Archive for September, 2009

Walsall vs Huddersfield Town Report

Neil @ 10:19 am Wednesday 30 September 2009

That really was a welcome win last night. After an abject performance at Hartlepool, the warning signs were there for all to see, with a crowd of just 3,400 turning up on the night, (despite a good turn out from the opposition for a weeknight).

The first half was a lot of huff and puff from both side, but with little end product. It wasn’t just the Saddlers who were playing with no confidence, Huddersfield were in a similar state, following their sudden bad spell of two 0 – 0 draws at home and an away defeat at Millwall.

Most of Walsall’s problems, however, were being caused by the midfield being bypassed. The defence looked solid, with the returning Weston making the right side look steadier, but all four player’s willingness to launch it long meant that Mattis and Bradley got little quality possession and both wingers were, accordingly not really being brought into the game. (In the case of Richards, who was having problems doing anything right, including finding a red shirt, that’s probably a good thing). Deeney was having an off night and only Byfield’s willingness to continually run the channels gave us any real outlet at all.

Byfield, indeed, produced one of our few shots in the first 45 with a lovely dipping long range effort which went just over. Fortunately, Huddersfield were also creating nothing.

What was really required was some changes at half time, either in terms of personnel, or tactics. We got neither and Huddersfield promptly took the lead just after the break. The home defence was caught out by a long straight ball for the umpteenth time this season and Gilmartin was unable to prevent the forward dancing round him.

The shock of going behind seemed to effect the players (and the crowd) badly and it was difficult to see how we were going to get back into the game. Suddenly, however, the midfield seemed to wake up. Richards did something right for almost the first time in the game and produced a lovely first time cross. Nicholls had come in off the wing and met the ball with a goalbound header which was promptly handled by a defender. Penalty. Up stepped Byfield and stroked it home beautifully.

Although we came a lot more into the game from then on, we still weren’t creating enough and it was crying out for changes to be made. Nothing happened until less than 10 minutes to go, though, when Byfield went off, presumably run into the ground, for Parkin.

Parkin proceeded them to give a cameo of what he might really be capable of, as he put himself about. (I’m starting to wonder if he’s actually been fit yet). With Richards now actually starting to remember his team mates were in red, he produced another lovely cross. Parkin was on the receiving end, with a narrow angle to the goal. Most strikers might well have had a go themselves and been unlikely to score, but Sam laid a lovely header back into the path of Dwayne Mattis, who rifled it home.

The team’s lack of confidence was then shown by some desperate defending to keep out a couple of good chance, but the whistle then went for a most welcome and, in the end, deserved win.

The fact that we fought back for the win after going behind at least shows there is no lack of spirit in the side, even if there is a lack of craft and guile at times. We now need to capitalise at home on Saturday, as there is little chance of home crowds improving while the product on offer is so poor.

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Walsall vs Huddersfield Town Preview

neilr @ 4:44 pm Monday 28 September 2009

It may only be September the 29th, but, strange as it seems, I think we’ve got a “must win” game against Huddersfield.

The abject surrender on Saturday to a team that hasn’t won at home since April means that we may well have reached a “tipping point” in the season. We are now sitting just one point above the relegation zone, with this round of games to come. Fortunately, of the teams that can overtake us, only Yeovil are at home and they are facing the in form Swindon. However, crowds are well down and Roy Whalley was at least right last week in part of his statement when he said that that situation will not help the playing side, even if he was way out in his reasoning as to how we have arrived in our current predicament. Certainly, as long as our pathetic home record of not having won since putting three past Brighton on March the 17th continues, we will not do anything towards bringing back any missing fans, irrespective of who is the Chairman.

We don’t even have much consolation in saying that Saturday’s result was because of a weakened side, as the injury situation turned out to be not as bad as we thought it might have been.

Hutchings is threatening to make changes for the game, although it is difficult to see what he can do, other than throw in yet more inexperienced youngsters. His quote in the Express and Dingle is:

“We didn’t perform, individually or collectively and that’s the most disappointing thing. We can’t dwell on it, we’ve got another big game tomorrow and the challenge will be thrown out to the players that they have got to perform. It remains to be seen whether I will change a few things round, but it looked like one or two were a little leggy for some reason. Perhaps they felt it was a sunny day out in the north. There are quite a few players in my thoughts because it was a poor performance.”

Just for the record, we started on Saturday with:

Gilmartin, Westlake, Hughes, McDonald, Vincent, Nicholls, Mattis, Bradley, Richards, Deeney, Byfield

Subs: Ince, Weston, Jones, Parkin, Sansara, O’Keefe, Grigg.

Smith may well be fit enough to return, but McDonald did go off injured agaion during the game.

What of the opposition?

The 2008/09 season was another turbulent one for Huddersfield and involved another change of manager. In their centenary year the season started with promotion hopes high once more, but under boss Stan Ternent the club never got going. He was axed by November and the Town ship was steadied by caretaker Gerry Murphy before Lee Clark took the reigns and installed a new spirit within the club. Town threatened a late surge for the play-offs but their inconsistency cost them and they finished ninth.

Who’s the gaffer?

Former Newcastle United midfielder Clark took over at Huddersfield in December and this is his first fully-fledged managerial position. The 36-year-old moved from Norwich City where he worked as the assistant to Glenn Roeder. While clearly still learning his trade Clark seems to have natural talent and has shown he is not scared to make tough selection decisions.

Huddersfield were one of the pre season fancied teams and started off like a house on fire, scoring for fun. Their last three games have been two 0 – 0 draws at home and a 1 – 3 defeat at Millwall (which is no disgrace), so they have hit the wall a little. Their last win, however, was 3 – 2 at MK Dons and they have run up seven in one game (Brighton at home).

Predictions.

We are going one of two ways here. Either Hutchings gets us in gear and we can take advantage of Huddersfield’s blip, or we carry on the way we have been lately and lose. The choice is down to the players and staff.

Hartlepool United vs Walsall – Reaction

neilr @ 10:53 am Sunday 27 September 2009

It seems that Chris Hutchings’s extended honeymoon period may well have well and truely come to an end, following yesterday’s pathetic defeat at the hands of a club whose home record is rivalled only by ours in terms of sheer ineptitude.

Bangsection sums up the feelings of all the posters who went:-

That’s one of the most insipid performances I’ve seen from a Walsall team for a very long time. I know we’re coming off the back of a mini unbeaten run and that one should perhaps be wary of reading too much into one game but it really is hard to take any positives out of that shambles.

We made a team who have failed to win at home all season look like serious play-off contenders. We had one shot on target in the entire game and created precisely nothing from open play. Hartlepool opened us up pretty easily by adopting the simple tactic of getting the ball out to their excellent wide men Monkhouse and Brown at the earliest opportunity and offering good support from midfield. I don’t think Hartlepool knocked the ball long from the back once all game – but why would you when we employ Clayton McDonald? Walsall, on the other hand, were quite happy to do exactly this – much to Byfield and Deeney’s obvious frustration. There’s a good case for saying that this is the worst Walsall midfield since the dark days of Merson/Broadhurst. Richards is lazy and careless (I lost count of the number of times he gave the ball away today). Bradley is anonymous. Mattis huffs and puffs but offers nothing going forward. Nicholls looks as cheesed off as he always does when he is asked to play wide right and things aren’t going his way.

Presumably McDonald was taken off because of an injury and the prospective central pairing of Hughes and Weston fills me with dread – witness how easily they’re bypassed for Hartlepool’s third on the highlights.

Plus points? Nice to meet up with otherbournemouthsaddler and Mrs otherbournemouthsaddler and it’s always easy to park at Hartlepool but, honestly, that was it.

It was depressing today. Utterly depressing. There wasn’t even any anger on the terraces today – just the gallows humour that takes over when fans realise it’s going to be a long hard season.

There seems to be growing feeling that, although the Manager stopped the rot that had set in under Mullen, we’re still not seeing any signs of improvement.

Hartlepool United vs Walsall Preview

Neil @ 8:33 am Friday 25 September 2009

After the disappointments of last week’s second half performance, which extended our run without a home win to over six months, we at least have the comfort of an away trip tomorrow. Trouble is, we’re likely to have only have half a side to turn out!

A trip to Hartlepool is always welcome, despite the rigours of the journey, as the two clubs have built up something of a rapport over the last three or four seasons. That’s something which I always wondered why it hadn’t happened before, in the days when the two of us were vying for the record of most re-elections to the football league and the most post war managers. We had a lot in common then, although it was mainly bad, in the same way as the current debate on the message board as to which of us has the worst home record!

For the Saddlers, Ince, Taundry, Roberts and Till are definitely out for Hutchings and Deeney, Smith and McDonald are all doubts ( despite the club stating that McDonald and Deeney would be fit earlier in the week).
That leave us looking extremely threadbare and it will be interesting to see if Jones’s “injury” will have cleared up for him to make an appearance.

Quite what the line up should be, I don’t know, but I suspect the Manager will go for:

Gilmartin, Westlake or Weston, Weston or McDonald, Hughes, Vincent, Nicholls, Mattis, Bradley, Richards, Deeney or Parkin or Jones, Byfield.

The decision might well revolve around whether to pay 4 5 1 with Byfield as the lone striker or not if Deeney fails to make it. It’s also a shame for Westlake, if McDonald isn’t fit, as I think he would benefit from a rest this week, after his roasting in the second half against Swindon.

As for the opposition, Chris Turner has admitted he is considering making changes to his starting line-up for the game. He said he would look at his options following the defeat at Colchester last weekend and the teams poor start to the season at home. One option may well be giving a debut to giant striker Armann Bjornsson, a 6ft 5in Iceland international. Just what we need with two midget centrebacks. Let’s hope McDonald is fit!

Ben Clark remains the only absentee from the squad after undergoing surgery on his injured groin and the defender will remain sidelined for around five weeks. They have signed “giant” French defender Julian Cherel this week as cover for him.

Predictions?

I think this’ll be a draw. With their home form, we ought to be looking at winning, but that long list of injuries mean that our chances of three points might well be scuppered.

Swindon reflections

roger6 @ 8:30 am Wednesday 23 September 2009

The Saddlers were held 1-1 by Swindon at the weekend – extending the six month winless run at Bescot. WFC_Rob was there and offered these reflections on the message board:

The first 25 minutes was very good. I hadn’t seen us start a match that well for a good few years, and we arguably should have scored after just 12 seconds. The problem we’ve got is that we’re not good enough when we haven’t got the ball. Westlake, Nicholls and Bradley in particular don’t have the awareness they probably should have in order to cope when the opposition are seeing more of the ball than we are. As a result, we see 9 of our 10 outfield players resorting to a retreat towards their own penalty area, and that further enhances the problem.

Byfield was in complete isolation for most of the second half, despite being our best player in the first. The second half highlighted a problem which is difficult to prescribe a solution for. Some criticise Hutchings for not doing enough tactically to resist Swindon’s pressure. That however, requires players on the bench who can come on and make a difference.

Personally, I wouldn’t underestimate the role Mattis plays in our side. King Crimson has picked up on it already, but that booking really did seem to stifle us. The ‘in your face’ nature of Mattis’ game was taken away, and that makes a huge difference, particularly when he plays alongside Bradley who never seems to stamp any authority on the games he plays in my view.

We need someone to play alongside Mattis if we’re going to stop these performances where we only play for 45 minutes. I’m not saying we could or should sign him, but Jonathan Douglas in their midfield looked the sort of player we’re missing – someone who really can link defence and attack.

Walsall v Swindon – Preview from Bangsection

Exile @ 10:54 pm Friday 18 September 2009

Thanks to regular poster bangsection for this preview:

Walsall v Swindon Town – Preview

After picking up an impressive four point haul from trips to Norwich and Tranmere, Saddlers fans could be forgiven for wishing we were heading to Wiltshire on Saturday rather than hosting Swindon at “Fortress Banks’s”. Walsall have now played over 12 hours of football in WS1 without a win of any description, an abysmal record that stretches back to the middle of March: a time when petrol was tuppence a litre and Wolves fans were calling WM to advise Paul Franks that “McCarthy’s gorra gew”. Plus ca change.

There are plenty of theories as to why we’ve become so dire at home, from the lack of atmosphere (not to mention supporters) to a dearth of creativity when forced to take the initiative on our own turf. Nevertheless, the Deeney/Byfield partnership has given cause for optimism in the last two games, while our other dynamic duo, Smith and McDonald, continue to impress at the heart of the defence.

Our visitors are unbeaten in their last six league games and occupy sixth position in the table – not bad considering they were hammered 5-0 by Gillingham on the opening day of the season. They’ve had some eye-catching results in the Carling Cup, including a 4-1 win at the Franchise and an unlucky defeat on penalties to the Dingles reserves at the Moulinex. Having sold the prolific Simon Cox to Olbion in the summer for £1.5m (excuse me for a moment, I’m just wincing as I remember how much we got for Fryatt) the Robins have hardly been splashing the cash on big money signings but with their well-documented financial problems that’s hardly surprising. Nevertheless, the recruitment of Irish international Jonathon Douglas was a coup for Danny Wilson as many Leeds fans were surprised when the midfielder was allowed to leave Elland Road in the summer. Another player to watch could be England U-20 striker Tope Abedayi who has recently had his loan from Bolton extended after scoring twice in his last three appearances. He looks likely to partner the experienced Billy Paynter in attack.

The Saddlers will be forced into one change after Richard Taundry pulled a hamstring at Tranmere. Hutchings chose to replace him with Josh O’Keefe rather than Mark Bradley during the game so it will be interesting to see who starts on Saturday. After setting up the winner last week Alex Nicholls should continue on the right wing in place of the KO’d Peter Till, while both of our captains will again have to be content with a place on the luxuriously appointed Bescot bench.

Marty and Hutch will undoubtedly want to celebrate their new contracts with a win, and the sooner we get this home hoodoo out of the way the better. However, I think they (and we) may have to wait a little longer. Score draw.

Walsall vs Swindon Town Preview

Neil @ 1:30 pm Friday 18 September 2009

The “Fortress Bescot” tag is starting to look like a sick joke. The last time we won at home was six months ago on St Patrick’s Day, 17th March. Since then we have played 8 times and we have drawn 3 and lost 5. The fact that we have such a reasonably good away record is the only thing keeping the team’s head above water at the moment. The trouble with that of course, is that the pressure put on that away from will, eventually, begin to tell. The improvement has to start now.

The major factor in the team’s poor home results this season has been a lack of creativity. Quite frankly, that at least seemed to be partly addressed last week, with the introduction of Alex Nicholls on the right wing, who was directly involved with two of the goals. Personally I’d go for exactly the same line up again (with the exception of the injured Taundry), of:

Rene Gilmartin, Daryl Westlake, Jamie Vincent, Clayton McDonald, Emanuel Smith, Alex Nicholls, Dwayne Mattis, Mark Bradley, Matt Richards, Darren Byfield, Troy Deeney

Certainly, Gilmartin has done nothing to warrant a change and the only other considerations might be bringing back Jones, if he is fit, for Richards. I’d include Bradley on the basis that I still want the lad to reproduce the form he showed for Richard Money.

Jamie Vincent will make up the former Swindon contingent, although Parkin may make the bench.

As for Swindon, Gordon Greer is expected to be in the squad despite injuring himself during last weeks draw with Colchester.

Danny Wilson must choose between Phil Smith and David Lucas in goal. First choice Lucas was injured in training last week but is still in contention. However, Wilson may choose to not risk Lucas and instead opt to keep faith in Smith who performed well.

The man Paul Merson famously missed out on, Lee Peacock, (bringing Andrew Barrowman in instead) is back in training, but is lacking match fitness so is still some way from making the first team. Alan O’Brien is still a couple of weeks away from returning from his hamstring injury and Hasney Aljofree and Kurt Hammonds are long term absentees.

Predictions?

Swindon got a lousy start to the season, losing 0 – 5 to newly promoted Gillingham, but they haven’t lost since and even got a very creditable draw at the Dingles in the Cup before losing on penalties. I think this has a draw written all over it.

Walsall Supporters Trust – Open Meeting 24 September

Exile @ 10:48 pm Monday 14 September 2009

The Trust are holding an open meeting on 24 September at the Saddlers Club.

Starting at 7.45pm there’s no fixed agenda, and the idea is to host an open forum for ALL supporters, not just Trust members, to pool ideas and discuss the way forward for the Trust, as well as get to know the people whose (voluntary) job it is to do this – the Trust Board.

There’ll be a bar service, so rather than go down the pub, why not do something to help the Trust, help the club and help the fans of Walsall FC?

A strong trust has proven an asset to many similar sized clubs and we encourage everyone to get involved and help the Trust grow and move forward in a positive, popular direction.

Dean and the crew would love to see you there, whatever your opinion.

Tranmere 2-3 Walsall: review

Exile @ 10:44 am Sunday 13 September 2009

Interesting game this afternoon, summed up on the messagboards by PT:

I felt we played well in patches today which was enough to beat a pretty poor side. In fact we could have won by more if their reserve keeper (who must have been about 13) hadn’t pulled off a couple of great saves to deny Deeney getting another couple on top of his much deserved brace. Would have been great if deeney had scored in the last minute to complete his hat-trick having scored all three in front of the Walsall fans.

It’s always great to win away, but I’d say that in parts today we were far poorer than we were at Norwich last week and as a game it was technically weaker than last weeks game. But who really gives a monkey’s? We won and scored three with our two centre-forwards grabbing the goals.

Deeney was brave,strong and worked his rocks off. I thought Byfield went off the boil second half, seemed to be in a right strop about something. The two centre-halves played well again and shackled Ricketts to the point that Ricketts only threat became the pointy bits in the middle of his arms doing some real damage.

Our away form looks very good given where we’ve been so far. Two games to come at home. Four points and we’ll be established in the top half, but I do have misgivings about our ability to do that given that “fortress Banks’s” has become an oxymoron of “long shorts” proportions.

Looks like some character to overcome a Tranmere team that must, by now, start to be feeling maybe a little desperate and beleaguered, like their manager. Talk about it on the messageboards: match reaction thread

On a more sombre note, UTS extends condolences to Richard Taundry on the loss of his father before the game today.

Norwich 0 Walsall 0 Reflections

roger6 @ 4:00 pm Sunday 06 September 2009

The Saddlers secured a point at newly-revitalised Norwich on Saturday – our man Norfolk Saddler saw the action and offers this assessment:

I just got back from the game. First time i’ve seen us this year but we looked solid at the back – McDonald was awesome, and the man of the match. Richards was terrible, but this may be due to the fact he was pushed out wide. Byfield and Deeney ran their socks off but had no service. Byfield heading over from 8 yards was our only real chance and he should have buried it.

Having said that, they had one shot on target – straight at Rene – and really struggled to do anythng. We also created zilch which was worrying. On todays performance, we wont get hammered by anyone but there is absolutely no creativity. Till was anonymous, and Richards on the other wing gave the ball away far too much, twice almost leading to a goal. Mattis and Taundry workmalike, but about no creativity.

Today we were crying out for some form of distrtibution from anywhere. Somebody please explain why Jones was left out.

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