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.