Archive for January, 2011

Saddlers hit Rovers for six!

roger6 @ 10:45 pm Saturday 29 January 2011

In the depths of despair comes a ray of light and magnificent triumph. Today the Saddlers shocked the football world by hitting six at Bescot to climb off the bottom. So many fans are on the message board it is struggling to cope with the demand, but one who was there today and did manage to post and give his view on the action was Kshammer:

Absolutely brilliant today and can’t praise the lads and the management team enough. I’m forgetting all the JB/relegation etc etc and enjoying this for what it was and that was our best performance for a very long time. Smith has had an impact – no doubt – and if nothing else it looks like they will fight and try to play, at the very least, from now until May. With the chances we had (particularly Price early on, Gray going through late on and passing for Macken plus the one that somehow spun over), it could have been 7 or 8. Also must mention the fans. A good sing song and a bit of positivity and I think the club should try and whip a bit of that atmosphere up by playing on the whole ‘great escape’ idea.

Bevan – The one weak link for me. I really don’t think he’s any better than Brain.
Westlake – Made a couple of poor defensive decisions (nothing that can’t be ironed out as he gets older) but did ok, particularly when going forward.
Lescott – Did ok, not bad.
Butler – MOM and led by example. He’s got his weaknesses but noone can question his desire and he headed and tackled everything today and fully deserved his goal(s?). He was just what we needed and will thrive under Smith.
Lancashire – Did well, similar to Butler and was steady enough.
Nicholls – Grew into the game and once we were ahead looked dangerous. If he plays with confidence he could be a player but doesn’t do it enough.
Gray – Played well and got into good positions and caused Rovers problems. Fantastic finish for his goal and actually put a shift in with his closing down.
Richards – Looked lively and as usual, anything good we did involved him. Good finish for his goal and surely now everyone realises how important he can be to us.
Gill – Another who grew as the game went on. Finished well for his goal and was impressive with his work rate and passing.
Macken – I’m not his biggest fan but he put a real shift in today and got about their defenders. Lovely flick for Gills goal and showed real quality at times.
Price – Hope the goal will go to him as he deserved it. Messed one early chance up but didn’t let it get to him. Led the line brilliantly, strong, backed in and tried to do the right thing each time he had the ball. i was really impressed with him.

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Walsall vs Bristol Rovers Preview

Neil @ 12:02 pm Friday 28 January 2011

It might be as good as over tomorrow. Look at it logically, it’s not because it’s a relegation six pointer (which it also is), but because we have to target team higher up the Division than that. We are 10 points behind Swindon and 12 behind Tranmere. Both are at home, Swindon to Exeter (13th and with 7 away defeats from 13 games) and Tranmere to Rochdale (9th with 5 away defeats in 13 games). Both would consider those games to be winnable. With our appalling goal difference, even a draw for us and a win for them would leave us 5 wins short of overtaking both. That is the total number of games we have won in the first 26 games this season.

Dean Smith will, presumably, be throwing in his latest signing, Jason Price, I suspect for Will Grigg. As well as the lad has done, a relegation fight in a team short on confidence is no place to start blooding youngsters too often and a rest may well do him good.

The squad will also, it seems, be boosted by the news that Jimmy Walker has signed until the end of the season. That, as I write, is still to be confirmed by the club, but we do know that Dean Smith was involved in talks with Wacka this week.

As for other changes, I thing that Lancashire may well keep his place in order to deal with the movement of Kuffour.

The likely line up, then, is:

Walker, Westlake, Lancashire, Butler, Lescott, Nicholls, Gill, Richards, Gray, Price, Macken.

That may change, of course, should any more signings turn up today!

New Rovers manager Penney will be hoping have two new faces the game. With Chris Lines starting a two-match ban, a central midfielder is top of the manager’s priority list. He also hopes to be able to lure a big striker to the club before the deadline and then add a right-winger before the transfer window closes on Monday.

Lines, who picked up his 10th yellow card of the campaign in last Saturday’s 3-1 win over Swindon Town, will join central defender Danny Coles on the sidelines.

“We have a problem in central midfield that we are trying to address and hopefully will get a couple of people in before the weekend to make us stronger in that area and up front,” said Penney. “The January window is a difficult time because people are looking for permanent deals rather than loans. We have four loan players already and you are only allowed five, so one would have to permanent. We are still a little bit light and need a bit of experience in both areas if we can to give me options, whether they start or are on the bench. We haven’t got a natural wide right midfielder either, so that is another area I’m looking at. Once the window closes, we have seven days before the loan market is available again, but I’d like to get two in by this weekend if we can. We have been looking at various players and have different options – it just depends on the phone calls we get back.”

Predictions?

We’ll win. We have to.

Jason Price Joins

Neil @ 11:45 am Friday 28 January 2011

Walsall have made another signing today with the acquisition, on loan, of the experienced Jason Price. A 33 year old, 6 foot 2 inch striker or midfielder, the much travelled Price should bring more experience to the squad.

The Welsh native unsurprisingly started his league career in Wales with Swansea City back in 1995. His first-team debut came in January 1997 as a late sub in a 2-0 win over Doncaster Rovers. He made just one more appearance that season and it wasn’t until the following campaign that he established himself as a first team regular at the Vetch Field.

That second season saw Jason make 37 first-team appearances and his performances were enough to earn a call-up to the Wales U-21 side, earning the first of seven caps in April 1998 against Italy.
Price gained promotion out of League 2 (Third Division) back in the 1999/2000 season with the Swans. After six years with the Welsh team and a short spell at Brentford, Price moved north to join Tranmere Rovers.

The 33 year old spent two years at Prenton Park before being signed by Peter Taylor for Hull in 2003. During his time with Hull, Price would play a major part in helping the Tigers to earn back-to-back promotions from League 2 up into the Championship.
Price’s nice habit of picking up medals continued following his move to Doncaster Rovers in 2006.

In his first full season with Rovers, Price helped them defeat Bristol Rovers to win the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy at the Millennium Stadium.

The following season, Price was part of a Rovers outfit who overcame Leeds United in the League 1 Play-Off final to secure their promotion into the Championship for the first time in over 50 years.

In 2009, Price ended his association with Doncaster and moved south to join League 1 Millwall. Price started last season at the New Dean but ended it at his current club, Carlisle United, via a brief loan spell with Oldham Athletic.
His move to Carlisle was also a loan spell initially, but following his release from Millwall in the summer of 2010, Cumbrians manager Gregg Abbott snapped Price up on a one year contract.

Walsall vs Oldham Athletic Report

Neil @ 9:16 am Wednesday 26 January 2011

The improvement is certainly there in terms of performance, but, unfortunately, results still aren’t catching up. A 1 – 1 draw isn’t really good enough, but, it has to be said, this is the kind of game we were losing earlier this season.

The match report comes from Pedagogue:-

I suppose that, on balance, it was a fair score but we COULD have won it. Oldham were a well-organised pacey team and you could see why they are highly placed in the league. Their skipper, Reuben Hazell was a class act at the back and Chris Taylor always posed a threat in attack. However, Hazell’s centre-back partner, Neal Trotman, was little more than a lumbering thug. He would have been better off doing his summer job, giving rides to kids on Blackpool beach. How on earth he avoided being cautioned, at the very least, I’ll never know – poor refereeing.

On to the super Saddlers – same as previous games – we actually played good football for most of the match (totally unlike the Hutchings era). However, we are nervous in defence and lack an incisive finisher.

Walker – did nothing wrong and was vocal

Westlake – had his hands full with Taylor but played well. His goal was a cracker, from 20 yards out – probably clinched the sponsors’ MotM award.
Lancashire – generally steady but one terrible slip, on the hour, let Oumare Tounkare in for a clear run on goal but Wacka came to the rescue.
Butler – very basic but defended well and set a good captain’s example – my MotM, shading it just ahead of Westlake.
Lescott – did what he had to – and nothing more.

Nicholls – wide right, threatened a lot but delivered little.
Gill – who? totally anonymous – no surprise when subbed off – badly at fault with Filipe Morais’s goal for the visitors.
Richards – same as ever – always looked comfortable on the ball but couldn’t tackle his way out of a wet paper bag – the best of the midfield four but that’s not saying much.
Gray – they marked him tightly as they had obviously watched us, last Saturday. Showed a lot more appetite for the game but never really opened them up.

Macken – age has really caught up with him, I feel. Tries hard but never looked a threat.
Grigg – frustrating – always needs that extra split second on the ball. Hopefully, the sharpness will come with match experience.

Marshall (on for Gill) – didn’t really have time to get involved.

There were more positives than negatives, tonight, but time is running out, I’m afraid. Who knows, maybe a win against the Gas on Saturday might just be the vital confidence-booster?

Walsall vs Oldham Athletic Preview

Neil @ 9:51 am Tuesday 25 January 2011

The way that the results panned out on Saturday makes relegation look almost inevitable. It wasn’t just our defeat, albeit narrow, at Exeter, but also Tranmere’s totally unexpected win against Southampton, a team who had been flying up until that moment.

Those results have left us nine points short of safety, which means, in effect four wins, because of our terrible goal difference. To put the task into perspective, we will have to win four more games than Swindon, in the last “safe” spot, from our last 21 games, when we have only managed five wins in the previous 25. Dean Smith has managed to improve the performances, but only an incredible improvement in results can save us now.

That all makes tonight’s game so important. We have twelve home games left, the majority of our remaining fixtures, and need to win 8 or 9 of them.

The return of Chris Nicholl as an adviser at the club should, at least, mean that the leaky defence may start shipping fewer goals, as should the acquisition of Matt Gill, but we haven’t bee scoring enough either and we need more strengthening yet.

Dean Smith has no new injury or suspension concerns against Oldham for what is the first game of a crucial home double-header for Walsall this week, with Bristol Rovers next up on Saturday.

Jimmy Walker (hamstring) and Richard Taundry both returned to the starting XI for Saturday`s 2-1 defeat at Exeter and it’s likely that Smith will name an unchanged side

On-loan midfielder Matt Gill is in line for his home debut having made his first outing against the Grecians at the weekend. Striker Darren Byfield remains the club`s only absentee as he battles to recover from his lengthy stint on the sidelines with a knee injury.

As for Oldham, they will be without striker Warren Feeney. Feeney is absent with an ankle injury he sustained in the 2-1 home win over Brentford on Saturday which forced him to limp off in the second half and could be out for two weeks.

On-loan Preston centre-back Neal Trotman could be available despite going off with a tight hamstring 10 minutes from time at the weekend. If Trotman fails to recover in time manager Paul Dickov has confirmed second-year scholar James Tarkowski, 18, who came on for Trotman to make his first appearance for the club, will start.
Dickov told the club’s official website:

“Tarky (sic) came on and did ever so well winning headers and making blocks so let’s chuck him in. What’s the point having these young players in the squad if you are not going to give them a chance. We trust him. He is a good kid with a great attitude.”

Predictions?

Oldham are 8th in the table, with an away record of Won 4, Drawn 3, Lost 4. They are a very tough proposition and, on form, we stand no chance. Mind you, that’s what we thought at The Valley, wasn’t it?

Exeter 2-1 Walsall: Down and out?

Exile @ 7:25 am Sunday 23 January 2011

Walsall travelled to depths of carrot crunching territory, bypassed the cider, ignored the cream tea and got beat. What do you think now, Saddlers fans?


Are we dead certs for relegation after the Exeter defeat?
  • Yes (76%, 306 Votes)
  • No (12%, 49 Votes)
  • Still on the fence (12%, 46 Votes)

Total Voters: 401

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Chester saddler, UTS stalwart that he is, was there, and I’ve lifted his match comments from the match thread here:

Having been encouraged by recent displays, I fancied us to get someting out of today’s game. I managed to persuade Chester Jnr to come with me and was treated to a few hours of metal on the journey.

After a promising first few minutes they took the lead with what I though was a decent goal. I think that to blame Lescott is harsh, he was just done by a good piece of play in my view.

For much of the first half we passed the ball very well and had loads of posession. Despite that it was Exeter, and Cureton in particular that had the best chances, a couple of them which really should have been put away. We still appear to be most vulnerable when we lose the ball in the opposition half. Our defence seems to be carved open far too easily.

The key moment in the match for me was just after half time when Taundry somehow managed to shoot wide from no more than 5 yards.

We dominated the second half, playing some really nice short passing football, and creating some decent half chances plus a header from 12 yards from macken (I think) which the ‘Keeper saved but should not have been given a chance. We still looked shakey when Exeter counter attacked though. I agree with Torbay Saddler aboout the second goal, we just fell asleep at a free kick. Smith must have beeen fuming.

The penalty came from one such counter attack when we had committed players forward.

With Grigg and Patterson on we continued to play positively and scored a scrappy but deserved goal. After that we had a number of half chances to level and then one great chance when Grigg had a shot saved on the line by the ‘Keeper. Had he aimed the shot either side of him we would have been leaving the ground with a point.

Although Gill had a solid debut, I still feel the defence needs a bit more protection. We seem to commit too many players forward and then when we lose the ball we are exposed.

Richards was again involved in everything and Gray played as well as I have seen him in a Walsall shirt. Grigg did really well when he came on, baffling really why Smith preferred to start with Nicholls.

Walker was not that busy but played his part with the penalty save and communication to the defence. I thought we dealt with set pieces much better than previously, which hopefully is down to the work Smith is doing.

Overall, loads of positives. Two home games next week, six points and we are still in with a shout

UTS

Loads of positives, not too many points. Will the team start to tick before the relegation clock goes TOCK?

Exeter City vs Walsall Preview

Neil @ 4:16 pm Friday 21 January 2011

Dean Smith will be starting his tenure as permanent manager tomorrow with yet another vitally important game, away at Exeter City. While Exeter are in a relatively comfortable position in the league, they are only five points clear of the relegation places, so they can be treated as a barometer of how much Smith has managed to improve the squad in his short time in charge.

He should, at least, have a fully fit squad to choose from.

The under performing Steve Jones has departed for Scotland, with memories of his performances in the first half of last season now very dim and distant and his struggles of this season more to mind. Ryan McGivern has gone back to Manchester City, which is probably no loss, as he was, without doubt, the worst Premiership full back I’ve ever seen! I think I’d even prefer Lescott at left back.

New loan signing Matthew Gill should go straight in to the side, however, against one of his old clubs and, hopefully, adding some steel and experience to the squad. Smith will also have Jimmy Walker available after injury, as he was on the bench last week (and is about to start talks on extending his contract), while Richard Taundry should also be available after his injury.

Quite what that means for tactics remains to be seen, but all of a 4 4 2, a 4 5 1 and a 4 3 3 are possible with the players available, with Gill, Taundry and Richards making up the “3” in the latter two formations.

Goalkeeper Ben Hamer is in line to make his debut for Exeter after signing on loan from Reading for three months. The 23-year-old joined from the Championship club this week following a series of spells at Brentford. His arrival could signal the end of Paul Jones’ long stint at St James’s Park, with boss Paul Tisdale confirming the keeper has declared his desire to leave in search of first-team opportunities.

Midfielder Ryan Harley has recently been the subject of heated transfer speculation and missed Exeter’s recent trips to Brentford in the league and Johnstone’s Paint Trophy. However, Tisdale remains hopeful that Harley will stay at the club and he could feature against the Saddlers on his 26th birthday. Other reports, however, suggest he has already agreed terms with Swansea, so anything could be the truth!

Predictions?

This will be a test of any improvements Smith has made. Exeter are in 16th place, with a home record of won 5, drawn 4, lost 2, scoring 22 and conceding 16. Their last six league games have been a 1 – 1 at Brentford, drawn 1 – 1 at home to the Franchise, lost 1 – 2 at home to Brighton, lost 0 – 4 at Southampton, beaten Sheffield Wednesday at home 5 – 1 and drawn 2 -2 at Bristol Rovers. On our performances so far this season, they ought to be too strong for us, so, over to you, Dean!

So, Who Is Matthew Gill?

Neil @ 2:18 pm Friday 21 January 2011

Dean Smith made his first signing today with the loan of Matthew Gill from Norwich City. Gill is described as a “competitive midfielder”, something we have needed for some time, although we could do without the side that saw him being the first player ever to be sent off at the new Wembley!

Born in Cambridge, Cambridgeshire, Gill began his career as a trainee with then league two side Peterborough United. On 25 April 1998, during the 1997–98 season, Gill broke through into Peterborough’s first team during a 3–1 loss to Torquay United. In over seven years at Peterborough, Gill made 149 first team appearances, scoring 5 goals.

In May 2004, Gill moved to league two side Notts County for the 2004–05 season. After a tough start at Meadow Lane, Gill was placed on the transfer list by struggling manager Gary Mills. In November 2004 Mills was replaced by Ian Richardson who immediately removed him from the list. Gill went on to make 57 appearances for the Magpies before being transferred to Conference National side Exeter City on 16 January 2006 during the 2005–06 season, on a free transfer.

Gill quickly established himself as a first-team regular at Exeter. He was sent off in the 2007 Conference National playoff final for a headbutt, becoming the first player to receive the red card at the new Wembley Stadium.

In September 2008, he was voted League Two player of the month, after scoring four goals in four games.

Gill agreed to sign for Norwich City on 9 June 2009 on a free transfer, which came into effect on 1 July. He made his debut in the opening day 7–1 defeat to Colchester United at Carrow Road. Injury blighted Gill’s first season at Carrow Road, and he only managed 10 appearances in all competitions. Gill particularly impressed in the 3-0 win over Bristol Rovers on 1 May 2010. He continued his role of a substitute during the 2010-2011 Championship season, making some appearances off the bench, showcasing his long throw-ins to the fans.

Gill returned to his first club Peterborough United on 23rd September 2010 on a one month loan deal and made his second debut for the Posh at home to MK Dons.

Smith Own Goal?

Neil @ 12:44 pm Friday 21 January 2011

Walsall have announced this morning that Dean Smith has been given the Manager’s post until the end of the season.

Nothing against Dean, of course, and I can only wish one of our own well, but this operative phrase in the statement has to be “until the end of the season”.

All that this will raise in the minds of Saddlers’ fans is the disastrous tenure of Kevan Broadhurst, who was also given the job “until the end of the season”. That, unfortuately, seemed to give Broadhurst no credibility with the players and the season spiralled away from there.

Even worse, of course, is that we now know that Richard Money had been the preferred candidate all along at the time, but wasn’t available until the summer, so suspicions will be aroused that the same thing could happen again.

That said, Dean has made a good start, in that the team are playing better and he has immediately realised that the squad assembled by Chris Hutchings was imbalanced and drastic action needed to be taken. All we can do is wait to see ehat the reaction is in his first game in charge tomorrow.

Walsall FC Fans Survey

Exile @ 9:16 pm Thursday 20 January 2011

The club have put a fan survey up on the official site. Follow the link to see the story and take part (enable scripts for surveymonkey if you haven’t already – it’s legit).

Please take part so the club get some decent feedback and a good set of meaningful statistics.

Link: click here!

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