Archive for November, 2009

Brentford vs Walsall – Report

Neil @ 1:55 pm Sunday 29 November 2009

Another disappointing performance, where the team looked incapable of playing for ninety minutes and the Manager looked incapable of changing things when they were going wrong, saw the Saddlers dumped out of the FA Cup, when a good run in the competition would have been so important for a club in financial difficulties. All the reports suggest we were desperately lucky to go in at half time only 0 – 1 down, but they seemed to have learned more from the League game than we did and there was no second half recovery this week. Stu provedes the report:-

How disappointing was that… It took me 2 hours to get there for a 21 mile drive,which meant I missed out on a pre-match pint. Off to a bad start. Unfortunately it didn’t get better for quite a while.

The first 45 minutes was atrocious at best and a better team would have been out of sight. We were scary from defensive corners, the giant centre half was completely unmarked and had a 6 yard run at his header for the goal. He could have had a hat-trick from corners, with two bad misses in the 2nd half. They had another corner cleared off the line in the 2nd half. I think we had one shot from distance in the first half and offered absolutely nothing. We were outplayed and to be honest, utter garbage.

The first 20 minutes of the 2nd half was mediocre. They had their two corners that the giant put wide and straight at Ince.

We eventually realised we were playing a competitive match after about 65 minutes and for the last 25, we were the better side, we played with a real high tempo and urgency, something that was missing for the first 65 minutes. However, for all of that, there was only one gilt edged chance and that fell to Parkin, who bottled it. Free at the back post, a slight angle, he had the far post gaping and instead of drilling it there, he put it at the ideal height for the keeper at his near post and he saved comfortably. Deeney had a decent chance that was blocked out wide, otherwise that was it.

Every time we got into a decent position, we either wanted one touch too many or delivered a dudd ball.

Ince – His failure to command the box on corners was worrying. He didn’t have a bad game, but he could have removed a lot of danger by coming for corners as he used to. He spent them rooted to his line.

Weston – Distribution was awful, didn’t offer much on the overlap.
Sansara – Alright game, kept Bostock quiet so they switched him wings. Didn’t offer much going forward though.
Hughes – As captain and leader, he should be taking charge and organising. He doesn’t. Nice on the ball, that is it.
Smith – Best of the defenders, but I think it was his man that scored the goal and had the beating of him on each corner.

Richards – Nothing but a Matt Lucas lookalike. Don’t see what he offers. Should have been replaced by Nicholls and put Jones on the left.
Jones – Anonymous first half, 2nd half better but always wanted one touch too many or 3 seconds too long. Got into some really good opportunities but then messed them up.
Mattis – Booked and deservedly so, he was late with 2/3 tackles early on and the booking calmed him down. Felt it was harsh to drop O’Keefe and Mattis didn’t show much more.
Bradley – Best player for me. Energy, tempo, drive and tried to make things happen, but was a one man central midfield.

Deeney – Huff and puff, never really felt he was going to create something or score.
Byfield – Nice touches but drifted. Evidently frustrated with his team-mates decisions at times and not surprised he was subbed.

Parkin – Won a couple of headers, but missed our only gilt edged chance, sort of chance I’d have put money on Byfield putting away.

You’d never have thought we knew there was a 3rd round spot at stake here. Very disappointing.

I’d rather have lost 3-0 and had a go, than 1-0 and gone out with a wimper. We only really looked dangerous when getting around the back, but that isn’t possible on the left as Matt Lucas doesn’t have pace or ability to beat a man. Was crying out for Nicholls on the right flank and Jones on the left and getting wide quickly. Unfortunately management didn’t see that or didn’t agree with that and we went out with a wimper.

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Brentford vs Walsall Cup Preview

Neil @ 2:00 pm Friday 27 November 2009

It’s a trip back to West London tomorrow and the romance of the FA Cup. This is the worst round to go out in for a club at our level, as it stops the chance of a glamour tie in the third round.

The Saddlers ought, of course, be going into this one brim full of confidence. Granted we had a poor performance at the same venue in the League last Saturday in the first half, but the recovery in the second 45, gaining a valuable league point, then the good win on Tuesday night against Oldham, mean that the players should know they have nothing to fear. This is a very winnable tie and they must go into it completely focussed, for the rewards could be vital.

Chris Hutchings’s problems are very few and far between for this one, other than which line up to choose. In defence, Jamie Vincent is fit again, so there is a choice between him and Sansara (who was much better on Tuesday night, looking very solid) and the usual Smith/MacDonald/Hughes conundrum. In midfield, Dwayne Mattis is the only real doubt in the entire squad (sore Achilles), but O’Keefe looked the part against Oldham and Richard Taundry is also back in training. It’s a pure guess at this stage of course (and there is still a chance of picking up injuries), but, knowing Hutchings and his unwillingness to change things unless forced to, I think he’ll go for this eleven:

Ince, Weston, Smith, Hughes, Sansara, Jones, Bradley, O’Keefe, Richards, Deeney, Byfield.

Brentford’s squad, meanwhile, is in a complete state of flux. It currently includes six loan players – Rhys Murphy (who arrived from Arsenal on Monday), Lewis Price, Wojciech Szczesny, James Wilson, Pim Balkestein and John Bostock – and it remains to be seen how many of them will be allowed by their permanent clubs to play tomorrow.

The Bees’ training has also been hampered this week by a bug which has laid low several players.

If he does play, we will have to watch the talented Bostock, on loan from Spurs, of course, but he has already shown some inconsistency (one good game with two goals, one poor game), as you might expect for a player of his age, so I would hope that our defence will be able to cope.

Predictions?

We should have more than enough in our locker to win this one, especially if we can get the two match winners, Jones and Byfield, on the ball as much as possible. I’m going for a berth in the third round at the first time of asking!

How many Walsall fans does it take to change a mind?

Exile @ 12:57 am Wednesday 25 November 2009

Tonight’s league match against Oldham saw a crowd of just 2,960 Saddlers fans watch our 3-0 demolition job. Take away the usual excuses such as midweek, weather, cup on Saturday (although that’s an unusual excuse given our performances in recent years!) and dress it up however you want, that’s a terrible number for a team sat on the cusps of the League One playoffs.

It’s too late now to do anything substantial about ticketing, seating and pricing differentials for this year, so one thing, and only one thing, could make a difference to the rest of the campaign. It’s time for the club owner to front up and state his ambitions for this season.

Is our debt sustainable enough to stand a season with a squad and manager that are growing together, seemingly stronger and more comfortable with each passing game, or will we have to sell up one or more of our promising youngsters in the January sales? If it’s the latter, I think the fans deserve to know sooner rather than later, and be given the reasons why.

Undoubtedly we’ll have to pay this debt off, but using such a short-term solution as selling a player when we’re in the position we are now would be a folly up there with the worst of them, guaranteed to see a further decline in numbers as the remaining fans realise what they’ve been willing to ignore thus far – under the current owner, Walsall’s mantra is “no ambition, no commitment, no future”.

Please, Jeff, do one thing this January, stand firm behind the club and you’ll see more fans stand behind you instead of against you.

Walsall vs Oldham Athletic

Neil @ 2:06 pm Monday 23 November 2009

The interesting thing ahead of tomorrow night’s game against Oldham is that it suddenly seems that the season might not be the total washout it first looked like being. The point at Brentford leaves us hanging on to the coat tails of the teams in the play off positions, with the chance of just sneaking in a tantalising possibility. However, there are a lot of imponderables along the way.

First, just what will the team look like post January? With the current financial plight, the departure of saleable assets like Bradley (starting to look again the player we know he is), the impressive Smith (who is, after all, keeping out MacDonald, who is probably here to be in the shop window) and Deeney is all too real a threat. We all know what happened after Dann and Fox left.

Will we find a way of getting the class of Jones (along with Byfield, our real match winner) on the ball more often? The threat from both is palpable at this level.

Will we ever learn to perform for ninety minutes instead of 45? The game on Saturday could have been out of reach by half time, if they had had finishers to match ours.

That game next Saturday and the prospect of a good third round draw is becoming more and more important, as our starting XI is good, but the cover is very thin.

Hutchings’s first XI is, therefore, the almost certain choice for the Oldham game, injuries permitting:-

Ince, Weston, Smith, Hughes, Sansara, Jones, Bradley, Mattis, Richards, Deeney, Byfield.

As for the opposition, this might be just the time to pay them. They have slipped down the table recently, after a poor run of form, which has seen them with just one win since beating MK Dongles on the 29th September – and that was at Brighton when they were in a terrible run themselves. They will, however, be without their dangerman, Pawel Abbott, who is injured, although that didn’t stop them from coming from 0 – 2 down at home to Colchester on Saturday, to draw 2 – 2.

Predictions?

Oldham are down to 14th, with the perfect mid table record away from home of won 2, drawn 3, lost 2, goals for 6, goals against 6. We need to continue our general form this season of beating the teams below us in order to keep the run going and to boost the confidence for that vital Cup tie on Saturday. I think we will have enough for a home win.

Brentford vs Walsall Reports

Neil @ 10:55 am Sunday 22 November 2009

Wyrley Saddler gives us the report of yet another game of two halves:

Another game where we didn’t turn up first half. We were second best all the way through the first half apart from the first 5 minutes.
There goal could have been prevented. Weston should have closed down the winger quicker and not let him cut inside. When he did allow him to cut inside, he needed to be stronger in the challenge. Abit of a sloppy goal to concede.
The rest of the first half was pretty poor. It was Brentford forward, us hoof it away.

Second half was better. We started off decent with Jones making a run, but losing the ball.
We then seemed to fade abit, but seemed to equalise almost from nowhere. Good confident finish from Jones.
From then on we were mainly on top. Brentford rarely threatened second half and we could have won it.

Overall, I’d say a point was fair. A good result considering our recent record at Griffin Park.

As for individual performances.
Ince – Same old. Solid.

Weston – Very poor first half, much improved second.
Smith – Very good. Made a few important challenges. Another good performance from him.
Hughes – Solid.
Sansara – Had a good game against a tricky Bostock. Also made a few vital challenges.

Jones – Quiet compared to usual. But took his goal well and looked a threat when on the ball.
Mattis – Didn’t realy notice him do much.
Bradley – Another good game from him. His confidence seems to be coming back,
Richards – Never realy got into the game first half. Played ok second half.

Deeney – Poor, but was feeding off scraps most the time.
Byfield – Quiet first half, but looked dangerous in the second.

Parkin – Not a lot of time to do much to be fair to him.

MOTM – Smith/Bradley

Cheesebag sums it up rather more succinctly:

Didnt turn up first half, Brentford looked lively and threatening. Woke up in the 2nd half in the belting rain, and could and should have nicked it.

Brentford va Walsall Preview

Neil @ 2:00 pm Friday 20 November 2009

I remember, not that long ago, writing that it was strange how often you get two fixtures against the same club very close together when the Cup rolls around. That time, it was Northampton Town and this time Brentford, as we set off for two trips to West London in the space of a week.

I also seem to remember that, at the time of the Northampton game, the League was the priority, but this time, I can’t help thinking that it’s more important to get a Cup run going. The current financial plight of the club is worrying, once you look past the headline token profit. We suffered a drop in income of almost £800,000 in the last season, with turnover down by £798,000. Despite our income from transfers, the debt was barely reduced and the Chairman loaned the club even more money.

The annual report reveals a drop in gate receipts of £322,000, which was partly responsible for the reduction in income (the rest, presumably, down to the recession and reduced non footballing income), while the amount the club pay for the lease of the stadium increased to almost £400,000, or almost £1100 per day. A win next week and a tie against a Premiership big boy must surely be the priority, as our League form just hasn’t been good enough for much else than mid table. Even if we are serious about mounting a challenge, the income generated from a cup run would be needed to strengthen the squad and prevent any preventable departures in January.

Mark Bradley will be back from the Wales Under-21s squad for the game, but Jamie Vincent (calf) and Richard Taundry (hamstring) are still out. Rene Gilmartin is fit again, but I would think that Clayton Ince will start in goal. Hutchings also will have the usual problem of which of his three centre backs to play.

That would give us a likely line up of:

Ince, Weston, Smith, Hughes, Sansara, Jones, Bradley, Mattis, Richards, Byfield, Deeney.

Brentford will have John Bostock and James Wilson back from international duty with England Under-19s and Wales Under-21s respectively.

Winger Sam Saunders remains out through illness while Lewis Price will again deputise in goal for Nikki Bull.

Their dangerman is likely to be 17 year old John Bostock, on loan from Spurs and subject, of course, of the bitter row between his parent club and Crystal Palace when he moved north of the river. He made his debut last week and promptly scored twice.

Predictions?

Brentford go into this one just five points behind us, with a home record of Won 3, Drawn 3, Lost 2 Goals For 12, Goals against 11. On that record, we should have enough in our locker to come away from Griffin Park with a point.

Reward for Richards and Weston

roger6 @ 11:45 am Tuesday 17 November 2009

It’s not often that two members of the Walsall team make the football league team of the week, so congratulations to Rhys Weston and Matthew Richards.

Produced by the Press Association, the Team of the Week features the eleven top performing players from each division from this weekend’s matches.

29-year-old Walsall defender Rhys Weston makes it into the Coca-Cola League 1 Team of the Week back four after his outstanding performance in the 2-0 win at home to Stockport County. Matthew Richards is also included for his display.

The full team of the week can be found on The Football League website

Stockport reflections

roger6 @ 1:58 pm Monday 16 November 2009

The Saddlers hit the heights of 10th place at the weekend with a 2-0 victory at home to Stockport. Although the match stats report Stockport enjoyed 72% possession, it is goals that count. Cyclothymic contributed this pithy dissection via the message board:

We will look back at the result and be happy with the three points, but the first half we were very much outplayed. They were passing better and quicker and looked as if they were going to turn us over. Then we put away one of the best free kicks I have seen in years at (the) Bescot.

Second half we were much better (the team talk must have been a goood one) – doing what they had in the first half: first time, quick passing football that showed them for what they are – a poor side if you put them under pressure. Lovely goal from Byfield. I thought him, Deaney and Jones all had a good afternoon. Ince made a stunning save late on. Three points. That will do!

We still lack a solid, centre-of-the-park, midfielder to hold the ball and distribute it accurately. Because of this we are using the wings (and leaving ourselves open at the back right and left) and, far worse, launching long hopeful balls from keeper and defense towards our hard-working but not very tall forwards.

Not got to a lot of matches yet this season – enjoyed the afternoon very much. Crowd was very poor (4100 – looked a lot less). Those that did turn up at least saw two great goals.

Oh – and that Gary Ablett is a dour-looking fella isn’t he! Makes Colin Leel look like a happy bunny.

Walsall vs Stockport County Preview

Neil @ 2:09 pm Friday 13 November 2009

Back to the real business tomorrow and a home game at last. The fixture computer doesn’t seem to understand the concept of home one week and away the next. Nothing’s ever too complicated for a computer programmer!

Stockport County are, of course, the visitors this week. They are another team, like us, that suffer from having too many big named and over hyped neighbours. Whereas we seem to have tried to cope with that with a famed lack of ambition, they went too far the other way and have had their financial troubles in recent years. Many of those were caused during a prolonged dispute between their old Chairman and their supposed new partners, Sale Sharks, in a holding company, Cheshire Sports. One thing that we have in common with them is that once the deals were done, they were left with someone else owning their ground and a falling income stream to pay the lease. Notably also, the club, without the freehold, was sold to their Supporters Trust for £1.00, which gives you some idea of the worth of Walsall if Jeff refuses to sell the freehold with the club and of some of the problems that could ensue when he finally does relinquish control, especially if the freehold is kept separate from the club. There may well by an important role for our Trust too!

Chris Hutchings will have been boosted by the news that Manchester City have agreed to extend yet again the loan of Clayton MacDonald. He does have some injury problems to cope with, however, with goalkeeper Rene Gilmartin, midfielder Richard Taundry (both hamstring) and left-back Jamie Vincent (calf) all missing.

Vincent’s injury, in particular, is causing some concern, because the club can’t get to the bottom of what the problem is:

“Jamie’s still having problems with his calf. It keeps cramping up on him so we’re having to send him for more tests to find out the root of the problem. It has been two or three weeks now since he’s been out and we need to get to the bottom of it.”

At least Netan Sansara is getting a chance of an extended run in his absence, which can only do the lad good, as long as it’s not for too long.

The likely line up is:

Ince, Weston, Smith and or Hughes and or MacDonald, Sansara, Jones, Mattis, Bradley, Richards, Byfield, Deeney.

Reports from the reserves in the week, who ended up with a very poor result, suggest no one else is threatening to force their way into the reckoning, so the question will be about formations and whether it’s 4 4 2, a Christmas tree, or a 4 3 1 2. Stockport play an awkward 4 1 4 1, so they may not be easy to break down.

As for County, they will be without Paul Huntington, who has returned to Leeds United. Nicholas Bignall is a slight doubt, after he reported a sore hamstring. With the exception of Matty Mainwaring, whose recovery from a broken leg is coming along excellently, Gary Ablett has no other injury worries.

Predictions?

Stockport will start in 21st place, the final relegation spot, with just 14 points. Away from home, their record is won 2, drawn 3 and lost 2, so 9 of those 14 have come on the road. That suggests this won’t be as easy a proposition as you might think. I’m still going for a home win, however.

Stourbridge reflections

roger6 @ 2:58 pm Monday 09 November 2009

The Saddlers negotiated the banana skin successfully at the weekend and have been rewarded (?) with a trip to Gateshead or Brentford in round 2 of the FA Cup. Cully was at the game and offers these thoughts via the message board:

A very enjoyable day out, the football seemed to take second place to the event. I loved the uniqueness of the ground, the pork bap, reading the programme and mixing with not only the Stourbridge fans but also the friendly and down to earth Stourbridge officials before the game. Isn’t it a pity that all games cannot be like this. I realise that the league structure doesn’t allow such experiences anymore and accept that the match day experience can never be like the early 70′s when I first started watching Walsall.

The actual game, a rather casual performance by Walsall although dominant for long periods lacked the killer touch with numerous chances falling to Byfield, Jones and Deeney only to be scorned by a combination of weak finishing or over ambitious and elaborate moves. I quite enjoyed watching Stourbridges simple but effective tactics, quick one twos, balls played rather optimistically down the the wings and shooting on sight regardless of position and sometimes ignoring players in better positions. The agricultural Slater, a rather tough looking character certainly didn’t mess about when it came to challenges and I suppose at his level it is very effective. The referee appeared to dismiss these tactics with an exaggerated wave often appearing forgiving to their players as if there was some sort of handicap system operating although Reece Weston did his usual tough guy idiotic act the first time one of their players was late on the ball and it was no surprise to see him booked after a couple of rather clumsy and spiteful tackles in revenge for their audacity of the Stourbridge left winger attempting to win the ball.

I thought we should have had a penalty early on when the dangerous Byfield skipped past three players only to be scythed down in the area. Jones obviously thought he was playing against inferior opposition and he showed on numerous occasions the ease at which he could beat any player infront of him both with skill and speed off the mark until he got a little bored in the second half and just hung around waiting for someone to give him the ball however, he still was the most outstanding player for me in the match. I thought Hughes was both calm and controlling but tends to get caught out on the odd occasion when he ventures forward, he was booked for dragging back one of their players during the second half when we had committed too many players forward in a particularily dominant 10 min period.

The last 15 minutes were a little nervous, I was spared the detail due to my position on the touch line, a few shots, a save by Clayton and a penalty appeal added to the tension but eventually the final whistle went and we were through for the first time in years.

Roll on the draw for the second round, it’s just like the olden days, a few pints after the game with some Stourbridge mates, a bag of scatchings and highlights on TV after a few glasses of wine, bliss.

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