Archive for September, 2010

Leyton Orient 0-0 Walsall: Groundhog Day

Exile @ 3:03 am Wednesday 29 September 2010

After close on 20 games without a clean sheet and 6 consecutive defeats, you’d think that a 0-0 draw away from home would steady the nerves, stop the rot, lead toward a bright future, etc. etc., wouldn’t you? I suggest the answer is no. There’s still a lot to do and blagging 0-0 against a team considered as a relegation candidate on the same night Carlisle put 4 unanswered goals past the side that beat us on Saturday rams it home.


0-0 at Leyton is...
  • a fluke result on the road to relegation (74%, 177 Votes)
  • a welcome turning point (26%, 62 Votes)

Total Voters: 239

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UTS regular saddlersam was at the game, and sums it up by phone on the way home, such is his dedication. Paragraphs and spacing are by the editor:

Not a great performance at all but not quite as bad as some will make out.

We just couldn’t get the ball on the deck at all, choosing to (as usual) smash it down the line to anyone daft enough to chase it. We seemed fairly up for it to start with but Orient were able to pass it round us far too comfortably at times, too much time and space on the ball. Same problems, different game.

Brain was a lot better than he has been. Got lucky with his ‘kick ‘n’ slip’ but made a terrific finger tip save over the bar midway through the second half.

Lescott gave far too much space away and McGivern’s crossing still hasn’t improved although some of his overlapping was better tonight.

Lancashire was fairly solid but there’s no communication between himself and Smith. That’s the inexperience showing for me.

Nicholls was poor on the right. He may not be a winger but he just doesn’t do anything to grab his chance. He has pace he doesn’t use and no strength whatsoever.

Richards was having to clean up an awful lot of wayward balls and Gray did some fantastic defensive work during the second half.

Davis would certainly put his foot in but never win that second ball.

Upfront I can definitely understand Reid and Macken’s frustrations, no service from the start, nothing was sticking and the latter showed it by clattering their defender early on. Was very late indeed.

On a positive note, we seemed to come alive slightly once Grigg came on and he seemed to unnerve the Orient defence in the closing stages.1 shot on target though is very poor but i’ll take the point after our recent run of poor form.

We made as much noise in the away end as we could really and regardless of the result both Hutchings and Mart have to go. I’d still feel that way had we nicked it. Apologies if this is a ramble, i’ve typed it up on my phone.

It would appear that the current injuries are causing problems as senior players remain out of the side. What might also be causing problems is the manager’s unwillingness to change what has been a losing team. Grigg, for example, as has been pointed out in the match thread here has played more for his country than his club, and this continues a longstanding Walsall tradition of being too scared to play the kids, even when it is patently obvious that the first choice team isn’t cutting the mustard. Is this poor play or poor management?

The big question remains – does a point away at Leyton constitute the turning point in what has been the worst start to a season in Walsall’s modern history or is it just a pause in a long litany of poor football? The disappointment in Leyton demonstrated here would suggest the latter.

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Orient vs Walsall Preview – Last Chance Saloon?

Neil @ 8:43 am Tuesday 28 September 2010

It’s never easy being a Walsall fan – at least, not in recent years. It’s either been a promotion campaign (under Graydon twice and Money), or a relegation scrap (some successful, some not). This season, after the decent finish last time around, we have gone backwards and, no matter what the noises coming from the Banks’s say, we are well and truly in one again.

We can all point the finger at the lack of new investment in the club on the playing side, but those are the restrictions many lower Division managers have to work with. No, Chris Hutchings has been here long enough to put his own stamp on the team and, quite frankly, it is severely wanting. The team has been crying out for a “bossy” defensive midfielder for all of last season without that lack being addressed and now the complication has been added to by having no wise head and leader in the centre of defence or in goal, something which is desperately needed. Apart from Lescott, our defence has an average age of just 21 – including both goalkeepers.

That brings us onto the record of the man responsible for the strange team building in the summer. Hutchings’ record is Played 82, Won 27, Lost 34, Drawn 21. That’s the equivalent of 1.24 points per game – just a fraction better than Mullen’s 1.20 and about the same as Merson’s 1.23. I just fail to see where we are going at the moment, as we are making little or no progress.

All of this makes tonight’s game at Orient crucial. They are a point above us and have lost at home twice already this season. Hutchings has to get something out of this game, as his job must surely be in danger otherwise.

Why?

Well, notwithstanding the performance stats given above, there is one over-riding consideration for the club. They are desperately trying to get more paying customers through the turnstiles and it just is not going to happen while our record is so bad (and, to be honest, the football so poor). Hutchings is drinking in the last chance saloon.

The Saddlers at least have no new injury worries and will be without Byfield, Taundry and Jones. That means that Hutchings’ selection choices will be limited, so he will have to think carefully about his tactics (if he can).

Orient, under Russell Slade, are likely to name the same side that beat Brentford 1-0 on Friday. French striker Jonathan Tehoue remains the only absentee as he is still sidelined with an ankle injury.

Predictions?

Slade seems to specialise in going into clubs, saving them from relegation, then starting the next season badly! He’s done it again with Orient, after keeping them up by a single point last time around. Of their four home games this term, they have won two and lost two. On that basis, normally I’d say it was time for a draw, but having seen our defending on Saturday, I’m afraid I fear the worst.

Hartlepool 2-1 Walsall: Shambles

Exile @ 10:36 pm Saturday 25 September 2010

If any game were there for the taking it was this one. As promised, the Hartlepool door was kicked in, but unfortunately the bucket of whitewash balanced on top of it ended up all over Walsall.


What next?
  • Sack Hutchings and O'Connor (59%, 271 Votes)
  • Sack Hutchings (23%, 105 Votes)
  • Just a bit longer for them to turn it round (11%, 53 Votes)
  • What are you moaning about? (7%, 33 Votes)

Total Voters: 462

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PT was at the ground and had this to say:

Blimey, that was bad.

A half decent start against a team who were obviously lacking in confidence and we thoroughly deserved our lead. Then it started to go wrong. Whilst we dominated possession for another 15/20 minutes it lacked any incision and we failed to test their keeper who had a bit of a mare for our goal. Wasteful set pieces and for some reason ridiculous show-boating by Reid and Gray meant that whilst we were on top a second never looked likely.

Hartlepool won a succession of corners and we looked so fragile you knew we’d concede and you knew it would be a set-piece. So a long throw, a loose ball and they score a loopy over-head kicky type thing.

The question we were asking ourselves at half-time was how we’d react to that set-back. The answer – we reacted like a bunch of spineless no-hopers with no sense of accountability, responsibility or intelligence. A free-kick flung to our far post and they score a free header from two yards. Brains fault? Defenders fault? I dunno, just a collective shambles.

Hartlepool came up with the tactical masterplan derived from under 11′s football. Get the big kid (Monkhouse) to pull onto the little kid (Lescott) and for the other kids to aim for the big kid. This was far too much for our players and management staff to twig, so in the end, by deploying this masterplan Hartlepool could have had 3 or 4. Reid could have bagged an undeserved equaliser at the death but that might have masked an unforgivable shambles against a really poor team.

Some of ours were calling for MOC to become manager – come off it lads, he’s part of the current mess.

I’m off the fence now, the pair of them need to go.

SIX defeats on the trot now, and Hutchings promises to look at the DVD of the game to sort things out and “eradicate the errors that have cost us”. I’d venture to suggest that Hutchings might make more sense of a game were he to open his eyes during it rather than watching it at his leisure later.

One gets the feeling the Jeff Bonser might himself be considering “eradicating the error that’s costing us”.

Hartlepool United vs Walsall Preview

Neil @ 9:48 am Friday 24 September 2010

It’s our old friends from Hartlepool this weekend, but it looks like those going to the game will end up having a competition with the locals to see who cries the most into their beer.

We may think we’re in a bad way, but the ‘Pools, having escaped relegation by the narrowest of margins last season after a points deduction for fielding an ineligible player, seem to be hell bent on achieving that distinction this time around.

Out went a total of seven players in the closed season, Ritchie Jones (Oldham, free), Ben Clark (Gateshead, free) Alan Power (Rushden, free), Jonny Rowell, Julian Cherel, Mark Cook, Matty Tymon (all released), the Manager and the Chief Executive walked out, claiming they couldn’t work with the Chairman (leaving Mick Wadsworth in charge as caretaker) and the fans were left with rumours of the owners pulling out, imminent administration, lack of funds for any new players, internal strife at the club and fans claiming they wont return until the chairman has gone! Wadsworth is not endearing himself to the faithful, as they say his tactics are incomprehensible (this sounds very familiar!). Despite all of this, they have still, however, accumulated six points this season. (Now, who else has only managed that, with far less disruption?).

The Saddlers will be without Captain Darren Byfield for two weeks, as all of our readers were aware before the club announcement, thanks to him broadcasting the fact all over Twitter. (Just why do people feel they have to live out their entire lives via Facebook or Twitter?). Taundry will also be missing and we have no news yet of our main creative spark, Jones, who is supposed to be back in training. If he is back, a reversion to 4 4 2 is on the cards, with Macken and Reid leading the line. Lancashire also may earn a recall as Smith and McDonald have bee looking shaky, although Hutchings may be wary of the possible aerial threat from Armann Bjornsson, should he play.
For Hartlepool Joe Gamble could be included in the squad, as the midfielder has made a quicker than expected recovery from an ankle injury and made a half hour appearance for the Reserves at Bradford City on Wednesday.
Adam Boyd looks set to miss out after injuring his ankle in the game at Bradford, though the injury is not as serious as first feared.
James Brown was back in training on Thursday morning, but Saturday’s game will come too soon for the attacker who has also been sidelined with an ankle problem recently. Another striker, Denis Behan, has been struggling with a back injury.
Scott Flinders underwent surgery on his injured thumb on Tuesday and joins fellow keeper Andy Rafferty in the treatment room; Blackburn loanee Jake Kean will continue in goal in what could be an unchanged line-up for Mick Wadsworth.
Predictions?
Hartlepool are two placed below us, on the same number of points, flirting with the relegation zone. They haven’t managed a home win so far this season and, if the Saddlers have anything about them at all, this is a game they should be targeting as a win. For me, everything depends on the midfield as, if we make the chances, I think we have the players to score.

Midweek News

Exile @ 9:43 pm Wednesday 22 September 2010

OK, it’s just an excuse to keep the front page ticking over really, but there’s a bit of news!

Hartlepool away offer
The fans that Hartlepool have left are as staunch as Saddlers fans, and just as likely to moan about their lot in life. Commiserate with them before the game in The Mill House, where you can have a beer, watch some poncey Premiership footie and argue who is worse off with the local friendly Poolies.

Byfield Injured
For the benefit of everyone without a Twitter account Darren will be out for about a fortnight with a knee injury.

Walsall Home Offer
The club continue their efforts to attract fans with a two game link-up for the home matches against Yeovil (2 Oct) and Exeter (9 Oct). It’s a good deal for fans of the F2G Stand – read more about it on the official site here

Birmingham Mail in Pot calls Kettle black scandal!
Mail blogger Colin Tatty wrote a long article here about how the national press ignore Midlands football. Funnily enough his article only mentions the usual suspects – Dingles, Vile, Blose and Baggies. No Saddlers. Know what, Colin, maybe they’ll start taking Midlands football seriously when you do, eh? Tell Tatty what you think – Jeef did. Comments are open on the linked page!

That’s all for now.

Walsall 1-2 Swindon: Family Fug Day

Exile @ 10:01 pm Saturday 18 September 2010

The funday curse continues as Walsall lose out 2-1 to a Swindon team that had all the fun at our expense.


Losing 5 games on the trot is...
  • Unacceptable (81%, 306 Votes)
  • Unlucky (11%, 42 Votes)
  • Unreasonable (8%, 29 Votes)

Total Voters: 377

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WFC_Rob was at the game:

Right, where to start? Well, first of all, unlike previous weeks, there can be no argument to suggest that we may have deserved to win that game – we weren’t good enough anywhere on the pitch to deserve more than a point.

For the first 25 minutes, we were dreadful. Having two oafs at centre half just isn’t getting us anywhere. All Smith & McDonald are in the team for is to win their headers and do the basic defensive stuff. They don’t do that though. All too often, it just takes a couple of yards’ movement from an opposition striker to create a decent chance. Add to that the fact that they continue to aimlessly hoof the ball forward and it’s no wonder the ball ends up in the back of our net more often than our oppositions’.

We improved towards the end of the first half as we made use of the impressive McGivern going forward, and Marshall and Davis started committing themselves forward a bit more often when we finally managed to get the ball on the floor.

We saw more of the ball in the second half and they were restricted to attacking us on the break. That said, a breakaway within a couple of minutes of our equaliser was all they needed to put us to bed.
Gray looked typically dis-interested, and Byfield looked way off the pace. Macken was neat and tidy, but he can only do so much with the service he gets. Reid added some movement to our front line when he came on, but again, we didn’t make much use of him.

It was another game where no individual was noticeably awful, but the balance just isn’t right, and the manager has to take some of the flak for that. Brain couldn’t have done anything about either goal and made one good save when their striker was clean through – proving that calls to drop him were unnecessary.

I thought McGivern and Davis showed why they’ll be returning to Premier League clubs after their respective loan spells – they were probably our 2 best players. McGivern bombed up and down the left for the whole of the second forty-five to good effect, and Davis looks every part the all-action midfielder we’ve been lacking. Richards continued his consistent form of this season with a solid performance, even if that did require him to cover here there and everywhere at times.

My biggest concern is at centre half. Smith and McDonald don’t have the concentration levels between them to shackle strikers for 90 minutes. And neither of them can play the ball along the ground into midfield, which just leaves us with the likes of Macken, Byfield and a lethargic Julian Gray chasing shadows. I can’t understand why Lancashire sits on the bench while these two morons continue to struggle at centre half. Bringing Davis into midfield has improved our ability to win the ball in the middle of the park, but we need to change things at centre half if we’re going to stop this shambles of just letting teams have free reign of dangerous areas.

The system also went completely out of the window in the second half. McGivern seemed to have the entire left side to himself, and Gray seemed to be sitting in front of the back four. Reid came on and played somewhere up front, but nowhere in particular, whilst Byfield just hovered wherever.

I’d defended Hutchings up to now, but today has made me think twice. The choice of personnel at centre half, a system which is unbalanced to say the least, and the fact that the likes of Julian Gray look like they’d rather be anywhere else than on a football pitch are all observations that the manager should have control over.

And to make things worse, we had an extra 800 or so home fans present after the efforts of the club over the last couple of weeks.What a let down

Walsall vs Swindon Town Preview

Neil @ 9:26 am Friday 17 September 2010

I left for my summer holidays after the Plymouth win feeling relatively optimistic, given a much improved performance, three points and what appeared to have been a couple of good signings. I came back to find that we contrived to lose every game in my absence! What that amounts to is, of course, a club at crisis point, as points and fans drain away.

Granted there have been a couple of good signs, as Jon Macken doesn’t seem to have forgotten where the net is during his various troubles since leaving Preston and Darren Byfield has managed to break his goal drought (and how!), but the problems we are suffering seem to be exactly the same as at the start of the season (and, to be fair, last season), namely a central midfield which is as weak as dishwater and neither creates anything for the strikers, nor gives adequate cover to the defence. Granted he’s working with crumbs from the top table, but Hutchings’ inability to tackle this problem is the biggest condemnation of his tenure at the Bescot. Our hopes at the moment seem to revolve around the likes of a 34 year old in Bryan Hughes, who has played just 118 League games in the last 6 years. Still, he might come off, if he should sign.

The questions around team selection should be easily resolved, given the continued absence of Taundry, except for the complication of Jonny Brain, of course. It’s nice to see people defending him, but, really, to give one goal away with a basic, schoolboy error is forgivable, to give two away is, quite frankly, unacceptable. If Bevan can’t do a better job than that, we are in real trouble.. I’d drop him to the reserves to get some confidence back (if only we had a reserve team playing competitive games!), but I think Hutchings won’t.

I can’t see anything much different from:

Brain, Lescott, Smith, Lancashire or MacDonald, McGivern, Jones or Reid, Davies, Richards Gray, Byfield or Reid, Macken.

As for the opposition, they will be without the dangerous Austin, who dislocated his shoulder in their first League win last week against Southampton. They do have some other well known names to Saddlers’ fans, however, in the shape of Jon-Paul McGovern, Jonathon Douglas, David Prutton and the dangerous (at this level) Vincent Pericard.

Predictions?

Swindon have had a poor start to the season, with just three draws and two defeats before last week. Strangely enough, however, their two wins, in the League and the Paint Pot Trophy, have come at the expense of Southampton. We, of course, have contrived to lose 4 of the last 5 games, however, and Danny Wilson always seems to have an Indian sign on us, having out-thought several Walsall managers in the past (mind you, that wasn’t hard in the case of Merson and Mullen!). I hate to say it, but I have a bad feeling about this.

Match Report: Rochdale v Walsall

bangsection @ 8:01 pm Saturday 11 September 2010

There’s a sign on a railway bridge on the approach to Rochdale that celebrates the part the town played in the cooperative movement. “Birthplace of Cooperation” it reads. Walsall’s goalkeeper obviously took this to heart today as Mr Brain gifted the opposition two goals in a game that the Saddlers controlled for long periods and should have won comfortably. Walsall took the lead after just four minutes when Jon Macken received a ball to feet in the box, turned smartly and beat the keeper from 8 yards. With Matt Richards sitting in front of the back four and Marshall and new boy Davis screening him we lined up in a sort of 4-1-2-3 formation with Byfield playing on the left, Macken in the middle and Gray on the right. And, to be fair, it worked reasonably well with ‘Dale appearing pretty toothless up front for large parts of the first half. Enter Jonny Brain. His first contribution was to spill a regulation catch from a corner, allowing Thompson to turn the ball home. Then, just before half time he was at it again – allowing a shot from O’Grady to squirm through his legs leaving Elding with a simple tap-in.


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Darren Byfield seemed to take this particularly badly and almost from the kick off charged at the Rochdale defence and lashed home an absolute screamer from all of 30 yards. Having gifted our hosts both their goals the Saddlers came out full of purpose in the second half and Clayton McDonald was unlucky to see his downward header hit the bar from a corner. But the big defender turned villain soon afterwards when he brought down Gary Jones as the 46-year old midfielder seemed to be going nowhere near the dead-ball line. Several Rochdale fans I spoke to afterwards queried whether the foul had been committed in the box at all but the referee pointed to the spot and Jones himself stepped up to convert it. Walsall again enjoyed plenty of possession but failed to create many chances with the referee unimpressed with Byfield’s constant claims for fouls against his marker.

So, we’re relegation certainties and Hutch has gorra gew – right? I don’t think so. ‘Dale created little of note and without Brain in goal we would have won reasonably comfortably. I’d be amazed if Bevan doesn’t start next week and let’s hope that he’s up to the job.

Positives: another smart finish from Macken, the end of Byfield’s goal drought, Davis looked decent (although on today’s evidence he’s more of a defensive midfielder than a creative playmaker) and Richards is still the best footballer at the club. This may say more about the club than him but, nonetheless, he’s an asset if used correctly.

Negatives: the game pretty much passed Marshall by, ditto Gray, and the less said about Brain the better.

Quick word for the support today which was tremendous. There seems to have been a conscious decision made to get some sort of “feelgood factor” back even if it’s an artificial one – hence the appearance of songs involving everyone from Ray Graydon and Jorge Leitao to Big Fat Jan and Gabor Bukran. Great to see so many people, er, enjoying themselves at a game – not people with their “heads in their sand” but fans who are trying to enjoy a game simply for the sake of enjoying it and giving the team their full support. Do you think it could catch on at home?

Rochdale v Walsall – Match Preview

Exile @ 12:34 am Friday 10 September 2010

Thanks due to Luke, a regular UTSer, for this preview of the match up the road at the birthplace of the inestimable Lisa Stansfield.

The Saddlers travel to Lancashire on Saturday to face newly (and finally!) promoted Rochdale. It will be the first meeting between the sides since Scott Dann’s Maradona-esque equaliser earned Walsall a point in our League Two title winning season.

As for the teams, Darren Byfield will be hoping to start after recovering from an achilles problem to come on as a substitute in last week’s miserable defeat against Colchester and David Davis will go straight into the squad following his arrival from Wolves on a one month-long loan.

Ryan McGivern and Will Grigg are also available after returning from international duty with Northern Ireland U21s, which including them both scoring in a win over San Marino last Friday.

There are three absentees, with Richard Taundry and Steve Jones both out of contention through injury, while Alex Nicholls is serving the second of his three-game ban.

Rochdale occupy ninth place in the table and go into the game on the back of impressive away league wins at Brentford and Southampton, although they went out of the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy at Port Vale inbetween. Manager Keith Hill has a full squad to choose from and will be hoping for veteran midfielder and captain Gary Jones to continue his fine start to the season, which has seen him score five goals in all competitions already.

The opposition’s other main threats will come from forwards Chris O’Grady, who was ‘Dale’s 22-goal top scorer last season, and Anthony Elding, who will be looking to resurrect the kind of form which saw him score 24 goals in 45 games for Stockport County and earn a move to the ‘mighty’ Leeds United.

As for predictions, Rochdale have picked up a solitary point from their opening two home games, with the Saddlers gaining three from our two away games. On the back of less-than-impressive performances against Chesterfield and Colchester, surely things can only get better. 2-1 away win.

For those fans who can’t make the pilgrimage, don’t forget alternative entertainment is available at the George Street Asda in Walsall, where you can watch kids trying to kick lumps out of our mascot Swifty. He’s making a personal appearance to drum up support for next weekend’s Family Fun Day at The Banks’s Stadium.

Swifty will be turning up between 11.00 and 1.00pm, while the hard-working staff and face painters will be putting in a longer shift, from 10.00am till 3.00pm. If you trot along there, you might win a chance to be a mascot for a match, or match tickets, or tickets for one of the sporting dinners that Bescot’s famous for.


The result will be a ....
  • Rochdale win (46%, 26 Votes)
  • point a piece (32%, 18 Votes)
  • Saddlers triumph (22%, 13 Votes)

Total Voters: 57

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Hughes on trial, Davis on loan

Exile @ 9:37 pm Thursday 09 September 2010

Veteran midfielder Bryan Hughes is training with the Saddlers as Hutchings casts his eye on the 34 year-old scouser. Hughes has turned out for Wrexham, Birmingham, Charlton and (most recently) Hull in his time and his experience and eye for the game could help Walsall’s youthful midfield.

At the moment things are up in the air as to whether or not he’ll cut the mustard, but if he’s not crocked expect him to be added to the squad some time soon.

Meanwhile, ex Walsall youngster David Davis has come back to Bescot following his defection to the golden boys at Molineux just over a year ago. Hutch has agreed a loan deal for the midfielder for a month, subject to premiership clearance of course. Perhaps having Mick McCarthy across the motorway will help when we’re trying to get our posh local rivals to help us out.

So, two midfielders, at different ends of the age spectrum, to shore up the middle of the park and possibly give us a chance of playing a good game of “We’ll score more than you”. Let’s hope the defence starts to gel soon and make the job a little easier.

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