that new Society Board members, working alongside the remaining Board members, Neil Ravenscroft and Bob Thomas, will have the opportunity to re-fashion the relationship between the Society and the supporters of Walsall FC, and thereby make an impact with the Club and the Community.

There are 2 possible options for the Society.

1. Other interested WFC supporters come forward to join and to take the Society forward. Phil, Dave and Richard would work with a new Board to secure as seamless a transfer as possible. This is their preferred option. All three would remain as members, able to offer counsel and support as requested.

2. Should no-one come forward then we will seek to dissolve the Society under Rule 105 of our Rules for a Supporters Community Mutual. This would be a huge shame, as the Society is democratic and offers fans a vehicle to come together to promote change. Should the club come up for sale the Society could argue for a legitimate stake in any negotiations. To lose this would be sad.

Collectively the Board are committed to producing and making a success of the Reading the Game, Walsall Til I Die book of supporters’ voices. This is a real celebration of supporting Walsall FC, and is a fitting end-point for Phil, Dave and Richard’s involvement with the Society. All of us feel very proud of that book and hope that you will buy and enjoy it.

To pre-order the book, which will be available for £10, or to register an interest in joining the Society and moving it forward with a new Board [or as a new Board member] please email; enquiries@walsallfctrust.co.uk.

Bristol Rovers vs Walsall

Neil @ 9:19 am Friday 12 September 2008

Has anyone started to think that this might be a long season? I mean, we get five goals one week (albeit we could have easily conceded more than the two we did in that game), then the following week, with the same side, we capitulate meekly at home, without ever over troubling the opposition defence. There is something not working at Walsall Football Club at the moment and those trouble need to be addressed before the season just fades away. We have two tough away games starting tomorrow, followed by an equally tough home game against Carlisle, with the possibility of a pointless September rearing its ugly head. The defending has to get better and the supply to the forwards has to find an awful lot more consistency.

Having said all of that, we should have some welcome reinforcements for tomorrow’s game at Bristol Rovers. Rhys Weston is likely to be fit and, if so, will almost certainly feature, although his lack of any proper pre-season may restrict his usefulness. Steve Roberts is also supposed to be fit to play, but, let’s face it, he has already failed to complete three games with injuries already this season, as well as missing another full game.

Dwayne Mattis, according to reports on the BBC, may also feature, but, not only has he been out for some time, he hasn’t even had the benefit of the reserve games that Weston has had, while the midfield is likely to be weakened by the absence of Hughes, who is only rated 50/50.

Quite what that means for selection we’ll have to wait and see, but, if Hughes is out, I don’t think we have the resources to play anything but a 4 4 2 and, even then, Mullen will have the conundrum of whether to play Demontagnac or Reich (or Zaaboub!) on the left and the right wing is even more problematic, with the possibility of Reich, Deeney or Nicholls – or even Palmer, should Weston play at full back. The central positions are likely to be filled by Taundry and Mattis (if he’s fit) or Bradley (if Mattis doesn’t make it).

Rovers have also been having their defensive woes, managing to score four at Peterborough last week and still ending up losing. They do, however, have defenders Danny Coles and Ryan Green back in training following injury and they might feature. If they do manage to tighten up at the back, they will be a real threat, however, with Rickie Lambert (SIX goals already this season) and Daryl Duffy (three this season). Goal scoring midfielder Craig Disley has yet to open his account and will need watching – he got their goal against us there last season.

Predictions?

Well, if we can keep clean sheets, I think we have the firepower (given the correct team selection) to win games. We just don’t look like keeping clean sheets, however and that unwelcome club record run without one is now only a couple of games away. It also seems that Mullen is struggling to find that balance in the side that allows us to keep it tight at the back yet still present a threat to the opposition. Unless he’s found something since last Saturday, I can only see a defeat being on the cards.

England Lesson For The Saddlers?

Neil @ 9:01 am Thursday 11 September 2008

Strangely enough, there’s probably a lesson for the Saddlers in last night’s superb England performance.

One of the things that Fabio Capello seems to have brought to the team is that he is prepared to pick a team, rather than the seemingly eleven best players. The interesting thing is, of course, that the team he picked that did such an excellent job on the Croats mirrors the tactics that Mullen wants to use with the Saddlers.

“What?” I hear you ask.

Look at it logically. The pivot of England’s attacks last night was the recalled Emile Heskey, who, quite frankly, was magnificent. What was Heskey doing? Running unselfishly off the ball and holding up play, so others could join. He didn’t score, but he didn’t have to. Now, doesn’t that remind you of the style of Jabo?

Playing just off Heskey was Rooney, who, second half especially, exploited the space between the Croatian midfield and their defence and looked every inch a world class player. Michael Ricketts, of course, plays that same role for us and can be devastating at third tier level.

So why have we struggled so far in some games this season? Well, we are making stupid defensive mistakes, something which Brown, Ferdinand, Terry and Cole never looked like doing, so that has to be addressed, but I think our problems also lie in midfield.

Capello played, in the absence of Gerrard, with one attacking midfielder (Lampard) and one defensive (Barry). They did compliment each other well. It is obvious now, surely, that the Gerrard/Lampard combination doesn’t work and that we need to play one or the other, partnered by Barry or Hargreaves. Capello is fortunate that any combination of one of the attacking players and one of the defensive players will work.

On top of that, Capello went for two out and out wide men, in Walcott and Cole (to the extent of playing Jenas wide left when Cole went off), who, along with Lampard were breaking forward, not just to join the strikers, but also to get in front of them as well and be prepared to go outside or inside the defenders, as the circumstances dictated.

What do we have? At the moment, two defensive central midfielders, who seem to get nose bleeds if they get near the opposition area, a striker playing wide right, who just can’t cut the mustard in that position, and a right footed player on the left who can’t go down the outside, so cuts back to give the defence time to re-adjust every time.

We have desperately needed cover at the back from day one this season and that has surely to be addressed, but we have also been lacking down the flanks. Mullen surely has to try Reich on the right and either Demontagnac or Zaaboub on the left and, if that doesn’t work, he should be looking to bring in a “proper” right winger.

Come on, Jimmy, you can learn a lesson from a foreign manager here.

Walsall vs Orient

neilr @ 6:52 pm Saturday 06 September 2008

Well, the groundstaff performed heroics to get the game on, in spite of the monsoon like conditions in Walsall today and the fans also did, with well over 500 more turning up for the Family Fun Day despite the weather. Trouble was, it was the Manager and players who failed to perform on the day.

Jimmy Mullen decided to go with the team that had started against Southend the previous week, leaving the returning Ricketts on the bench and Demontagnac up front, but, with the benefit of hindsight, it proved to be a mistake. Orient had come to do a job on us today and played with five strung across the middle and an uncompromising defence, which we never showed enough guile and subtlety to break down.

Sure we had players capable of taking the direct route to goal, but, whereas last week the Southend defence parted like the waters of the Red Sea every time we ran at it, this time, for all Jabo Iberhe’s industry, we were just running into dead ends.

Marco Reich’s limitations as a left winger were shown up again, as the opposition dealt with his need to have to check back onto his right foot every time he wanted to cross far better that the previous visitors to the Banks’s, while Troy Deeney, although having a decent game, showed he just isn’t a wide player, being unable to get past his full back. The lack of creativity coming from the wings was again compounded by a lack of creativity from central midfield, where the idea of having two holding players resulted in no chances being made from there.

All that might not have mattered so much, if not for the fact that the midfielders were also not tracking back particularly well, resulting in either the centre backs or, notably, Boertien having to cover. The result? Yes, both Orient wingers, Mulligan especially, had the run of the park.

The first half ended up a sterile affair, with neither side fashioning much, although the danger signs at the back were there for the Saddlers, as the wingers were finding too much room. Gerrard and Roberts were dealing with the aerial threat, but as soon as the ball was played along the ground we were in trouble, particulary, on one occasion, Adam Boyd outpaced Roberts, before checking back inside the defender, doing him like the proverbial kipper, only to shoot tamely directly at Ince.

The second half started taking on the shape of the pear after two minutes, when Hughes limped off. He’d obviously been told to try and run a knock off, only it didn’t work and he was replaced by Bradley.

After fifteen minutes, Mullen took the obvious step of bringing on Ricketts for Deeney, with Reich going to the right wing and Demontagnac to the left. Unfortunately, after a short while he switched them back for some reason, at which point the threat from the flanks dried up again.

The game was heading at this point for a 0 – 0 draw, when Mullen took his final incomprehensible decision. Roberts was replaced by Smith. I don’t know if Sicknote was injured, but the moment he left the pitch, the defence fell apart. Orient took the lead when Smith dallied on the ball instead of clearing it out for a corner or throw in and the ball was pulled back for the lesser of the Terry brothers to fire home.

At that point, the whole team fell apart. Heads went down and all semblance of organisation seemed to disappear. Finally, the entire defence was pulled over to our right, for some reason, leaving Boertien in the centre and Mulligan unmarked on the right, When the ball got to him, he ran at Boertien, only to be tripped for the inevitable penalty.

Anthony Gerrard had a header go narrowly wide (which he should have done better with), but I can remeber their keeper only having to make one real save, from a Reich free kick in the first half.

This was as depressing as the weather. Punchless, gutless and pointless.

Walsall vs Orient Preview

Neil @ 12:06 pm Friday 05 September 2008

It’s another bunch of almost Cockneys on Saturday – but this time, a bunch I always feel a bit more sympathy for.

I always think that Orient have a lot in common with the Saddlers, in trying to survive in a large urban area where there are a lot of clubs with bigger fan bases and more success surrounding them. They have always been the “poor relations” to their main competition in the North East of the capital, Arsenal, Spurs and West Ham.

I suppose it will be interesting to see if the regeneration of a large chunk of their possible catchment area by the 2012 Olympics has any effect on them, but I hope, for the sake of football, that the soul of clubs like our two doesn’t disappear. Anyway, onto the game.

The Saddlers will be waiting on the results of some fitness tests before being able to decide on the line up.

Stephen Roberts apparently was taken off last week at half time with a calf strain, so we do not know if he’ll be back. If not, Manny Smith will deputise, but cover past there is very scarce for centre backs. Long term absentees Rhys Weston and Dwayne Mattis have been in full training, but we don’t know if they’ll be considered for a start, as they are not really match fit.

The other selection dilemma is bound to be the return of Michael Ricketts from suspension. Does he start, when Ishmel Demontagnac looked so effective last week up front (and, to be honest, far more effective than when he’s started on the wing)? If Ishy goes to left wing, where does Reich play, now he is starting to approach match fitness following his lack of a proper pre season?

The O’s will be without Simon Dawkins for the trip to the Banks’s, as the striker turned his ankle in Tuesday’s win at Southend. He joins an extensive injury list which also includes Tamika Mkandawire and Danny Granville (both groin), Wayne Gray (knee), Dean Morgan (foot) and Solomon Shields (ankle). Alton Thelwell, however, comes back into the squad after sitting out at Roots Hall.

Predictions?

The O’s drew at Brighton last week before beating Southend 4-2 on Tuesday in the Mickey Mouse Trophy and Manager Martin Ling is looking forward to the trip to the Banks’s.

He said: “We looked at the run of three away games in a week and put them down as difficult fixtures. So to put the two performances in that we have so far means we’ll go to Walsall on Saturday full of confidence”.

The Saddlers, of course, will also be facing this game brimming with confidence, following last week’s 5 – 2 defeat of Southend. Jimmy Mullen was not pleased with his team’s defending in that game, however, so he will be wary of a side who have proved they can finish this week against the same opposition.

I’d still be looking for a home win, however, hoping that the Manager has addressed those defensive frailties.

Transfer Deadline Day Round-Up

Exile @ 8:46 pm Tuesday 02 September 2008

(Thanks to Metfan for this piece)

In a busy and somewhat bizarre day of transfer activity, two spectacular last minute signings captured the imagination of supporters across the land. Yes, thats right, Dougie Freedman signed for Southend whilst Martin Cranie moved from Pompey to Charlton.

In our league, Peterborough strengthened their ranks with the loan signing of Gabriel Zakuani from Fulham. Crewe signed highly rated 20 year old defender John Brayford from Burton Albion. The MK Dongs snapped up Miguel Angel Llera on a free transfer from Hercules, whilst Cheltenham Town secured the services of the well travelled Lloyd Owusu from Yeovil. Walsall of course, signed no one.

League Two saw Dagenham and Redbridge sign Wesley Thomas from Fisher Athletic and Peggy Lokando fro Southend on a 3 month loan deal. Rotherham pulled off a bit of a coup with the acquisition of Omar Garcia on a free transfer from Primera Liga outfit Athletic Bilbao. Barnet improved their attacking options with a deal to sign John O’Flynn from Cork City. The topsy turvy year of AFC Bournemouth continued with first the signing of Shwan Jalal from Peterborough – only later it was announced that manager Kevin Bond had been sacked along with his coaching staff. Jimmy Quinn has taken over the managers job at the Cherries.

The Championship had loads of frantic activity on transfer deadline day. Plymouth pulled of a major coup in getting Belgian International Emile Mpenza on a free. Norwich have signed powerful frontman Antoine Sibierski from Wigan. Wolves were busy recruiting defensively with the signings of Matt Hill from Preston, Jason Shackell from Norwich and George Friend from Exeter City. Stephen Elliot traded clubs with Hill by signing for Preston from the Dingles. Rangers’ forgotten winger Alan Gow completed his loan move to Blackpool, while Burnley swooped to sign Scottish international Steven Thompson from Cardiff City.

The Premiership saw Everton, Stoke and Hull busy recruiting in a dramatic day. Everton secured the services of the Belgian International midfielder Marouane Fellaini from Standard Liege. Marouane impressed greatly in the recent champions league qualifiers against the tire stealers, and is somewhat of a major coup for one of Europes’ emerging talents. Everton also signed Carlo Nash as back up to Tim Howard. The Clayheads have re-signed Danny Higginbotham from Sunderland, as well completed the double swoop on the Championship with the late signings of Tom Soares from Crystal Palace and Michael Tonge from Sheffield United. Hull signed some random defender I cannot think of the name of yet, and the notable capture of Daniel Cousin from Rangers. Newcastle signed Nacho Gonzalez on loan from Valenica as well as the promising Xisco from Depor. It seems however the lack of high profile signings in this transfer window has forced Kevin Keegan out of a job – predictably. Fulham signed Julian Grey from ‘Walsall Young and Promising players FC’ (know more commonly as Coventry City) while Sunderland re-signed George McCartney (Paul’s brother) from West Aermmm.

The only real major European transfer deal was that of Ricardo Quaresma signing for Jose Mourinho’s Inter Milan from Porto.

Oh and in other news Manchester United signed Berbatov and Man City signed Robinho.

Gerrard Stays!

Exile @ 10:25 pm Monday 01 September 2008

As the transfer window closes, our Ant-nee remains, well, our Ant-nee. Spurning all offers as inferior compared to the glittering future awaiting him At the Banks’s Stadium, Anthony Gerrard remains a Saddler, at least according to Roy Whalley on WM just now.

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