Last minute disappointment at the weekend as the Saddlers crashed to their second home defeat in five days. WFC Rob was there and offered this assessment via the message board:
One bad result is an excusable bad day at the office. Two home defeats in the space of five days however, suggests there’s something genuinely wrong.
Again, we didn’t play that badly, but we did seem to get completely sussed out by a decent looking Carlisle side. They didn’t give us a moment’s piece to play our passing game, and had players who looked mobile and hungry – in essence, they were better at the things we’ve been praised for this season.
Our goal was an absolutely fantastic team goal to score. The way we worked the ball wide before picking out the perfect ball into the box, Boweman’s dummy to lay things on a plate and Paterson’s finish were all absolutely spot-on, and I thought we’d kick on from there. What actually happened was, they came back fighting and we had no response. Granted, a brilliant save by their ‘keeper to keep Bowerman’s one-on-one out probably kept them in it, but we didn’t do enough to build up some momentum.
Garner and Cademarteri gave Butler and Holden a really tough afternoon with their movement and were always on the go. To add to our woes, Robson on their left tore us apart at times – hence the need to bring Purkiss off at half time. Their goal was a poor goal to give away in that Purkiss and Holden failed to make a routine clearance and they got the ball in to allow Garner to do what he does best.
What summed their approach up was the number of times the normally neat and tidy Featherstone gave the ball away. We were our own worst enemies at times by having two strikers who didn’t offer enough movement and by trying to play football in our third of the pitch, but they did play a good pressing game and we struggled to play around them.
What lost the game for me was Smith’s substitutions. Again, we’d struggled to control things in midfield, yet rather than going 4-5-1 with Baxendale and Cuvelier a bit more free to get forward in support of Bowerman, Smith swapped Baxendale for Hemmings, which meant our struggling system had to remain the same. He then took off our only goal threat for Brandy, who’s never going to score against a side whose defensive line has reverted back to the edge of their own penalty area.
Our squad lacks any kind of depth and we looked much worse when Hemmings and Brandy came on, as much as I hate to say it. To make matters worse, Hemmings attitude frankly stank – he’d put the effort in once the ball was at his feet, but spent the rest of the time sauntering around, with no desire to track his man and help out when Carlisle looked to break forward. For a player who was dropped not so long ago, we need him going out there and looking to win his place back, not sulking about like a prima dona.
The injury time winner was always likely given the way we seemed to allow every one of our attacks to stutter and break down, allowing them to break forward at will.
People will undoubtedly argue that we should play 4-4-2 as it’s a more attacking setup, but the truth is, it doesn’t work with the players we have at our disposal. We need Cuvelier to have the freedom to hurt teams in the middle, and we need Baxendale to be able to offer more than he can as a wide midfielder, which won’t happen in such a rigid 4-4-2 where both have to be very disciplined. Grigg played well today, but as the least threatening of the two strikers, should be sacrificed to allow us to go back to running games in midfield. Chambers’ return should help that, so hopefully he’s back and fighting fit sooner rather than later.
So all in all, a hugely disappointing week. Smith needs to remind himself of what impressed so much at the start of the season and revert to allowing his team to play to its strengths.