Archive for October, 2008

Walsall vs Northampton Town Preview

Neil @ 2:08 pm Friday 31 October 2008

Dwayne Mattis has summed this one up fro me – far better than the Manager has so far. He told the Excuse and Dingle:

“It is important to get the win on Saturday. It is a big game, probably the biggest game of the season to be honest, because three points could take us right back up there but, if we lose, we can start looking over our shoulders at the relegation spots. It is that kind of league, because you lose three or four games and you are looking over your shoulder. If we go another two or three games without the win we will be”.

That, to me, is a far better description of our current state than Jimmy Mullen saying that we were brilliant in the first half against Hartlepool, because, if we had have been, they were such a poor side in the first 45, we’d have been out of sight.
Mullen does have a full strength squad to choose from, with the return from illness of Stephen Hughes and the return to match fitness of Sofiane Zaaboub. The question is, will he abandon his strange team selections and actually play his best eleven? Is he going to “make up” with Rhys Weston, for a start?

The opposition have been weakened, thankfully, by the absence of the dangerous Adebayo Akinfenwa, who always seems to do well against us, along with Luke Gutteridge, Colin Larkin and Liam Davis. However, all that means is that they’ve kept former Saddler Karl Hawley on loan and bought Scott McGleish back from Wycombe (you know, the 34 goals in 64 starts for Wycombe man?).

Predictions?

I tend to agree with Mattis, I’m afraid, this is a game we cannot afford to lose. This is going to be a huge test of Mullen, in that there is no way he can allow this team to go out tomorrow looking over their shoulders. This HAS to be a home win. Mind you, the defence will have to be on form, as they’ve only failed to score three times this season!

£10.00 Day

And, don’t forget to bring your £10.00 for a copy of “Walsall ‘Til I Die”, launched tomorrow at 12.00 in the Saddlers Club. The Trust will be selling there and round and about, or you can give the details (and £2.50 extra) to have it posted, if you don’t want to be carrying the book around. You know it makes sense!

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UTS: 600,000 views can’t be wrong!

Exile @ 8:48 pm Tuesday 28 October 2008

The last 30-day site traffic statistics, as provided by our independent supplier (google analytics), showed that visitors to upthesaddlers.com viewed over 585,000 pages between them during the last month alone!

This staggering number was achieved with nearly 70,000 individual visits to the site from nearly 15,000 absolute unique visitants (16.5% of them new). Our readers averaged over 7 minutes per visit online at UTS, and viewed on average 8.5 pages of content for each visit.

As expected, the UK population accounts for most of the traffic, and there were also visitors from (amongst many) North America, Australia, Poland, Hong Kong, New Zealand and France in the last month alone.

On the messageboards, nearly 400 registered users activated their accounts over the last 30 days, with many other lurkers viewing without logging in or posting.

We’re proud to be the most-viewed Walsall FC website by far, with the most active messageboard for discussing anything and everything about the Saddlers, . Thanks to all of you for your support!

Swindon game off

roger6 @ 6:44 pm Tuesday 28 October 2008

Tonight’s home game with Swindon has been postponed due to snow in the Walsall area.

Walsall vs Swindon Town Preview

Neil @ 2:02 pm Monday 27 October 2008

Well, where do we go from here?

Last Saturday’s second half capitulation at Elland Road (albeit against a very good side) means that the Saddlers have taken just 2 points from the last 15 available and the autumn promise look like turning into a winter of discontent as they slide down the table. Two symmetrical records of won three, lost three at home and won two, drawn three, lost two away and a goal difference of precisely zero means we are exactly where you would expect us to be – bang in the middle of the table. The next two games (Swindon and Northampton at home) will see a third of the season gone and, quite frankly, if we fail to win both of those games, then the club’s avowed intent of promotion this season will look a very long way away indeed.

The answer to the current travails is surely simple – play your best team. Whatever is going on behind the scenes to lead to some of Mullen’s more bizarre selection choices has to be put to one side and the best eleven turned out (injuries and illness permitting):

Ince, Weston, Roberts, Gerrard, Boertien, Palmer, Hughes, Mattis, Demontagnac, Iberhe, Ricketts.

When you’re bang in the middle of the table, then you can go one of two ways – up or down – and what we can’t afford is any loss of confidence, otherwise it will be down.

Swindon lined up on Saturday like this:

Brezovan, Jack Smith, Aljofree, Morrison, Timlin, McGovern, Pook, Peacock, McNamee, Paynter, Cox.

Subs: Phil Smith, Easton, Amankwaah, Nalis, Corr.

The familiar names there are old enemy Jon Paul McGovern, Lee Peacock (the player Merson was so sure of signing that he had no Plan B and we ended up with Barrowman instead), ex Leicester and Plymouth midfielder Lilian Nalis and former Liverpool youngster and ex Port Fail striker Billy Paynter. Former Saddler Jamie Vincent is a long term injury absentee.

Predictions?

A week or so ago and I’d have been extremely confident about a home win. Swindon had a somewhat disastrous start to the season and, after eleven games, they had just two wins. They have now, however, won their last two league games with creditable home successes against Northampton and, notably, Oldham last Saturday.

Despite that, however, I will take us for a home win, as the one thing I think we can depend on is that Ricketts and Iberhe will always trouble defences at this level, given any sort of half decent possession.

Leeds 3 Walsall 0

roger6 @ 9:42 am Sunday 26 October 2008

After a good first half display Saddlers fans left Elland Road disappointed after a 3-0 defeat. Pedro was at the game and gave his thoughts via the message board:

Good 1st half and should have been leading if Jaboo had finished a lot better. Deeney had a good half and put in some telling crosses, along with our new boy Nicholls. Defence looked ok apart from Boatien who had a bit of a mare. At this stage Leeds where no real threat , and only troubled us with long range efforts

Once again it was a different team second half. Ok Leeds changed the tempo of the game by putting more on the left with him cutting in. It was a shocking start with Ricketts passing back to Taundy who had the ball taken off him from Beckford, which lead to a corner and some comedy defending and Becchio scoring the 1st goal of the game.Then it was the Fabian Delph show who scored 2 stunning goals goals

Overall good first half display but shocking once agin in the 2nd. The midfield was once again far to weak, why Taundry is still playing at centre midfield rather than right back I’m not sure. Bradley is fit and should be in the starting 11. There’s also no back up for Jabo or Ricketts, nobody to offer something different.

We need to change the team around and maybe bring some fresh players in on loan. We have hard games up coming against Swindon and Northampton. I just hope we pick up 4 or 6 points , else we could have a long winter ahead.

Leeds United vs Walsall Preview

Neil @ 3:45 pm Friday 24 October 2008

Leeds United – what can you say nice about Leeds United? Yes, you got it, nothing.

Actually, I quite like Leeds as a city. Three very good friends went to University there and I can remember some really good nights out. The pubs were good and the locals friendly. When it comes to football, however, it’s a completely different matter.

The attitude of many of the fans to their deserved punishment last season and their enforced stay in the 1st Division was more than flesh and blood can stand at times. It got even worse with the “our visit is your cup final” attitude that also became common. What they seemed to forget it that they were relegated for a reason and that wasn’t to do with financial mismanagement – it was to do with the fact that they weren’t very good. The fifteen points may have kept them down in their eyes, but it’s also quite possible that they wouldn’t have had that tremendous run at the start of the season without the siege mentality that generated and not made it in any case. At least they’re rid of that revolting little specimen Wise, anyway,

Never mind, onto the football.

Walsall ought to have taken some confidence from Tuesday’s battling draw at Leicester. They could, however, still be without Captain Stephen Hughes (illness). If he’s missing, there are likely to be no team changes, although Mullen must be tempted by a 4 5 1 for this one.

Apart from that, Sofiane Zaaboub, otherwise known as the Invisible Man, will be the only absentee.

Leeds will likely to be missing Paul Huntington and Andrew Hughes due to ongoing groin injuries.

Newcastle old boy, Huntingdon, has not played for several weeks due to the problem and required an injection as the club aim to try and settle it down. However, it is very unlikely he will be ready to face the Saddlers this weekend.

Dangerman?

Jermaine Beckford, of course. 13 goals already this season in all competitions.

Predictions?

This is where I stick my neck out. I’ve made no secret of the fact that I have severe doubts about Mullen’s abilities to turn things around when they are going badly and the term “tactical switch” seems to be missing from his vocabulary. However, when the first XI is firing, it is as good as any in this Division. On top of that, I am not one of those blinded by Gary McAllister’s name and I think he is tactically lacking as well. All of that, coupled with the fact that we have tended to play well against the top teams this season (and poorly against the bottom) means that I think we’ll come away from Elland Road with something. To be honest, I’m more worried about a poor Swindon side in the week!

Leicester 2 Walsall 2

roger6 @ 8:34 am Wednesday 22 October 2008

A big point at Leicester last night as the Saddlers put the horror second half of Saturday behind them to grab a creditable 2-2 draw with high-flying Leicester; and it could have been better as Walsall twice took the lead. ShropsSaddler was there and gave his views on the message board:

To be honest, it wasn’t pretty tonight at times. To watch us sitting really deep and then knock the ball forward hoping Ibehre could conjure up some magic, only for it to come straight back at us…well, it wasn’t pure football!! But in terms of having a plan and giving 100% to a performance, nobody could be faulted this evening.

Special mentions for;

Roberts and Gerrard – fantastic at the heart of the defence against two very difficult opponents. Tremendous goal-line clearance from Roberts to save a certain goal from another poor Ince error
Nicholls – scored one, crossed beautifully for the other
Ricketts – a very disciplined performance. As an attacking force, he offered nothing for 90% of the game. But he showed great maturity in holding his position in deep midfield and frustrating the opposition.

It was interesting to note (after Saturday’s “you don’t know what you’re doing” chant at the Hartlepool manager) how many Walsall fans were saying “we should just attack them”, “we should bring Ishy on and go for it”…..when clearly our manager had identified Leicester’s strengths and weaknesses. We gave their centre-halves the freedom of the pitch but they hadn’t got a clue how to play football. Their creative players we closed down and gave no space or opportunity to. It worked. Well done Mr Mullen this evening.

Leicester City vs Walsall Preview

Neil @ 9:54 am Tuesday 21 October 2008

It’s Leicester tonight, then. If I’d have been writing this a couple of seasons ago, I’d have been quite vitriolic about cheating clubs getting away with financial murder (it was them getting promoted the season they went into administration that was the catalyst for the introduction of the 10 point deduction). Since then, however, they have suffered the punishment they should have got at the time and are now languishing in the lower reaches of the Leagues. Now I can think of them as I would prefer to, that footballing side of 20 odd years ago, with stars like Samuels, Weller and Worthington. They used to be a team to have a grudging respect for, due to the style of football they played.

We wait to see what Jimmy Mullen will do following Saturday’s home debacle against Hartlepool. He will certainly hope that Captain Hughes will be back, as the midfield was totally outpassed in the second half and we can’t afford that to happen again. That will not be the end of his troubles, however, as the right and left wing problems still haven’t been solved and the defence was as shaky as I’ve seen it all season.

Personally, I’d be inclined to bring in Bradley (or Hughes, if fit) and go for a 4 5 1. Mattis, for me, has always played better when he doesn’t have any defensive responsibilities and can enjoy the free role. That would also give the starting striker, be it Ricketts or Iberhe, the option of running themselves into the ground, with the other as back up. Trouble is, I’ve a feeling Mullen is a strict 4 4 2 man and is, certainly, tactically very rigid. I am somewhat worried by his comments in the Press after Saturday, when asked why he left his substitutions so late; He said: “Unless it is a crucial decision we have to make then I will not make that decision”. He must have been one of the few people in the ground as the second half took shape who didn’t think changing it was a crucial decision which needed to be made, as Hartlepool started to dominate possession.

The only man definitely out is the Scarlet Pimpernel, Sofiane Zaaboub.

As for Leicester, they will be welcoming back reinforcements, as if they needed any. Defender Aleksandar Tunchev could return to the squad.The Bulgarian defender was rested for the top-of-the-table clash at Oldham on Saturday after returning from international duty.
Michael Morrison was recalled to the side for the 1-1 draw at Boundary Park but it remains to be seen whether manager Nigel Pearson will stick with the 20-year-old.

Patrick Kisnorbo is also in contention for a centre-back spot after returning from the knee injury that had sidelined him since April. The Australian was a half-time substitute for Morrison at Oldham.

Left-back Joe Mattock is fit once again following two months out with ankle ligament damage and veteran striker Paul Dickov has recovered from a back problem.

Predictions?

Leicester have a team full of names experienced at a higher level than this. Kischichev, Tunchev, Kisnorbo and Dickov are also joined by dangerman Steve Howard, DJ Campbell, Lloyd Dyer, Matt Oakley, Stephen Clemence and, of course, Matty Fryatt (9 goals already this season). It’s a team full of talent, especially going forward and, if we play like we did on Saturday, we’ll get stuffed. Perversely, of course, it’s exactly the kind of game we’re likely to get something from – but we’d have to be at the very, very top of our game.

Walsall vs Hartlepool United – Shambles

Neil @ 9:56 am Sunday 19 October 2008

Last week, the local free rag, the Advertiser, in a classic burying it’s head in the sand moment, referred to the Peterborough defeat as “one of those times you just come up against a better team”. It wasn’t, of course. It was a culmination of poor team selection, abysmal tactics and bizarre substitutions. This week’s shambolic performance against a far, far poorer outfit in Hartlepool proved the point even further, with as gutless a surrender as any seen under P**l Me***n

What made it worse, of course, was that this happened on a day where we were supposed to be attracting in the fans of the future, with a “Chuckery Day”. Quite frankly, I think we probably ensured that none of them will ever come back.

Mullen’s first game in charge as caretaker was a home game against Hartlepool, when he was totally out thought by Danny Wilson in the second half. Yesterday was a repeat, except the opposition went the whole hog and won instead of drawing.

The main reason was the complete absence of a midfield, both in the first half, when we were completely bossing the worst looking team I have seen up here this season, but failed to capitalise on the great start and the possession, and in the second half, when all four of them disappeared completely when ‘Pools stopped trying to find Kyle with every ball and started passing it instead. The defence was, organisationally, a complete shambles, witnessed by it, yet again, being drawn over to one side, leaving, this time, Weston trying to mark two players. It also wasn’t helped by Roberts (yet again) losing a striker completely for a free header and him heading a cross directly to an unmarked left winger.

In general, however, I have to agree completely with Plastic Hawk:

My God – that was an absolutely shambolic display tactically. Hartlepool were rubbish and gifted us a two goal lead. We really should have gone on to win more comfortably, but instead contrived to throw it away.

Selection was a joke today: the midfield made me laugh when I heard it before the game, all three subs were totally wrong and it’s simply inexcusable for a professional side to throw a two goal lead away so late in the game (even to draw, let alone to lose).

Can someone tell me what Palmer actually does except take corners? He’s a shocking full back at League 1 level and didn’t look to offer anything at all on the wing today. Yet he seems to be immune from being dropped or subbed. He was shifted into midfield today when Ishmel deserved a chance to prove himself – and then moved back to full back when Ishmel eventually came on.

Is Troy Deeney really our best option on the right? If so, then why? The lad is a raw, young centre forward. He surely can’t have been pencilled in even to be the second choice in that position at the start of the season. What’s happened to the players who should have been ahead of them?

Why leave Jabo on when we’re 2-0 up at half time, he’s not trained for most of the week and we have a ready-made replacement on the wing? We didn’t need three strikers on the pitch second half. He should have put Bradley on, shifted Deeney up front and Taundry to the right flank (where you know he’ll support Weston and keep possession for the side). We must have known that Hartlepool would come out all guns blazing, yet we did nothing at all to prepare for that.

Why take Weston off? Bring Bradley on by all means, but just take a central midfielder off. Weston is a far better right back than RT, especially in the air, so leave him there – don’t haul him off. If anyone can suggest one sensible reason (long throws isn’t sensible) for preferring Taundry to Weston then I’d be interested to know what they are.

Why take Deeney off for Nicholls at 2-1? Deeney is better defensively than Nicholls and he’s a factor from set pieces at both ends. The winning goal came from a header on the far post after the manager had removed two players who are strong in the air from our right flank and replaced them with dwarves.

Why leave Ishmel standing kitted up and ready to go in the dug out for five minutes when time is running out? There were several chances to get him on sooner, but it was left until there was barely any time at all left. Did he even touch the ball?

Why have we only got two senior centre backs? Roberts is generally solid, but incredibly gaffe prone. Yet we can’t take him out because Smith is far too inexperienced.

Why don’t we have a sensible option to Hughes in central midfield (one that can actually have an impact on the game, rather than running around a lot, tackling anything that moves but generally being passed by by the game)? Remember Hughes was signed incredibly late – so what was the plan if he’d chosen someone else.

All managers have “favourites” – it’s inevitable as everyone sees players differently. But not only are Mullen’s favourites (Palmer, Taundry, Sansara) weaker than the players who he has routinely preferred them over (Weston, Boertien, Bradley), but he’s also preferred to shuffle several players around just to accommodate a place on the pitch for Palmer. Further, Weston and Boertien especially are model pros with experience at a higher level – exactly the players that he ought to be looking at to be leaders, not alienating by mucking them about.

Why did our pre-season leave us looking like a pub team for the first few games of the season? I’m still not convinced that fitness is sorted. We take a long time to get going (admittedly today was an exception with the early goals) and don’t tend to finish strongly either. Do we do anything other than practice set pieces in training?

All of the above are the responsibility of the manager. Mullen appears to be a good motivator (we’ve got a reaction after every defeat so far this season – and the first half today was no exception). But that’s not enough. To be a manager you need some degree of tactical awareness. So far I’m yet to see that JM has this. We always set up the same way, we don’t make game changing subs (either to hold a lead or to save a game we’re losing) and we don’t react to the opposition’s changes.

All in all, a complete and utter shambles, to which I’d add that, if we carry on like this, I’d be more inclined to look at the bottom of the table than the top.

Walsall vs Hartlepool United Preview

Neil @ 12:07 pm Friday 17 October 2008

It’s a return for some of our more welcome guests tomorrow, as Hartlepool return once again to the Banks’s.

I don’t know why I always feel some affinity for the Monkey Hangers. It might be the fact that the two clubs were always vying for two of the more unwanted records at one time – the most Managers post war and the most applications for re-election to the League – or, more likely it’s because of the good natured banter that grew up between the UTS message board and the Poolie Bunker during the promotion season the year before last. That turned into an example of how good friendly rivalry can be in football.

Mostly, I suspect, is that neither town is exactly classically pretty in any remote way.

Where do we start with the Saddlers?

Last week’s below par performance at home to Peterborough must surely lead to changes. Assuming fitness, a back four of anything other than Weston, Gerrard, Roberts and Boertien will make me think someone down there has taken leave of their senses.

Ince may return in goal, but he has played two Internationals this week and, if he is suffering, I don’t think Gilmartin did anything wrong last week.

Ricketts will be up front, but it’s at that point changes will have to come in. Jabo Iberhe is almost certainly out and it’ll be interesting to see who gets the nod up front. Personally, again, I thought the major problem we had last week was lack of penetration down the flanks, so I’d go for changes in midfield too.

I don’t know which way Mullen will go, but the two boldest decisions might be a 4 3 3, with Taundry, Mattis and Hughes in midfield and Ricketts, Nicholls and Demontagnac as the front three, or a 4 5 1, with Bradley (who, despite the club saying he has been injured, was fit enough to play well as a sub for Wales under 21s on Tuesday night) joining the midfield and, maybe, Palmer and Demontagnac as the wide men. One man who won’t figure (yet again) is Zaaboub (also injured). We shall see.

As for the opposition, Manager Danny Wilson has a fully fit squad to choose form, with the exception of long term injury victim, midfielder Will Boland.

Amongst the familiar names for them will be former Rotherham winger Andrew Monkhouse, former Sheffield Wednesday winger Ritchie Humphreys and striker Joel Porter.

Predictions?

The two teams have similar records at the moment, but a lot depends on whether Wasall’s Plan A will work. We have struggled this season whenever it hasn’t, as the tactics have not been changed. In fact, Hartlepool’s last visit came in Mullen’s first game in charge as caretaker, when a tactical switch by Danny Wilson at half time was not countered and the ‘Pools went on to get what seemed at one time, a very unlikely draw.

(See your thoughts at the time here: http://www.upthesaddlers.com/bb/viewtopic.php?f=22&t=25501&start=0).

This, for me, will boil down to how well Mullen can adjust to the loss of his first choice strike force and whether Wilson can pull another cat out of the bag. It should be a home win, but . . . . . . .

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