Archive for February, 2011

Walsall vs Rochdale Preview – Will Ladesma Start?

Neil @ 5:24 pm Friday 25 February 2011

A chance to get out of the bottom four presents itself tomorrow, with a game against play off chasing Rochdale. The team will certainly want to get last week’s defeat at Colchester out of their systems and get back on the good run which had seen confidence rise so much.

Of course, expectations have now been raised, with the team just one point from safety, so it was good to see the squad further strengthened this week with the acquisition of Argentinian midfielder Emmanuel Ladesma.

The 22 year old midfielder started his career with Italian side Genoa before joining QPR on a season-long loan in 2008/09. Ledesma made 23 outings at Loftus Road but a permanent switch was not agreed (mainly because Genoa wanted some £2 million for him at the time) and he returned to Genoa before enjoying further loan spells with the likes of Salemitana, Novara Calcio and FC Crotone.

He was released by the Italian outfit last month and, amid interest elsewhere, arrived at the Banks’s Stadium on trial two weeks ago having initially been looked at by Brighton. Should the international clearance be obtained, Ledesma could make his debut in Saturday’s game.

Dean Smith said: “Emmanuel has great technical ability. He is good with both feet, can score goals and will certainly give us something different. We spotted him playing for Brighton reserves and nipped in to bring him here. He has fitted in extremely well and things have developed from there. The lad can certainly do a job for us and this is an exciting signing for the club.”

Wel will be forced to make at least one change for the match following Matt Gill`s return to Norwich. Dean Smith has a decision to make as to who fills the void, with Richard Taundry favourite to move inside from the right and lex Nicholls revert back out wide, or Ladesma come in there, if cleared to play in time
.
Fit-again Jason Price, who returned to the bench against Colchester after a sore Achilles, should come in to take his place alongside Jon Macken in attack.

Darren Byfield has resumed full training after five months out with a knee injury, although this weekend is likely to come too soon for the captain. Next Saturday`s trip to Swindon is a more realistic date for his involvement.

Rochdale manager Keith Hill has no major concerns ahead of the game.
Midfielder Brian Barry-Murphy sustained a cut above his eye in the recent home victory over Sheffield Wednesday and was replaced after just 11 minutes by Matty Done. He looks certain to be available but Done, who had a hand in both goals in a highly impressive performance, is pushing hard for a starting berth.

Predictions?

Rochdale are still harbouring play off hopes, but that looks unlikely when you take a close look at their record. At home, they’ve won won 6, drawn 6 (far too many) and lost 2, while away from home, they have the perfect mid table record of won 5, drawn 5, lost 5. If they are going to do anything this season, they would have to look at an away fixture at Walsall as one they have to take something from. The Saddlers are, however, already a much different proposition from the team that lost 2 – 3 to them away earlier in the season and I think we can win this one.

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Colchester 2-0 Walsall

Exile @ 9:44 am Tuesday 22 February 2011

An away defeat that didn’t feel so bad? Paradox? No, a measure of the way we’ve become a club transformed since Hutchings was given the heave-ho just in time to join his old mate Jewell. Fans have become pragmatic instead of suicidal, and the effort is plain for all to see.

UTS regular Stu made a last-minute decision to go to Colchester. Albatross. He made these comments on the message board, and if you click the following link you too can have your say, once you log in or register

Well, back home now having made a spur of the moment decision to go about 12.30…

A little disappointing in the sense that we offered nothing going forward really. One of those occasions when we could have played for 90 weeks and not scored, let alone 90 minutes. Lots of nice approach play at times, but we had no idea how to then create a chance… It was good positions down the flank and poor balls in or nobody to aim for, or it was just given away in the middle of the park.

This is going to sound strange, we didn’t play too badly, but to be honest, we could have lost 5 or 6 quite easily. Walker made 3 good saves, they missed a sitter from 6 yards after 2 minutes, Lancashire flicked a header onto the inside of his own post and twice they went around Walker only to see Butler and then Gill clear off the line. They seemed to cruise around in 3rd gear for 90 minutes, yet still had the skill, guile and movement to carve us open at times.

For me, the balance of the team was wrong again. Taundry might run around, he might be a little terrier but he has no output or quality to his play, but putting him on the right wing is just soft as he continually comes inside. I lost count of the number of times Westlake had the ball with no option in front of him but to hoik it 20/30 yards down the flank or come back inside. On a big pitch like that, it was crying out for two traditional wingers, I was hoping to see Grigg or Price come on for Taundry and move Nicholls to the right flank for some pace.

The ref was poor, but we can’t blame him for the result, as said, they could have had 5, 6 or 7 today. The first goal was contenious in that Butler was claiming a goal kick, but the Ref gave a corner. He didn’t seem to protest too much though. Corner came in, fell loose, Macken got half a clearance on it but nobody picked up their bloke on the edge of the box who rifled it in. I can’t comment on the penalty and I don’t think any Walsall fan can really, it was 70/80 yards away from us on the opposite side, however we can comment on the fact that the entire Walsall team were absolutely livid with the Linesman for giving it. For me, the players reaction was more than enough to say it must have been a poor decision and I base my decision on that.

Started out 4-4-2, appeared to go 4-3-1-2 in the 2nd half with Gray taking up a very central role behind the front two. I think that was a mistake personally, as we became really congested and no real outlet on either flank to get around the back, and we didn’t have the pace or creativity to carve them open through the middle.

Walker – Super game, made 3/4 quality blokes from angled 1v1s and a superb 2nd half save from a pull back.
Westlake – Decent game, looked solid, got caught out a couple of times but bearing in mind he had nobody in front of him at times, its not surprising.
Lescott – Okay, not great, not awful.
Lancashire – Okay, not great, not awful
Butler – MOTM, the bloke is a brick wall. Sensational goal line clearance in the 2nd half, this bloke should be signed up now and be captaining this team next season.
Taundry – Poor, sorry. He might be a Walsall lad, he might run a lot and chase and harry, but there is no quality or output in his play. Sort of reminds me of a young Dean Keates, headless chicken at times, but without Keates’ quality.
Richards – Used the ball nicely, but faded as the match went on.
Gill – Shame that we’re losing him, lots of energy although, gets around the pitch, uses the ball well. Fantastic goal line clearance in the 2nd half when he clattered into the post in the process
Gray – Good first half I though, hugged the touchline, used the ball well, tried to get to the flank but nothing really to aim for. Didn’t do much in a central position in the 2nd half
Macken – This bloke gets so much stick, but he holds a ball up well. Just as he did on Tuesday, if he doesn’t hold it up, our forward play doesn’t exist. Struggled more today, was manhandled by their centre half for 90 minutes, but again, had very little support and Nicholls couldn’t read what Macken wanted.
Nicholls – Pretty anonymous I’m afraid. Doesn’t seem to read balls or runs.

Subs:
Marshall – Anonymous
Grigg – Tried, but little success and little impact
Price – lol, the only footballer I’ve seen who seems to go backwards when he runs, the lack of pace is shocking, like Grigg, tried but little success and even less impact.

Sometimes you just have to put your hands up and admit you were beaten by a better side, today was one of those days. Could have been a lot worse, could have been 5, 6 or 7 which would have crushed morale. So, just chalk this one off and move on to the next episode of the Great Escape

PS: Chicken Balti pie was bloody awfull, worst I’ve ever tasted

Thanks, Stu. Anyone reading this far will have noticed your Bescot plug in the last line.

Colchester United vs Walsall Preview

Neil @ 12:22 pm Friday 18 February 2011

Just how important those two games against Bristol Rovers and Carlisle were is shown up by another statistic this weekend. We improved our goal difference by 7 over those two games, to -16. All well and good, you might say, but why is that so important? Well, tomorrow we go to Colchester one point behind Swindon and just three behind Plymouth and Yeovil. Neither have those have a game, they have a goal difference just 1 better than ours and we have scored more goals than either. A win, difficult as it might be, and we would have no fewer than 5 teams below us, should Swindon lose at home to Carlisle.

Even more exciting, we’d only be three points behind Sheffield Wednesday, who also don’t play tomorrow and whose next game is Tuesday, away at second place Bournemouth. The same night, Plymouth will use one of their games in hand – away at leaders Brighton. It’s just a pity that an away fixture at Colchester is so difficult, but difficult isn’t impossible!

Dean Smith’s improvements to the performances and the squad aren’t he only thing standing us is good stead at the moment – he’s also having a run of luck. Jason Price, who missed the Dagenham game with a hamstring strain should be fit, as should Julian Gray, who picked up and ankle knock on Tuesday night. That means that Darren Byfield is the only player missing – and he should be returning to full training next week.

Doubtless Tom Williams will be itching to get a game, so the choices at full back would seem to be Smith’s main areas of concern.

As for the opposition, Pat Baldwin and Steven Gillespie face late fitness checks ahead of the game. Defender Baldwin was ruled out of Tuesday night’s 2-0 defeat at Notts County with an Achilles problem and striker Gillespie was sidelined due to a minor hamstring injury.

Winger Ashley Vincent also missed out through illness but has resumed training and should be involved.

Defensive pair Magnus Okuonghae and Brian Wilson are close to returning from their lengthy spells out with ankle injuries, although they will probably need a reserve game under their belts.

Kem Izzet is pushing for a recall after dropping to the bench in midweek, while fellow midfielder John-Joe O’Toole remains a long-term absentee with a cruciate injury.

Predictions?

Colchester are sitting comfortably in mid table, five points off the play offs and ten clear of the relegation zone, in 11th place. They have a traditional record for a mid table side, strong at home (W7, D6, L2), weak away (W3, D5, L6). So, only two defeats, one to high flying Huddersfield, the other to a team just six points better off than us, Brentford. A difficult game for us, then and a draw would seem to be the best we can hope for from this one. A win and I’d be dancing in the streets with the implications for the Great Escape.

Walsall vs Dagenham and Redbridge – Report

Neil @ 10:26 am Wednesday 16 February 2011

A desperately needed win finally came about last night, courtesy of as good a lay off as you’re ever likely to see from Macken and a cool finish from substitute Will Grigg. The team walked off to the strains of the theme from “The Great Escape” and, after this, it’s on!

Up until the goal, it had looked as if the Daggers’ totally unambitious attempt to come for a draw and depend solely on set pieces for any scoring attempt might work out, as everyone seemed to have left their shooting boots at home.

Latviancheese sums it all up:

Well i just got in and ive lost me voice. Cracking.

We battered em in terms of doing anything, they had turned up for a point. Oddly. We played well without scoring until Grigg scored. They never let their heads drop, especially Macken, who should have had a hat trick.

Relief when the goal went in, utter relief. Everyone put in a shift.

Walker – Offside or not that save in the first half was immense. Didnt have much to do but did it all with no fuss.
Westlake – Love him as a player. Does the job, no fuss and gets forward.
Butler – Immense as a captain. Even had a cheeky smile when he got his backside out.
Lancashire – Always has one error at least, but is solid for the rest of the game. Turns like a lorry.
Lescott – Pretty decent game by his standards.

Gray – If his run and shot had gone in at the end it would have been brilliant. He had a good game for me, put in a shift when needed.
Gill – Keeps it ticking.
Richards – much the same, went on a few runs.
Taundry – Utter pap for 80 mins and had a great last 10 minutes! No wide player at all.

Macken – Utter class at getting the ball and laying it off. He never shoots. Ever. Needs a better striker to play off him.
Nicholls – Bloke will never make it, but he had a few nice touches.

Subs
Grigg- Daint do alot, oh but he scored. I thought he’d curled it wide :D Great finish. Get in.

Dagenham are the worst team. They are crud. Utter crud. If we had our shooting boots on it could have been four at half time.

Walsall vs Dagenham and Redbridge Preview

Neil @ 9:51 am Tuesday 15 February 2011

The pressure is well and truly on tonight. The trouble with the position the Saddlers found themselves in at the beginning on Dean Smith’s reign is that when you are rock bottom, the only way is up (as long as you get rid of the root cause, in the shape of Chris Hutchings). Now, however, the expectations have been raised by a good run, there are more bodies through the turnstiles and we will be going into tonight’s game against Dagenham and Redbridge as favourites. That means a completely different mindset for both the players and the Manager and will be a really big test for Smith. The advisory role of Chris Nicholl may be crucial here.

At least we will be going into this game with some reinforcements on board, in the shape of Tom Williams. The much travelled former Peterborough man is likely to go into the side (as long as clearance is received) at left back, although he can also cover for the increasingly important figure of Julian Gray on the left side of midfield.

The arrival of Williams also gives the option, if Smith feels it is necessary, of resting the still young Westlake on occasion by switching Lescott to right back.

Smith does have no injury worries for the game, other than long term absentee Darren Byfield.

As for the opposition, Dagenham boss John Still will welcome Danny Green back into his squad. The 22-year-old midfielder has missed the last three games through suspension following his sending-off against MK Dons on January 22, but could go straight back into the starting line-up.

Defender Scott Doe is doubtful with an arm injury sustained during the 2-1 win over Yeovil on Saturday. However, he will be given as much time as possible to prove his fitness and will undergo a fitness test prior to kick-off.

Midfielder Peter Gain will sit out the second game of his three-match ban following his sending-off at Oldham on February 5, while striker Josh Scott is out for the rest of the season with a blood clot.

Predictions?

Dagenham go into this one a point ahead of us, with three games in hand. Away from home, they have won 3 (at Yeovil, Hartlepool and Carlisle), drawn 3 and lost 8. After tonight it simply has to be lost 9. Nothing else will do.

Ex Posh Man Tom Williams Signs Up

Neil @ 2:29 pm Monday 14 February 2011

Dean Smith today acted to plug another one of the gaps in the squad by signing former Peterborough United left back Tom Williams, partner of Page 3 model and “I’m A Celebrity . . .” star Nicola Mclean. (At least she’ll improve the view at the Banks’s!

Williams was released by Peterborough last summer and had been offered a six month contract by Bristol City. Keith Millen, who was Assistant Manager at the time said of him:

“We know what he can do and he’s an established Championship player and it does give us competition on the left hand side.”

Dean Smith could use almost exactly the same words, I suspect!

Whilst at Bristol City, he had a loan spell at Colchester, making some 9 appearances.

Williams, 30, started his professional career at West Ham and has also played internationally for Cyprus.

Walsall 0-1 Bournemouth: Speed Bumps

Exile @ 9:44 am Monday 14 February 2011

On the road to progress there’s always a sleeping policeman, and rather than go and catch real criminals they’ve tripped up Walsall, at home no less, to the Cherries, no less. No poll this week as I can’t be bothered but if I had the question would have been something about whether or not we deserved a point or three. Talk about it on the messageboards if you want.Here’s a link to an appropriate starting point in the thread concerned

This match saw me tossing up a few reports. I’m using just one. Step forward out-of-borough UTS regular, the saddler known as brummie:

On the football side of things first half was really pleasant viewing, we had a lot of the ball in good areas and probably could of scored on a few occasions, we are fortunate the linos view wasnt blocked as there was 3 players in his way when the player handled it in.

I thought at half time we got a great chance to win here, kicking towards are fans and us being excited by them and us creating a fantastic atmosphere.

Now for the fans. This won’t go down well but its how I feel.

A lot more fans there today was nice to see, plenty of rows standing up so I thought game on plenty more willing voices, but for some reason it was poor from our regular section, songs were dying down half way through for no reason, I got the vibe that everyone thought we were no longer in a battle and were safe, we are not,

At half time I couldn’t wait to absolutely raise the roof and see home a massive and much needed 3 points, but to my amazment everyone sat down and told me to do the same. I couldn’t believe, I know we don’t play, but we make a massive difference and we need. To use every strength we have, like I said we are not safe, every game is a cup final.

The thing that completly angered/frustrated/confused me i carnt decide, but when we went a goal down people then got off there backsides and help the lads to try and get a point

Like I said I know were not the ones scoring the goals but we can make a big difference, let’s not forget we are not out of this every game should be a cup final

Got my tin. Hat at the ready

I’m thinking this was a game we might have grabbed a point from, but I’m not overly concerned we got nothing out of it, unlike many home defeats under Dean Smith’s predecessor. Well tried, the lads.

Walsall vs AFC Bournemouth Preview

Neil @ 1:53 pm Friday 11 February 2011

There’s a big test for the improved Dean Smith Saddlers tomorrow, with the visit of high flying Bournemouth – proving that falling into financial difficulties isn’t a permanent disability for even a lower league club and that the appointment of a good manager (the departed Eddie Howe) can mean an awful lot to a side.

The man given the job of taking over from Howe is, of course, former Saddler Lee Bradbury. Bradbury had an eight-match spell with us back in 2003/04 (seven starts, one sub appearance and one goal), and was, briefly, a team-mate of Dean Smith during their playing days at Sheffield Wednesday. Let’s hope his visit to the Banks’s as a manager is as unproductive as his stay as a player!

Smith will welcome back Jason Price as Walsall look to extend their unbeaten run to five games. The on-loan forward was ineligible for last Saturday’s 3-1 triumph over parent club Carlisle under the terms of his switch from Brunton Park.

That just leaves long term absentee Darren Byfield on the sidelines, although, having revealed he thought he was facing retirement, the Saddlers captain has now stepped up his training having undergone career-saving sugar injections which have strengthened his knee. He is now hoping to return to the squad in a couple of weeks as he builds up his fitness levels.

Lee Bradbury could hand new signing Mathieu Baudry his debut. Defender Baudry, 22, goes into the squad following his arrival from French club Troyes, joining fellow new signing Ben Williamson, who will be hoping for a more prominent role following his debut in injury time of the 1-1 draw with Leyton Orient last weekend.

Full-back Rhoys Wiggins, who has missed the last three games with a thigh injury, should return to the starting line-up in place of Warren Cummings.

Goalkeeper Dan Thomas, defender Ryan Garry, midfielder Mark Molesley and strikers Jayden Stockley and Steve Lovell are unavailable. Thomas has joined Dorchester Town on loan, where he will link up with team-mate Stockley, who has extended his loan with the non-league side. Garry has begun rehabilitation from a nerve problem in his shin, while Molesley and Lovell, despite stepping up their comebacks from injury, will not be available for selection.

Predictions?

Bournemouth go into this one in second place, with 50 points from their 29 games. Only Huddersfield of the top six, however, have a worse away record, as Bournemouth have won 3, drawn 6 and lost 5 on the road. In other words, they have only gained one more point on their travels than we have! This one looks like a draw to me, which , if we win on Tuesday, won’t be a bad result at all.

Cherries & Daggers: £25 only the pair!

Exile @ 9:47 am Tuesday 08 February 2011

Great news for Saddlers fans as the club announce a double game link-up, so fans can catch Bournemouth this weekend, then Dagenham & Redbridge on Tuesday for the great value price of just £25 for the pair!

All the details on the official site here

What better way to check out the difference Dean Smith has made than to get a double dose of the Saddlers at The Banks’s Stadium on Saturday against high-flying Bournemouth, then on Tuesday against relegation hopefuls D&R? Go on – you know it makes sense!


Two game link-up?
  • I was going anyway (48%, 95 Votes)
  • I'll be there! (27%, 54 Votes)
  • Get stuffed, I'm a stayaway (25%, 48 Votes)

Total Voters: 197

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Carlisle 1-3 Walsall: Time to believe?

Exile @ 5:24 am Sunday 06 February 2011

The exhilaration of watching Dean Smith’s new look Walsall is clear from reading fans’ posts all over the internet. What’s essentially the same team that looked hapless under the (more hapless) managerial reign of Hutchings looks fresher, committed and coordinated under Smith. That was rammed home after our first double of the season, away at Carlisle. Has it changed your mind on our prospects?


Still looking like relegation material?
  • No, we'll fight on and survive (63%, 282 Votes)
  • erm, I'm still on the fence (27%, 120 Votes)
  • Yes, we're going down (10%, 46 Votes)

Total Voters: 448

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UTS regular cumbria-saddler was at the game, and wrote this great summary (apart from inexplicably missing Gill’s individual summary!):

Brilliant!
Thats the best 90 minutes ive seen Walsall play for ages!

Great team performance, all worked for each other. Special mention to Julian Gray, Butler, Nicholls and Gill who i thought were all great today. Butler or Gray for my MoM. Neither keeper had many saves to make though, think we must have scored all of our shot on target because i dont remember their keeper doing anything.
What a difference to the style of football aswell, everythings on the floor now.

Walker – Did what he had to do, which wasnt that much. Pulled off a great save in injury time though which would have put us under a lot of pressure if they’d have scored.
Westlake – Did well, looked good going foward aswell.
Lancashire – Did well too, looks more solid than Manny Smith did when i last saw him play.
Butler – Won everything in the air today, and made a few important tackles too. Great leader, get him signed up for next season now!
Lescott – Best ive seen him play. Made a few errors when he tried to pass the ball out of defence and gave the ball away towards the end of the game too. He looked good going foward at times too. But today also showed that we need a left footed left back because this is what let him down most.
Taundry – I dont know if he was meant to be playing in the right or in the middle. Very quiet, but put the cross in for the first goal i think.
Richards – anonymous today. Didnt really get on the ball. Gave the ball away often when he did get it. Definatly our worst player today(..and im not part of the anti-Richards group either)
Gray – brilliant. He was everywhere in the second half. Left wing, Right wing, through the middle. He linked up well with Nicholls at times aswell. When ive seen him before he’s not being bothered but today showed what he can do and what the team can do when they get the ball on the floor.
Macken – held the ball up well at times. He seemed too hesitant to shoot though. When we were 3 up the ball came across to him in the area and instead of hitting it first time he took a touch and lost it.
Nicholls – again, another one who was good today. His touch let him down a few times, but he chased everything and deserved a goal, i thought.

Marshall – strange substitution i thought, I’d have taken off Richards instead of Gill, but then again, im not the manager. but when he came on he got foward a few times. Did what he had to/
Grigg – didnt have a lot of time to do much.

Well done to all the Saddlers who made the long trip up here aswell. Singing all the way through the game.

Up the Saddlers!

Talk about it more on the messageboard: match thread link here

Good to see that there’s a massive lift in form, and a change in fortune to match. Well done to Dean Smith and the team. Thank you all.

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