Archive for August, 2009

Walsall v Gillingham – Preview

Exile @ 7:08 am Saturday 29 August 2009

Gillingham are the visitors on Saturday, and the newly-promoted Kentish mob will be keen to get a point. After thumping Swindon 5-0 on opening day, they’ve turned in successive defeats to fellow League One perennials such as Colchester and Hartlepool.

Hughes looks likely to miss the match, but Hutchings will be torn more by wanting to play his new signing, Byfield, or see if he’s fit enough.

Gills shouldn’t be too much hassle, but our lack of forward dominance thus far may count against us. The fact that Gillingham got promoted at the expense of Shrewsbury means we owe them a favour so 1-1 is my prediction.

My apologies to Gillingham visitors – can’t do them justice on this quick fix as our regular previewer has had the gall to go on holiday, leaving me to fill in.

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Charlton Athletic vs Walsall Preview

Neil @ 10:50 am Friday 21 August 2009

The start to the season always looked as if it was going to be tough, and so it is proving, with three of the pre season promotion favourites in the first few games. Those three points away at Brighton are beginning to look crucial at the moment and let’s hope that Norwich won’t have found any form by the time we go there!

The two home games so far have shown a distinct lack of creativity in the side, something which is strange for a team playing with two out and out wingers, and something which means we will find it difficult to break sides down at home. Those wingers have been playing in a quite withdrawn position, however, which gives us more solidity in midfield and may mean we are more dangerous away. It does, however, mean that we need pace up front and that may well see Nicholls get a chance ahead of Deeney (or even Parkin).

Hutchings’ other selection dilemmas are whether to leave in the impressive Westlake at fullback, or bring back Weston’s experience and the central midfield.

I thought Westlake began to struggle towards the end on Tuesday, as Leeds started to try and exploit his inexperience (nearly all their long diagonal balls were aimed at our right flank), so I’d bring Weston back, personally.

Mattis will have served his suspension, so I would expect him to start, either in place of Bradley, or Richards, depending on the state of the head injury he picked up on Tuesday night.

I wouldn’t expect any other changes, unless there are injuries during training.

What about Charlton?

How did they do last year? Considering they were expected to be promoted, they were spectacularly poor. There was little passion and commitment from the majority of the players, as they suffered relegation from the Championship.

Who’s the gaffer? Following the departure of Alan Pardew, Phil Parkinson took over but could not steer Athletic to safety. Considering he didn’t halt the disastrous downward spiral during the season many fans are surprised that his still in charge.

Dangermen?

Midfielder Nick Bailey scores goals, as does former Walsall loanee Deon Burton. Lloyd Sam is another dangerous midfielder and they also have a favourite with all Walsall fans on the books, Izale McCleod.

Young midfielder Jonjo Shelvey has been courted by a number of Premier League clubs and Charlton will be hoping that they can keep hold of him. Also look out for midfielder Therry Racon and full-back Kelly Youga.

Predictions?

Charlton have a 100% League record so far, although the games have been close, 3 – 2 at home to Wycombe, 2 – 0 at Hartlepool and 2 – 1 at Orient. That’s an impressive start and the Saddlers will have to be at their very best to get anything from this game. However, I do remember Colin Lee’s first game in charge there in the FA Cup and that brilliant win, so I know anything can happen and our shape does look better for away games. We could scrape a draw from this one.

Leeds Defeat Leaves Questions to be Answered

Neil @ 9:02 am Wednesday 19 August 2009

Three games into the season might to be the time to start making judgements on how the team is fairing – and there seems to be one or two problems that need to be sorted out.

The opening day euphoria of the win at Brighton has been more than tempered by the continuation of our dismal home League record (now just 17 wins in the last 48 games at the Banks’s), following the draw with Southend and the defeat by Leeds. Some individual players have come under criticism from fans, but I think that may be a little unfair, in that the problems we have had are deeper than that.

The two home games have both shown a basic fault in the system – although one which it may be relatively easy to cure. In neither game, despite dominating the match against Southend up until Mattis’s sending off, or against Leeds, when we matched one of the promotion favourites for long periods, have we created more than a mere handful of chances.

The system we are playing is a 4 4 2, with two wingers, in the shape of Till and Jones. However, the way we are set up is with both of them maintaining a relatively deep position, even when we are in possession. That can be a legitimate tactic, if the two central midfielders are playing in a “diamond”, with one covering the back four and the other supporting the front men, but our two are playing alongside each other.

The result of this is, of course, that neither winger is giving proper support to the two front men, and neither are either of the central midfielders, who should have the opportunity to get in front of the strikers. We, therefore, rarely get the wide men to the byline and end up with the front men detached from the midfield and with no real support. The opposition are never stretched and we do not create any chances.

Whether this is a deliberate ploy by Hutchings to try and keep a solid shape, or an accident of the way individuals are playing, I don’t know, but what I do know is that we have to be more adventurous at home and start chalking up some home wins – especially if we are going to try and attract back the missing fans. Let’s face it – it’s also a far more attractive way of playing!

Walsall vs Leeds United

Neil @ 12:34 pm Monday 17 August 2009

Is it too much to hope that Leeds fans will have learned some humility for what is now their third successive season at this level? Let’s hope so, as their silly posturing has been one of the least attractive parts of the last two years. Some of the pressure may well be off their fans, however, as certain elements amongst the newly relegated (notably Southampton) have proved to be equally obnoxious.

Walsall will be concentrating on their own problems, however. Three games, including one Cup tie, and two sendings off does not bode well. Both Rhys Weston and Dwayne Mattis are experienced enough not to have picked up a second yellow given the circumstances, Mattis especially, as the tackle was even in the opponents half of the pitch. Hutchings needs to address the outbreak of indiscipline before it gets to be a major problem. We are likely to miss Mattis tomorrow, as he was onr of the stars of last years win over Leeds.

The Manager’s main selection dilemma will be whether to bring back Weston, following his suspension, or leave in the impressive youngster Westlake, and who to bring in for Mattis. I think experience may well win out for this one and Weston will return, while Taundry’s ability in the tackle is likely to see him start ahead of Bradley or O’Keefe.

That would leave us with:

Ince, Weston, Smith, Hughes, Vincent, Till, Taundry, Richards, Jones, Parkin, Deeney.

What of the opposition?

Leeds fell disappointingly at the penultimate hurdle losing in the League One play-off semi-final after a campaign in which they were one of the favourites to make the top two. They started the season having lost the previous year’s play-off final and under Gary McAllister started reasonably well. However, by December they were knocked out of the FA Cup by non-league Histon and suffered five defeats on the bounce which cost McAllister his job and left Simon Grayson with the proverbial mountain to climb. He almost made it but despite his excellent efforts the season was a failure for the club.

They have kept very much the same squad as last season, with only Delph and Jonathan Douglas departing.

Dangermen?

The dangerous Beckford and Becchio have scored all three of their League goals this season and, if they should fail, they have plenty of firepower with their League Cup goalscorer, the 6 feet 5 inch Enoch Showumni.

Predictions?

I’m one of those who think we played well on Saturday prior to the sending off, in that Southend didn’t present any real threat. However, with a weakened midfield, I think we’ll do very well to preserve our undefeated home record against Leeds since their last relegation.

Walsall vs Southend United

Neil @ 10:44 am Friday 14 August 2009

It’s the Essex boys for the first home game of the season and a chance to try and make up for the disappointments of the League Cup exit on Tuesday night.

Hutchings has a fully fit and available squad for the game, other than the suspended Rhys Weston. Richard Taundry or first-year professional, Darryl Westlake, could replace him at right-back.

Saddlers’ skipper Mark Hughes missed Tuesday’s defeat with a thigh strain but is fit again, while his replacement in defence for that game, Stephen Roberts, is over a niggling back injury, for the time being!

Hutchings was also without midfielder Peter Till, but that was thought to be purely a precautionary measure after the player bruised his foot. He will be back in contention tomorrow.

Walsall left-back Netan Sansara is training again after an ankle injury sustained in the non friendly with the Dingles last month, but is short of match fitness which might just cost him his place tomorrow.

Hutchings said: “We also have goalkeeper Clayton Ince back from his international duties with Trinidad and Tobago and Mark Bradley has returned after his appearance for Wales Under-21s in midweek. We are fit and raring to go.”

I would expect Hutchings to go with what seems to be his first choice line up, with the exception of Taundry, in for Weston (although Nicholls may be pushing for a start after scoring our only goal this season by a Saddler on Tuesday!):-

Ince, Taundry, Smith, Hughes, Vincent, Till, Mattis, Richards, Jones, Parkin, Deeney.

As for Southend, what of them? They finished eighth last year, which was a massive achievement by Steve Tilson as he managed a small squad with little or no money at his disposal. But for some inconsistency right at the end they could have made the play-offs, but eighth was more than many fans dared to dream of.

One of the country’s longest-serving managers, Tilson is a Southend United legend as a player and has got an excellent reputation as a boss, overseeing two promotions, two Johnstone’s Paint Trophy finals and a play-off semi-final. Other clubs have tried to tease him away but without success so far. A happy-go-lucky exterior covers a steely determination to succeed.

The Blues look like they are going to have to make do with a small squad once again this year, but the return of Lee Sawyer on loan from Chelsea has given the fans hope. The midfielder was excellent in a loan spell last season and he will have to take a large workload on his shoulders to drive the side forward this year. Captain Adam Barrett will again lead from the front but the loss of Peter Clarke is a huge blow

They have gone for the loan option to boost the squad again this season and have, from Colchester, Matt Heath and Jamie White.

Lee Sawyer was injured for the opener against Huddersfield (2 -2 at home), but will be fit for tomorrow. Jean-Yves M’voto, a centre back on loan from Sunderland, could make the starting line-up.

Predictions?

We ought to be full of confidence in the League, following our win at Brighton last week, but this is likely to be a true test of the squad’s potential, with Southend having drawn against highly fancied Huddersfield in their opener. They even lead 2 – 0 at one point. Last season’s weakness at home under Hutchings (I’ll ignore the aberration of Mullen’s tenure) was an inability to win when having to make the running, as opposed to playing on the counter away. It’ll be interesting to see if our lack of creativity last season (especially in the absence of Ricketts or Zaaboub) has been addressed by the signings of Till, Jones and Richards. I think we’ll just about shade this. Home win.

Accrington Stanley vs Walsall Preview

Neil @ 12:33 pm Monday 10 August 2009

Well, what a start to the season. Away at Brighton on Saturday, then away at Accrington in the League Cup on the Tuesday! The hotel and travelling bills for the first week of the season will be high!

For those who want to know how Stanley have been doing since we left them behind in the fourth tier, they avoided the drop last year again and ended the season in a more comfortable position than many predicted. A seven-game unbeaten run during March and April cast aside any lingering worries about relegation.

Since then, however, they have lost the services of striker Ian Crainey to another of the nouveau riche Division 1 clubs, Huddersfield Town, and goalscoring may be their weakness this season. They did go down 0 – 1 away at one of the promotion favourites on Saturday, Rotherham, but that was to a very late Paul Warne strike.

Ominously, the BBC report of the game says “The home side, installed as one of the favourites for promotion, struggled at the outset as Accrington enjoyed all the first-half chances. Paul Mullin went close three times and Rotherham’s Andy Warrington made two smart saves to keep the scores level”.

The Saddlers should go into the game full of confidence after a good way win on Saturday and it will be interesting to see Hutchings’s attitude towards making changes. There is an opportunity to rotate, but he may well want to keep his first choice team ticking over.

We started on Saturday with:

Ince, Weston, Hughes, Smith, Vincent, Till, Mattis, Richards, Jones, Deeney, Parkin.

If we do make changes, I’d expect Roberts and Nicholls to be given run outs, but one man who will be absent is Clayton Ince, away on International duty.

Predictions?

What we really need is a Cup run of some description this season, not just to boost the finances, but also to improve the morale of the fans and to try and get at least some of the lost numbers back through the turnstiles. I think the Manager will be thinking the same way, so I would expect a win.

Brighton vs Walsall Preview

Neil @ 8:18 am Friday 07 August 2009

It’s the most exciting day of the season tomorrow – the big kick off, when all football fans go into a new year of hope and expectation. Quite where that leaves the Saddlers this season is quite another matter.

League 1 this season presents a picture little different from normal – just more so. We have some moneybags, as usual, which includes the opening day opponents, Brighton, and the MK Dongles and some so called “big” clubs, also as usual, who still seem to think that the world owes them a living. That includes Leeds, now in their third season down here, Southampton, Norwich and Charlton. (Anyone care to tell me, by the way, why the first two are supposed to be big? It is still within living memory when the second and third tiers were their normal home). What they do have, however, is big crowds and the resources to match. This will not be an easy Division to get out of this year.

Chris Hutchings’ team building seems to have gone well this season, and he has bought in the right amount of experience to try and bring on the talented crop of youngsters.

As far as we know, the Saddlers go into this one with a clean bill of health, so I would expect to see a line up of:

Ince, Weston, Roberts, Hughes, Vincent, Till, Mattis, Richards, Jones, Parkin, Deeney.

Brighton Manager Russell Slade is suffering from a striker shortage going into the game. Craig Davies (knee) and Glenn Murray (groin) only resumed training yesterday morning and Slade will now wait to see if the duo suffer any kind of reaction. The Albion boss is also hoping to see Nicky Forster train today; the club captain is still struggling with his knee problem. Gary Hart is definitely ruled out of the clash with a toe problem.
With Liam Dickinson therefore the only fit forward, Slade could opt for the 4-3-3 formation he employed at Scunthorpe last weekend.

Meanwhile, Kevin McLeod also hopes to train today after picking up a nasty knock in the friendly victory against Shoreham in midweek, but Matt Thornhill has shaken off a thigh strain and should be fit to face the Saddlers.

Slade explained, “We’re hoping that Nicky Forster and Kevin McLeod will train tomorrow, as they haven’t trained all week. Matt Thornhill had a thigh strain, but he trained today and we’re hopeful that he’ll come through that and be OK for Saturday.”

Alan Navarro, Jake Wright, Mark Wright, Andrew Crofts, Thornhill and Dickinson are all in line to make their league debuts for the Seagulls.

Predictions?

Do you honestly think I’d be mad enough to make any prediction with two new squads that haven’t had a competitive game yet? Anyway, last years none men win down there proves that anything can still happen!

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