Welsh Saddler doesn’t make that many games, due no doubt to his advancing years (he’s on a par with Old Man Whiting and Pedagogue), so it seems fitting to use his contribution today, as the Saddlers managed another good away win:-
I really meant to take a pen and notebook with me, but forgot (typical) – so it’s a “bits and pieces” report…
Facts as already stated – we opened up well and took command for most of the first half, largely because we had one heck of a wake-up call after about five minutes when our defence was carved open and their shot (travelling at Mach 2) smacked against Rene’s post and back into play. About five minutes later we had a corner and I noticed Antnee coming up for some of the action – next thing I knew he had scored!! I was in the “Family Stand” near the half-way line and when that goal went in I swear I was able to hear 5,000 people breathing, couldn’t hear the “faithful”, sorry to say, largely because they had no roof to project any sound outwards.
The second half both teams had about equal shares of the play, County had obviously had a bit of an ear-bashing during the interval, and after consistent pressure it was no real surprise when they were awarded a penalty. I actually had confidence in Gilmartin to pull off a save – for a lad of his height he’s good at getting across and down to the ball, but in the event he wasn’t called upon. The ball sailed well over the bar and was still rising when it met the Upper Stalls. That seemed to spur County on to further effort however, and when they got a free kick about five yards outside the area the equalising goal came direct from it, no deflection that I saw, and Rene nowhere near it. Questions have to be asked about the organisation of the defence in such a situation.
“OK” I thought, “I’ll be reasonably happy with a draw” – and to be honest County applied more and more effort as the last ten minutes approached, and we were beginning to hang on. One or two defenders had “mad moments” of hoofing clear (and not so clear). At that stage when County had a corner we actuall had all eleven men back defending, which doesn’t do much good when you do clear the lines, it just guarantees that the ball will come back towards your goal… However, we did have break-aways, and from one (a few minutes before the 90) Deeney put a very inviting cross over, unfortunately Jabo (I think) was shaping to do a Roger Boli bicycle kick at it at the same moment that a Stockport defender tried to head it clear, and the resultant head-meets-foot collision left their man flat out – a shame really, because the ball fell loose to another Walsall player who promptly smacked it into the net, but the whistle had already gone.
90 minutes up, and the announcement of 4 minutes added time was made. Anoher cross comes over (from the left), and Stockport keeper and defender go up for it, and a lovely own goal was the result. I definitely heard the cheering from that one, and the subsequent “gewin’ dahn the Wensbry road ter see the Worsle aces” was very clear!!!
Individual summaries, for what they’re worth:
Gilmartin: I was impressed by the lad. I don’t think his kicking was woeful or anywhere near woeful. He did seem to prefer rolling the ball out a little way and playing it off the turf, which they tumbled after a while, and made sure he kicked from his hands. He did put a couple straight into touch, but it was only a couple. Oh, and shortly after their equaliser he was put under pressure by a not-very-good backpass, and hacked it almost at right-angles into touch. His more urgent problem seems to be positioning though – when they smacked a shot against the post from outside the area he did fling himself at it full-length (and he’s tall) but he was nowhere near it. Similarly one or two optimistic shots they had in the second half from acute angles he was miles away from. I’ve already covered their equaliser from the free kick, he didn’t move at all and presumably he was happy with the wall’s ability to cover that side.
Weston: Didn’t see much of him in the first half, but in the second half he became his own worst enemy – after one particularly bad “hoof” the crowd started making braying donkey noises at him, and he responded very unprofessionally by making Churchillian gestures (out of sight of the officials) back at the crowd. This got them more on his back and it seemed to get to him. A shame, because he did show neat touches from time to time.
Gerrard: Massive, clearing the lines with skill, he only missed one “bounce” that I saw, and still recovered quickly. Scored as well.
Smith: A bit anonymous first half – Gerrard was doing most of the defending, Smith picking up the loose ball and distributing. Came into it much more later on – next season looks promising if he and Antnee can maintain the form and understanding.
Palmer: In a way I was dreading seeing Palmer after all the flak that’s been posted on him, and I was pleasantly surprised. All right, he’s not the most accomplished player in the world, but he did try and find his own players with his passes. Tackling is admittedly weak though!
Mattis: Very strong, and when he does win the ball (which is most of the time) he looks to attack – not afraid to venture upfield, and quick to track back, unlike Weston.
Ricketts: I was disappointed in him, he looked slow, clumsy at times (possibly overweight??) and this led directly to two or three free kicks for County, because he just didn’t have the speed or skill to dispossess a player without resorting to a foul, usually right under the referee’s nose. Second half he dropped back to almost a midfield role, and the free kicks he gave away were that much nearer to our penalty area as a result. I wasn’t surprised when he was substituted.
Ibehre: Did very well leading the line, held up the ball effectively and always looked to distribute positively. Ran his socks off, the complete opposite to Ricketts.
Zaboub: Another trier, always wanting to be in the thick of it, and played a left-wing role as honest as you’ll see. Often skinned the County right-back for pace, and if the quality of the cross wasn’t always perfect it wasn’t through lack of effort.
Deeney: Obviously a young man still learning his trade, but linked up well with Jabo and Zab. With a bit of luck he could have had a couple.
Hughes: Not as much of an impact as Mattis, and I wondered whether he’d come back on when he was taken off with a “blood” wound in the second half. Back he did come though, with a distinctive bandanna round his head. In and out of the game, certainly not as noticeable as Gerrard and Smith.
Of the substitutes (who didn’t have much time to impress) I’d have to say that Bradley certainly made his mark, closing down County players at every opportunity and (I think) having a hand in the build-up to our extra-time winner.
There were no bookings, the nearest was when a Stockport player kicked the ball away having conceded a free kick, all he got was a summons and a talking-to. Nothing really at stake for either team, so the game was played fairly gently. Where the ref got three minutes added time at the end of the first half I don’t know!!!