Walsall vs Carlisle preview: Play well and lose?

Exile @ 1:56 am Saturday 20 November 2010

With regular Neil being missing more than Byfield, it’s another Metfanwy preview this weekend. Thanks, Bangor!

Tuesday nights performance against non-league outfit Fleetwood Town left a lot to be desired, with many Walsall supporters still unhappy with the way the team is playing. An unconvincing 2-0 win was played out in front of a small crowd, with two moments of class from Reuben Reid the difference.

So we head into tomorrow’s Coca Cola League One game against a confident Carlisle United side, who are currently on a 5 game unbeaten run in all competitions. Last weekend saw the Cumbrians run out 3-2 winners over early season promotion favourites Southampton: no mean feat.

Carlisle come into the game with a close to full strength outfit. Highly rated striker Gary Madine went off in the victory over Southampton with a slight knock, but makes the squad for Saturday’s game. The only real selection issue for Carlisle will be whether James Chester will continue in the left back role.

The impressive part about Carlisle’s recent form is that the extremely experienced midfield duo of Graham Kavanagh (our old friend) and Paul Thriwell have been missing due to injury. Quality left-back Sean McDaid (former Doncaster Rovers) is out, as well as striker Richard Offiong. Players to look out for include deadly striker Francois Zoko and creative midfielder Matty Robson, who will cause problems.

What about us? Darren Byfield has been set back in his comeback from injury, and will be out for a further month. Clayton MacDonald, Jon Macken and Martin Devaney have been struggling with injuries, and may make the game. One player absent from the midweek win over Fleetwood was Ryan McGivern due to first team duty for North Ireland and he will still be unavailable due to suspension. William Grigg also returns from International duty, but he never plays. Andy Butler should make his Bescot bow, after missing the FA cup tie due to his ineligibility.

Carlisle should therefore line up: Collin, Simek, Murphy, Michalik, Chester, Taiwo, Berrett, Marshall, Zoko, Madine, Grella. It’s a bit trickier to predict how we might play, it is very much dependent who is available after injury. The return of Martin Devaney may push us back into a 442 formation, after the midweek 433.

Hutching’s bemusing quote of the week comes from the E and S. According to Oliver Lancashire: ‘The manager has been saying that we had been playing well and losing’. We haven’t been playing well..and we have been losing. Also, Oliver may have been tired after training for he also came out with this intriguing quote: ‘Carlisle are a similar team to us, with a similar budget I expect, and it’s good to see a team like that doing well. Similar budget? Really?

The money spent on Kevan Hurst and the signing of very good league one players such as Sean McDaid, Paul Thirlwell, Graham Kavanagh and Franky Simek show the Carlisle board have invested in their side with good results. Carlisle are currently 2 points from the automatic promotion places and the their owners should be congratulated. Let’s hope our owner and board of directors can show similar investment and deliver decent football to a public that has been humiliated by performances this season.

Prediction? We have the lowest scoring record in the division – just 15 goals – against the 3rd best defence in the league. The stats suggest we should lose again, but I am going for a draw. My reasons? It surely can’t get any worse.

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A season of two halves

Exile @ 2:14 am Wednesday 24 March 2010

Another season is fast disappearing up it’s own backside and we’re well placed for midtable mediocrity, based on average performances. On the face of that’s much better than a relegation challenge, but after a couple of years of standard preseason sound bites from Roy Whalley about promotion, that’s cold comfort indeed.

The problem with the first paragraph is ‘average performances’. On results so far we’re on 47 points, 10 off relegation and cruising into the home stretch. Trouble is, if we look at how that season has progressed we see two very distinct halves.

In the first 19 games we gained 30 points, helped along by the November purple patch that gave us some hope for the rest of the season. We defeated Yeovil away to round off that half season on the 1st of December.

Since then we’ve played 18 games, won only 4, been dumped 9 times and gained only 17 points, including an 8 game streak without a win. Luckily we made those points in the first half of the season, as that’s relegation form whatever way you look at it. On this basis we’ll be lucky to see 55 points by the end of the season, and we’re doubly lucky that there’s some runaway good teams in the top 6 and plenty of dross surrounding us.

Chris Hutchings was appointed in January 2009 and has now had 15 months in the role as manager, after serving as Paul Jewell’s understudy (and sweeping up after him) for much of his previous career. Never stellar in previous caretaker roles, his record at Walsall has now been so patchy it can best be desribed as flattering to deceive. We’re so inconsistent there’s no tipping point, no crisis, no defining moment that shouts out loud “You don’t know what you’re doing”, but an accumulation of deflating performances, non-existent or ineffectual tactics, inexplicable substitutions, team sheets with good names missing or players out of position, and a succession of lacklustre games that leave every fan flat can say the same thing much more quietly.

Perhaps there’s problems further up the chain? We are all well aware of Mr. Bonser’s desire to leave contract negotiations to the last possible moment, the club’s financial shortcomings and the fact that other potential managerial candidates (and previous managers) have decided that Walsall was not for them based on personal financials and lack of future commitments. There’s a smell of short-termism surrounding Walsall FC, and that’s not good for a sports club that’s survived 123 years.

We need some progress. We need some leadership. Heck – we need some consistent football! Where’s that going to come from? Your guess is as good as mine. Consistently finishing in League One midtable is not my definition of a club going anywhere, but where is there to go when we can’t pay for a better squad and refuse to pay for a better manager?

Sorry there’s no answers in this monologue.

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