Pirates steal Walsall point
Walsall versus Bristol Rovers- 30th December 2006
Match Result: 2:2
It was clear from the start that the previous heavy rain was going to cause problems to the super Saddlers, Money had already commented in the Express and Star about the state of the pitch. May I add Villa Reserves playing can only worsen the situation they`re nearly fortnight. Arriving at the ground and seeing the state of the pitch it was clear that Money was right on the Money. Hopefully though it would hold up and not become too welcoming to the visitor's long ball and their experience on playing regularly on a grass bare rugby pitch. The Visitors included a batch of players who had previously applied their trade in the area; Richard Walker (Aston Villa), Craig Hinton (Kidderminster), Shane Nicholson (on loan Baggie) and Ryan Green (ex Dingle). Walsall dropped Tony Bedeau, replacing him with Craig Pead, who had impressed to such a degree again Shrewsbury.
First Half :
Despite good approach work from both sides, neither goal came under much threat. Except on two occasions, Scott Dann slicing into the grateful hands of Clayton Ince and Hector Sam's instinctive shot smartly saved by ex Bristol City Keeper Stephen Phillips. Walsall first halves always seem to have the point of putting the opposition into a state of comfort. The half was notable for the turn of form of Hector Sam, who so often struggles at Bescot, he held the ball up well and looked dangerous at times. The only down point for the Saddlers was the countless times Mark Wright failed to put a telling cross into the box.
The half couldn't have started any better for the Saddlers, with Sam punishing slack defending by the Pirates, with a fine strike. Walsall then seemed to push on for that second goal, as Rovers stood back looking slightly shell-shocked. But they eventually and disappointingly were allowed to crawl their way back into the game. Elliott scoring from close range as the ball got stuck in the mud. To me it seemed that the Saddlers didn't know what to do, accept a point or attack? At these points in matches, it's clear that Walsall are really missing an attacking midfield, despite the best efforts of the ever-trying Craig Pead to link-up the play. But Walsall seemed to have snuck all three points, when in the eighty eighth minute Scott Dann brilliantly headed home a Mark Wright corner. But three minutes later the ball didn't run to Ince and got stuck in the mud again as Elliott stabbed home.
I feel that Rovers are on the up and I wouldn't be surprised to see them in the play-offs at the end of the season shake up. Also they are one of the only teams to have come to Bescot this season who haven't sat back and tried to get a point and they do need credit for that. But was it a case of bad defending or just poor playing conditions? It does seem odd that an overweight central defender can be found to be free on not just one but two occasions. Many questioned in the crowd the lack of subs used by Money, but could this be because he wants to save subs who will start against Peterborough on Monday? The players did look extremely tired and I don't think their effort and guile could be faulted which made it even more disappointing for me to hear the boos at the end of the match. Walsall are top of the table by two points with just over twenty matches left, who wouldn't have bitten off a hand if that was offered at the star of the season.
Man of the Match: Martin Butler, he lacks service and confidence but keeps trying and trying.