Archive for January, 2010

Gillingham vs Walsall Preview

Neil @ 1:02 pm Friday 29 January 2010

The League position is a little worrying at the moment. Of course, we do have games in hand on most of the Division, but those games include Leeds away and Charlton at home, so we need opportunities for three points to be taken. One of those crops up tomorrow, with the trip to Kent and Gillingham. At least, that’s the way it ought to be, as they are languishing in 19th place. That, as usual, doesn’t tell the whole story, however, and such is the way of this League, that a defeat for the Saddlers tomorrow will see the Gills level on points with us.

That makes this something of a pivotal game in the season and it’s strange how big an influence our opponents have had on the recent history of the club. It was, after all, the abject defeat at the Priestfield (now horribly renamed the KRBS Priestfield) that put the final nail in the coffin of Colin Lee as Manager, not to mention their draw at Joke City in the final game of that season which finally relegated us on goal difference. What we want now is for them to play a role again in getting the team back on track, following the confidence sapping defeat on Tuesday to Norwich City. That’s something that’s needed, as our next run of fixtures are Charlton at home, Bristol Rovers at home, Bristol Rovers away, Leeds away and, crucially, Oldham, the team fourth from bottom and now just five points in arrears, away. We badly need a haul of at least seven points from that lot.

All that having been said, Chris Hutchings has got problems for the game. Captain Mark Hughes is unlikely to return as he missed the defeat to Norwich having sustained an ankle injury against Brighton and he remains extremely doubtful for the trip to the Priestfield. At least we have a ready made replacement there, in the shape of Clayotn MacDonald.

That isn’t the case with his other two problems. Dwayne Mattis may well miss out after he picked up a calf problem against the Canaries. O’Keefe came on in that game, of course, but therein lies one of our problems, in that I think O’Keefe, Bradley and Mattis are too similar. It may be time to give a more defensively minded midfielder a chance, in the shape of Taundry, allowing his partner, be it O’Keefe or Bradley, to get forward more.

Steve Jones, meanwhile, is the other likely absentee, having suffered a setback in his recovery from a troublesome groin injury. The former Burnley man had returned to training after seven weeks on the sidelines but experienced unexpected pain on Monday. Till deputised on Tuesday, but I just don’t think we have anyone anywhere near the same class to bring in, which is one place we struggle.

As for the opposition, Danny Jackman could make his long-awaited return to Gillingham’s squad. The defender, who rejoined the Gills from Northampton in the summer, has been sidelined for four months after dislocating his shoulder at Southampton. But the 27-year-old is nearing full fitness and could come into the reckoning against the Saddlers.

Midfielder Curtis Weston is also in the frame to return after recovering from a hip injury and defender Josh Gowling is also set to feature after missing the 1-1 draw at Hartlepool in midweek with a groin injury.

Long-term absentee Simon King will definitely not feature due to ankle ligament damage, but the central defender hopes to get the green light to start jogging again next week.

Predictions?

Walsall go into the encounter desperate for points having picked up just one from their previous 15. It is our away record that is keeping us mid table, however. Only six teams have won away from home more than we have, while only four have won fewer at home. For those looking at their League position being an indicator of form, however, it has to be pointed out that Gillingham are not one of them. At home they’ve won 7, drawn 4 at lost just 2, a record that only the top seven in the Division and one other team (our next opponents away, Bristol Rovers) can match. That’s how tough this run of games is and why we must get something from this trip. Draw.

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Walsall 1 Norwich 2 – Reflections

roger6 @ 2:50 pm Wednesday 27 January 2010

The Saddlers came up against the form team Norwich last night in a match re-arranged as last time the Canaries boss got the game called off due to player safety fears.

Luckily this time Lambert gave permission for the game to go-ahead but it ended in Walsall a defeat, albeit a narrow one – WFC Rob was there and offered these words on the message board:

We did alright I thought. The fact of the matter is, you get what you pay for in League One, and Hoolahan’s left foot was the difference. We don’t have a single player in our squad who could have picked out a ball like that for their winning goal.

Second goal aside, I thought we defended well as a unit. We pressed them as much as possible and made an effort to keep the ball on the floor as much as possible. I actually think Smith tends to play better against the better sides, and McDonald looks consistently solid.
I thought Richards had one of his best games in a Walsall shirt – it’s just a shame he can do no right with some people for whatever reason. No, he hasn’t got much pace and no, he’s not a winger so don’t expect him to tear down the wing, skinning full-backs for fun.

Our front two worked well together again. Byfield should have done better with his chance in the dying seconds however it just wasn’t to be.

Ultimately, we were undone through midfield once again. For a young midfielder with international honours to his name, I can’t believe how slow Bradley can be at times. He is second to almost every loose ball. I also find it strange that O’Keefe continually sits behind him in the pecking order despite Hutchings’ tendency to throw him on to do a particular job – last week it was to support the front two, this week it was to sit in front of the back four. To me, that shows that Hutchings sees O’Keefe as being technically better than Bradley but yet he still won’t play him from the start. Very odd.

Walsall vs Norwich City Preview

Neil @ 7:08 pm Sunday 24 January 2010

So, here we are, sitting just 5 points clear of Oldham, in the last relegation place, and 4 clear of Brighton, Orient and Gillingham. We have two games in hand on the first three of those teams and three games in hand on the Kentish men (or are they men of Kent? Never could remember the difference). Seems to me that we need to win those games in hand. Trouble is, of course, that two of those games are third place Charlton at home and leaders Norwich at home. Think we could do with a win on Tuesday night when the East Angilans are the visitors.

Rumours are abounding on the message boards about the impending departure of players before the transfer window closes, but the only worries for certain are the fitness or otherwise dangerman Steve Jones.

Jones, of course, is not just our leading goalscorer, but is probably our main creative outlet as well, so his absence with a groin strain for a month could have proven to be disastrous, if not for the weather, which has ensured that he’s only missed three games. Those three, however, included a poor performance and a home draw against lowly Orient and that terrible home defeat to an admittedly improving Brighton.

Hutchigns will also have to make a decision regarding the full backs. Sansara is surely likely to miss out, given hid display against Brighton, but Westlake too looked a little shaky in that game and was only given and easier ride by the fact that most of Brighton’s attacks came down the other flank. Weston and Vincent should, therefore, return.

The likely line up, therefore, if Jones should make it (and given the Manager’s unwillingness/inability to experiment too much) is Hutchings’ normal 4 4 2 of:

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

There’s been no word from the Norwich camp of any injuries, following their narrow home win against Brentford yesterday. What we do know, however, is that striker Grant Holt (17 goals this season) got a straight red in that game. All that means, of course, is that they will depend more on Chris Martin, who got the winner for them in that game, who has a similar number!

Manager Paul Lambert also showed his tactical nous in that game, making chcanges after the sending off to a 3 4 2 formation and still winning the game.

Predictions?

Only Brighton, Oldham, Wycombe and Stockport have a worse record than our four home wins this season. That is, of course, three of the bottom four, plus Brighton, fifth from bottom. Meanwhile, only Leeds, with 8, can beat Norwich’s record of 6 away wins and only Charlton and the Franchise can equal it. This looks ominous, so that means we’ll probably get a much needed win!

UptheSaddlers on Iphone

roger6 @ 1:50 pm Monday 18 January 2010

Two new features launching today for UptheSaddlers visitors who use iphone, android or other smartphones.

First, a mobile version of this news page, available at the same link – upthesaddlers.com

Second, if you install an app called Tapatalk, you can view and post messages to the message board. Here is a screenshot:

UTS on iphone

Full details on the message board

Saddlers 1 Brighton 2

roger6 @ 9:16 pm Sunday 17 January 2010

A lot of effort was made to get the game on. And after a long break Walsall returned to action with a defeat. Wyrley Saddler was at the game and gave these reflections via the message board

We were awful from start to finish.
Better team won.
Cracking goal by Richards (by his standards anyway)
We should have had a penalty, clear foul on Byfield.
Hutchings in clueless
We need wingers
Hughes looked like he had put on about 2stone and was knackered after 5 minutes.
We’re going to slide down the table.

Walsall vs Brighton Preview

Neil @ 12:57 pm Friday 15 January 2010

The enforced break from football caused by the freezing weather might well be over at last this weekend. There still might be threat, however, as the thaw starts and it’s complimented by heavy rain. Waterlogged pitch, anyone?

Brighton are the visitors, a team that have been struggling this season. It’s difficult to see many better games to restart the season following the enforced break, as this could be considered to be one of our easier home fixtures. A lot may depend on how much influence new Manager Gus Poyet can exert, having now been given some time to work with his squad, not to mention making some acquisitions. Whatever they’re doing, however, I hope we give them a good thumping for being the town that inflicted the odious Simon Cowell on the world, not to mention Peter Andre (born there – bought up in Australia) and Jordan (I always thought she was a Essex girl) herself. Not even the fact that Dave Gilmour lives there can make up for that.

The Saddlers should, of course, be well rested and the only absentee will be the crucial Steve Jones. He, by all accounts, wouldn’t have played in the postponed fixtures, so, as long as the key players stay fit, the games being off may not turn out to be such a bad thing after all, so important his presence is to the team, both in terms of goal scoring and creativity. He may well be badly missed for this particular match, however.

Barring any injuries picked up in training and with Till replacing Jones, then I can’t see Hutchings changing his preferred line up of:-

Ince, Weston, Hughes, Smith, Vincent, Till, Bradley, Mattis, Richards, Deeney, Byfield.

I’d like to see Nicholls given a run out, personally, but think Hutchings won’t.

Poyet has been making changes, having acquired Gavin Hoyte on loan for the whole season from Arsenal and signing defender Marcos Painter on loan from Swansea, French winger Sebastien Carole, following a trial, and experienced Spanish defender Inigo Calderon, also following a trial.

The changes he’s made, coupled with the lengthy break for the weather allowing injuries to heal, mean that the likely line up could only be guessed at.

Dangerman?

Former Birmingham veteran Nicky Forster, who has 48 goals in 112 appearances for the club – an excellent record all round.

Predictions?

After such a long break, form might well have changed, but that’s all we have to go on at the moment. The Seagulls go into this game just one place above the relegation zone, with 24 points from 24 games. That, as usual it seems, doesn’t tell the whole story, as it is their record at the Withdean that’s keeping them down there, where they have won only 2 games, drawing 2 and losing 8! Away from home, their record should be giving them a respectable mid table position, as they have won 4, drawn 4 and lost 4. 16 of their 24 points have come away from home, then, but I would hope that we would have too much for them at our place. Home win.

Norwich off

roger6 @ 2:56 pm Monday 11 January 2010

Frost to blame. Proof at http://tinyurl.com/y9wqd3z

Southend vs Walsall Preview

Neil @ 12:58 pm Friday 08 January 2010

It’ll be white, very cold, with no football going on.

Charlton game off

roger6 @ 2:55 pm Saturday 02 January 2010

Today’s game with Charlton has been called off due to a dangerous frozen pitch. The game was postponed after a second pitch inspection at midday.

Walsall vs Charlton Athletic Preview

Neil @ 12:24 pm Friday 01 January 2010

This month is going to be something of a tester for the strength of the squad. We will be facing Norwich and Brighton at home and Southend, Leeds and Gillingham away. None of those are “gimmes” at all and the whole kit and kaboodle starts this weekend (weather permitting) with the arrival of Charlton Athletic. (The latest weather forecast, by the way, is down to -3o tonight, with a maximum of 3 tomorrow. Not too good, then).

For supporters of a certain age (me, Geoff Whiting, Pedagogue, etc), fixtures against Charlton bring back memories of one particular game. It was May the 24th 1963 at Fellows Park. It was, of course, our second season in the second tier and, thanks to the bad winter and postponements, we ended up playing our relegation rivals in the last game of the season. They wouldn’t like to admit it now, of course, as the game ranks as one of their “greatest ever” on the club website, but they promptly kicked us off the park, reducing us to ten men and won the game 2 – 1, after taking a two goal lead, Colin Taylor pulling a goal back towards the end. We duly went down on goal average (as it was then). It was little consolation (although some, at least), that the other memorable game for me was Colin Lee’s first in charge, when we dumped them out of the FA Cup!

The two clubs also have some players in common, of course, notably Mark Kinsella and Steve Gritt.

Chris Hutchings has only one injury problem for the game, but that’s a big one, with leading goalscorer and main creative outlet Steve Jones still missing with a groin strain. The Saddlers do, however, welcome new signing Clayton MacDonald back to the squad, now his move from Manchester City has been made permanent and Captain Mark Hughes back from suspension. I don’t expect many changes, however, and think we’ll see a line up of:

Ince, Weston, Smith, Hughes, Vincent, Till, Mattis, Bradley, Richards, Deeney, Byfield.

As for the opposition, they have been having a few selection problems of late, due both to injury and suspensions, but they are now easing.

Scottish International Christian Dailly is expected to be fit to partner ex Dongle Llera in defence, allowing Semedo to return to his midfield anchor role. The game will probably be a little too early for ex Leeds man Frazer Richardson and Youga but Omozusi and Basey have proved able deputies of recent times. Sam Sodje will be serving the second of his four match ban.

Burton is also available again but is struggling with a dead leg so may miss out.

The team may look something like this-:

Elliot; Omozusi, Dailly, Llera, Basey; Sam, Semedo, Bailey, Wagstaff; Akpo Sodje, Dickson.

Unfortunately it looks as if Saddler fans will not get any opportunity to boo former Saddler Dion Burton (who I always thought was a better player than we gave him credit for), or the hated diver Izale McCleod, who is on the verge of a move to Scotland – and good riddance.

Predictions?

Charlton go into this one in second place, but with Norwich and Colchester breathing down their necks. Their away record is what interests us for this one, of course, and that is Played 12, Won 5, Drawn 5, Lost 2, with 18 goals for and 13 against. It seesm that their defence does give you a chance, but I think we’ll struggle to get more than a point from this one – if the game goes ahead at all!

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