Archive for January, 2009

Saddlers 1 Leeds 0

roger6 @ 7:33 pm Saturday 31 January 2009

Encouraging signs just days into the new regime as Walsall unexpectedly put in one of their best displays this season to deservedly beat Leeds 1-0 in front of almost 9,000 at Bescot today.Troy Deeney’s third goal in three games was the difference between the sides, the goal coming in the 7th minute. The return from injury of Weston and Boertien, plus Taundry being pushed forward into midfield, seemed the key to the massive improvement in the Walsall performance.Lots of reaction coming in on the message board – be sure to add your view.

WFC_Rob has already won plaudits for posting this upbeat assessment – and a word to the authorities at Bescot under the impression UTS only publishes negative comments – there is a really good balance of opinion on here:

That was the complete opposite of the rubbish we played under Mullen. Today we were a team made up of players playing in their preferred positions, looking to play football the way it should be played. We were organised, committed to everything and played as a team. The 1-0 result might suggest to the rest of the football world that we were lucky to just sneak it. Whilst we did ride our luck once or twice, we were most definitely the better side. For the first 25 minutes, they barely had a glimmer of a chance, and there were times when we played their midfield out of the game.

The back five were absolutely solid throughout. The confidence Ince had due to the fact that he was playing behind a back four who had some idea how to defend was there for all to see, and surged through the rest of the team. Boertein’s return made a massive difference. No more panicked long ball from left back – playing the ball out on the floor helped us keep the pressure on them. His link up play with Zaaboub was impressive at times, particularly in the build up to the goal – that was as good a move as we’re likely to see this season.

I think I’d look to keep Weston and Gerrard together at the back because they complement eachother so well. Weston’s reading of the game is superb. Even Palmer had a good game. He lonked up well with both Mattis and Nicholls and generally looked to keep the ball on the floor for a change. I thought he struggled a fair bit towards the end of the game, when they targetted him by constantly giving Robinson the ball, but his first half performance made up for that. Zaaboub was again a threat. Again he was direct, looking to run at their defence whenever he could. He played just like he used to for Swindon against us and gave Leeds a real awkward time. The cross for the goal having played a one-two with Boertein was top drawer.

For me, Mattis was man of the match. He was here, there and everywhere across the midfield and definitely stifled Delph. I can’t help but think he’s been following the advice of O’Connor, as that performance was O’Connor-esque. Superb.
I thought Taundry and Nicholls were ‘in and out’ as far as their involvement was concerned. What they did offer was hard work and a confidence to make themselves available for the ball. That hadn’t been evident for the previous few weeks.

Deeney and Ibehre were just a handful. Both held the ball up really well and created a few half chances for themselves. The thing Ibehre really excels at is getting the ball to his feet and bringing the midfielders in to play. He’s so big and strong that no defence in League One can handle him when he’s on top of his game, as he was today. I thought Deeney looked like he’d run himself into the ground with about 20 minutes to go, but to be fair to him, he kept making himself available for the ball. The confidence he’ll have after grabbing the goal today will benefit us greatly.

And how refreshing was it to see not one, but two managers in our dugout really spurring th players on?! Both Hutchings & O’Connor were really involved, which seemed to give the players that extra belief. If we continue in that vein, we’ll be more than alright.

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Live blog on Leeds game

roger6 @ 6:45 pm Friday 30 January 2009

Don’t forget for those who can’t make it to Bescot, we’ll be running another live blog with coverage kicking off at 2.45. You can follow inline below or if you have a small screen try the bigger version instead:

Walsall vs The Mighty Leeds United

Neil @ 11:37 am Friday 30 January 2009

Tomorrow sees one of the truly great days in the life of any football fan – the visit of the greatest team in the country, Leeds United, in what is, after all, our Cup Final.

Leeds, of course, were cruelly robbed of every European Cup win from 1970 until 2003 by a conspiracy of all of the footballing powers, who were so jealous of a club with such a mighty position in the game. They were then relegated unjustly to the Championship, before yet another conspiracy by the Football League and the FA saw them thrown into the darkest regions of football, only for the same bodies to then put every obstacle in the way of Saint Ken Bates’s men gaining promotion back towards the only place real football is played the following season. Yes, it will be an honour to see the humble players of Walsall sharing a pitch with such true greats of the game, while us fans watch in awe the exhibition of semi naked Yorkshiremen waving their shirts over their heads, something which can make grown men tremble.

(Please note that not every word in the match preview so far is necessarily true).

Chris Hutchings has Roberts, Hughes, Weston and Ricketts all back in training this week and he must be hoping the first three will be in state to play, having seen the defensive performance in the last two games.

The bad news is that Chris Palmer has signed his registration forms, so he will be available to play, but the line up will completely depend on who, if anyone, of the four returnees are fit. With a fully fit squad, we know we can live with most teams, but it seems to have been a very long time since we had that fully fit squad.

As for Leeds, new manager Simon Grayson will pick from an unchanged squad with no injuries or suspensions after their Southend win.

Jermaine Beckford may partner on-loan striker Lee Trundle again, with Luciano Becchio pushing for a start and Frazer Richardson still unfit

Their main dangermen are, of course, the aforementioned Beckford, Trundle and Becchio, no matter which of them start, but the man I’ll be interested in seeing will be youngster Fabian Delph. The midfielder has been getting rave reviews and is, reportedly, being tracked by Premiership clubs.

Predictions?

If it’s Ince, Weston, Roberts, Gerrard, Boertien at the back, I’d give us half a chance in this game – trouble is, if it’s anything else, I fear for our goal difference. 3- 0 it was away and since then, we have been on a poor run. I can’t see us getting anything out of this one.

Latest Player News

Exile @ 9:12 pm Wednesday 28 January 2009

The big news is obviously Chris Palmer asking to go on the transfer list. He’s done this as Walsall have used their option to extend his contract for six months, although Palmer himself thinks he’s worth more money, having been the first name on the team sheet for so long under the happless Jimmy Mullen. UTS will keep you up to date with news of all the massive clubs chasing his sought-after signature during the transfer window.

In other news, Marty & Hutch have had a boost with both Weston (gone for a month so far) and Hughes (out for the last 7 games) returning to training. Nothing on Ricketts and his niggle yet – is it major enough to be called an injury, or has it gone away?

On the transfer front, reputable footie transfer site Football Rumours has finally given us a mention – we’re apparently signing Kari Arkivuo. He’s a Finnish player who’s scored 4 goals from 30 starts since 2006 as an offensive midfielder for FC Sandefjord in the Norwegian second tier. Can’t wait to see the ode for that one. Kari Doesn’t Live There Any More, perhaps?

Going home is Albin Kajtezovic, keeper extraordinaire, whose short-term contract as cover for the injured Ince has now come to an end. Naturally three top keepers is a luxury for Walsall and one had to go. Could be that Ince is staying, and Sky Sports favourite Gil Martin is the obvious second choice. How much longe/r will he want to keep it that way though?

Finally – congratulations to Richard Davies on pulling on the first-team shirt for the first time against Swindon. He becomes the 23rd Saddler for the season so far.

PS – belated happy birthday to Jabo Ibehre, who was 26 today.

Has Bonser Had His Chips?

Exile @ 9:01 pm Wednesday 28 January 2009

Walsall FC stadium catering has embraced the concept of better matchday food with a new snack menu. Defined as snack are likely new favourites, chicken tikka masala and lamb stew, but the highlights of the menu include various paninis, served with chips, fish, served with chips, steak and kidney pie, served with chips, and ham &egg, served with chips.

If you weren’t so hungry, there’s always the option of just a portion of chips!

The new menu is available as a download on the official site from this page here and is on offer in the Swifts lounge, Priory Lounge and Executive Boxes throughout.

So, has Uncle Jeff had his chips? Talk about it on the messageboards

Swindon – the Mick Kearns Match Report!

Exile @ 10:33 pm Tuesday 27 January 2009

it’s fun on the WM bandwagon. Does my report match the game? Find out on the messageboard by checking the match thread!

Walsall went to Swindon on a hiding to nothing and came back with just that. A side low on confidence, shorn of three of it’s better players and reeling from a series of poor games went to take on free-spending Swindon, who had the luxury of four new loan players to pick and choose from having suffered an awful few months at home.

I’m not saying anything new when I say that Walsall have been poor, and that I expected nothing from this match. What transpired has given me some hope that we’re not that bad, and that we have a chance to make a decent season of it still, even though the playoffs are now all but out of reach.

Walsall started brightly with a chance falling to Zaaboub after only 30 seconds or so, but that didn’t set the tone for the first half, which Swindon dominated. Time and again we failed to exert any influence in midfield, and as a result the Saddlers were forever chasing shadows, with little possession. With the ball, however, we did create chances, though they were few and far between. Gerrard and Deeney both went close before Swindon went ahead early on through Amankwaah.

A fairly anonymous middle bit, broken by efforts from Ibhere and Zaaboub, ended when Swindon doubled their lead through Cox chipping Ince, who had no chance. Swindon followed this up with some sustained pressure, Walsall unable to get or keep the ball.

Second half started in much the same vein, with Swindon trampling all over us and then Paynter putting what they thought was the nail in the coffin as he scored cheaply through Ince’s outspread legs. 3-0 should have opened the floodgates, but Nicholls’ shot off the crossbar straight from the kickoff said that Walsall weren’t dead yet.

Richard Davies made his debut in a Saddlers shirt, replacing the woefully ineffective Bradley, and Wilson decided Vincent had had enough for the night. Both these decisions, I think, changed the game, and with just under 20 on the clock Ibhere made it 3-1 with a striker’s pounce after a bad mistake from Ifill. No mistake.

Two minutes later Deeney sets up the grandstand finish with a cool shot to the near post to make it 3-2, and suddenly it’s Swindon that look as if they can’t play football.

Huge pressure in the closing stages, and an oh-so-close corner at the end, but the game finished 3-2.

Their keeper is atrocious, and a full strength Walsall side would, I’m certain, have buried Swindon. It wasn’t to be, but I think the fightback will have done wonders for the confidence of some of the players. MOTM? Not sure. Smith consistent, Zaaboub started well but faded, Ibhere worked hard and scored, Gerrard had a decent game, according to WM, and Nicholls sounded good. I’ll go for Smith, for a big improvement over Saturday.

Swindon 3 Walsall 2

roger6 @ 10:04 pm Tuesday 27 January 2009

Exciting game in Swindon tonight as Walsall got off to a shocker (1-0), made it worse (2-0), then gave themselves a mountain to climb (3-0)….only to stage a battling last 20 minutes, just failing to nab an equaliser. Late second half consolations for Jabo and Deeney can’t mask the defensive failings of the first 60 minutes, and Hutchings must be given licence to bring in re-inforcements WITHOUT the rug being pulled from under him by fire-sales before the window shuts.

The result leaves Walsall in danger of slipping into the stinky stuff 7 points clear of relegation, but with tough games against Leeds, Leicester and Hartlepool up next.

Over 300 fans were online following the live blog of the game (see post below) but meanwhile reaction is pouring in on the UTS message board.

Live blog: Swindon v Saddlers

roger6 @ 5:29 pm Tuesday 27 January 2009

Don’t miss only our 2nd ever live blog of tonight’s Swindon v Walsall clash, exclusively on UptheSaddlers from 7.30pm.

Swindon Town vs Walsall Preview

Neil @ 1:34 pm Tuesday 27 January 2009

Well, if Hutchings and O’Connor didn’t know what a difficult job they’ve taken on last week, they will certainly have found out in Saturday’s home draw with Hereford.

Hutchings is already making noises about the defending in his first game in charge, particularly mentioning the number of crosses we let into the box. While the full backs must take some of the responsibility for that, he does also make the point that it is the job of the whole side to defend and that means the midfielders and strikers taking on responsibility for closing down.

Having said all that, he is looking for reinforcements from the loan market and I’d be shocked if that isn’t in the area of full back and centre back.

He will be deperately hoping for a return to fitbess for Michael Ricketts, whose guile we sorely missed at the weekend, but Rhys Weston, probably the best defender in the club, will be out for another week, as will (as usual) Hughes and Roberts. That means that his choices will be severely limited, unless he takes the option of playing Boertien in place of Palmer at left back. That would strengthen the line up on one side, at least.

The likely team, then is still the same as Saturday, with Ricketts and (just possibly) Boertien or Sansara as the only realistic changes. At least Sofiane Zaaboub should be would up against his former employers and his display on Saturday did show the fans what he is capable of.

Swindon could give debuts to Gordon Greer (a defender on loan from Doncaster) and Hal Robson-Kanu, the former in place of Patrick Kanyuka (banned). Reading midfielder Robson-Kanu has already trurned out against us this season, on a previous loan spell at Southend.

Striker Hamdi Razak and defender Jean-Francois Lescinal are also available after signing short-term contracts, as Swindon have done a lot of strengthening during the transfer window. Razak is an interesting character, having scored a hat-trick for the Robins whilst on trial, against Swansea.

Predictions?

Sorry, but, with a makeshift defence, I’m struggling to see anything for the Saddlers from this one, despite Swindon’s lowly league position. Still, the new Managerial team might make some difference having seen the problems “in the flesh” at the weekend, so let’s live in hope!

Walsall 1 Hereford 1

roger6 @ 9:18 pm Saturday 24 January 2009

The new era dawned at Bescot today but it was the same old story to continue a disappointing season for Saddlers fans as Walsall and Hereford shared the points in a 1-1 draw. In truth Hereford shaded it on chances, and for the second match running the Saddlers had man of the match Clayton Ince to thank.

Totally unrealistic to expect Hutchings and O’Connor to work their magic in just 4 days and there were encouraging signs – the return from the wilderness of Zaaboub for one; hopefully Saddlers fans can be reasonably confident that improvement will come as the managerial duo get stuck in on the training pitch. Let’s hope the chairman doesn’t pull the turf from under them with fire sales shortly before the transfer window slams shut on Monday week.

Over 4,000 were at Bescot for the game including WFC Rob who left this assessment via the UTS message board:

 Well, that second half showed why it’s going to take a bit more than a new managerial team to turn things around. On today’s performances, I think players who are good enough to compete in League One every week were in a minority.

In the first half, despite the game being fairly even, I thought we just about shaded it. The chances they had were as a result of individual errors by Gerrard and Palmer. Whilst you can’t do much about Gerrard simply losing his footing, you can do something about Palmer giving the ball away unbelievably cheaply and getting caught out of position.

Zaaboub terrorised them in the first half and looked the best player on the park. I haven’t been his biggest fan so far this season, but I think he’s the sort of player who needs to be trusted and given resposibility to attack teams. That’s certainly what he did on a number of occasions and presented Deeney with the simplest of finishes for the goal.
If we had someone who could sustain a constant threat like that on he right wing, we’d be onto a winner. Nicholls’ performance was iffy to say the least today.

I really hope we get our injured players back as soon as possible, because boy to we miss them. Walking across the car park on my way into the ground today, I saw Hughes, Weston and Ricketts all in their suits entering the ground. With those players out any team would struggle, but the sheer ineptitude of the players who are covering for them at the moment means that we’re really struggling.

I’m sorry to say it, but Smith is a liability at the back. He jumps like he’s got lead boots on and gives away a silly number of fouls every time he plays.
Palmer literally contributes nothing now we have Zaaboub on the set pieces. The fact that he fails to look up before he plays the ball almost every time is something you’d hope to coach out of a player at about the age of 14. This bloke is 25.
Matches have a tendency to pass Bradley by all too often.
Deeney plays like a bricklayer and nothing better. He took his goal well, but given he was about 4 yards out that it didn’t take anything special to do that. His general awareness just isn’t there, and I’m almost certain it never will be.

In contrast, I thought Ince, Gerrard, Zaaboub and Jabo were excellent. If we had 5 or 6 more like them, we’d be right up there.

The one consolation is that Hutchings and O’Connor know their stuff and have seen our strengths and weaknesses first hand. If we don’t see at least a couple of ins and outs before the end of the month, I’ll be very surprised.

Over 200 Walsall fans went online here on UptheSaddlers for the first ever live blog of a Walsall game – and this coverage will be available again for the Swindon game on Tuesday. To see what it was like look at the post below this one.

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