Writer: Robyn Richards
Date:Sunday February 27 2011
The Saddlers missed the bus out of the relegation zone yesterday as they were held to a 0-0 draw at home to Rochdale.
The Saddlers were bright and energetic throughout with the second half the better. However, the striker problem continues as few chances were made and a goal looked increasingly elusive.
The work permit for new boy Ledesma did not come through quick enough as Jon Macken sat out the game with a back injury.
That meant Price and Grigg were up front, the midfield was Nicholls, Taundry, Richards and Gray in midfield, with Butler, Lescott, Williams making his debut at home and Oliver Lancashire at the back. Skipper Darren Byfield made a very welcome return to the bench after what seems like an eternity out with a knee, injury, in reality 6 months.
The game started energetically . Saddlers gave Rochdale a good run for their money but failed to create many chances on goal. Jason Price and Will Grigg made little impact throughout and youngster Grigg needs someone with alot more agility and pace to help him out up front. It was Price's last game and I hasten to add he won't be missed much.
Grigg took a shot in the dark on 23 minutes but the ball went over. A shot on goal, at least.
Richard Taundry took a free kick on 24 minutes, the shot punched out by Dale keeper Owain Fon Williams but the Nicholls follow up easily saved.
The 22 year old had a chance on goal on 26 minutes as Alex Nicholls set him up, but the ball again saved.
Nicholls was on hand to set up Grigg but the 19 year old squandered the chance.
It was going well for Walsall but they were simply not going for goal as much as required, a painful trait of the entire season.
After quiet opening play, Tom Williams found his own as shone especially in the second half.
The best chance came as Walsall won a free kick in a good position and specialist Matthew Richards stepped up to fire the Saddlers into the lead. Sadly, the ball hit the wall and his rebound was sent achingly onto the top netting
Walsall went in 0-0 but they really should of been winning upon reflection.
The second half was nervingly played out, a point and the Saddlers were still in it, going a goal down and it could prove a nasty situation for the home side.
The Saddlers were lucky not have gone 1-0 down as played got restarted. Rochdale had a chance as the ball flashed across the goal but thankfully there was no one there to convert the chance.
Gray played well throughout but alot the chances he created were sent begging.
Grigg came off for Paterson on 62 minutes, the crowd booed that it was not Price to exit, such was his disappointing display.
Gary Jones burst down the right as the visitors beckoned, but the Matty Done head on goal went luckily wide. The visitors were into the game and arguably the more quality side, however Walsall battled the keep themselves in the game.
Chris O Grady looked menacing on 71 minutes, but Lescott did well to clear the danger.
Price eventually left the field on 75 minutes as Darren Byfield came on. At last! The skipper was given applause by the home side. He did well with an enthusatic performance and his fitness greatly needed.
The rest of the game was played out with attempts from both teams, the priority for Walsall is not to concede at any cost.
Marshall then came on for Alex Nicholls.
That was it, full time and both teams took a share of the points. Walsall are now level on points with 20th place Swindon and they put in an average performance that needs to improve to mount a serious challenge on the relegation fight.
They are boosted by the return of Darren Byfield but Dean Smith's main priority should be to find a no nonsense, fire cracker of a striker to really pull in the absent goals for the Saddlers.
We look towards entertaining Southampton on Tuesday.
Date:Sunday February 27 2011
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