Writer: Alsop Richards
Date:Saturday February 3 2007
Walsall stuttered once again in front of their home supporters and were fortunate to come away with a point. Rochdale at the start of play were two points away from the relegation zone and it was clear to see why. They were poor in every area of the field, they were unable to get two below head passes together. Responding to any pressure in their half by thumping the ball away towards strikers who would be found to be occuringly offside.
Walsall kept to the same side that had performed so heroically against Macclesfield on Tuesday. I was happy to see a still recovering Darren Wrack playing ahead of Mark Wright on the left. It seems a half fit Darren Wrack is still better Mark Wright.
A fortnight ago I predicted that after the Mansfield result, Clayton Ince would cost Walsall more points this season. I'm no Mystic Meg but it happened again as the giant Trinidadian performed a howler of unseen stupidity. (Even more ridiculous than that Charlie Ntamark own goal against West Ham in 1994.) Rochdale had a free kick on the right on five minutes. Rory Prendergast put a poor cross into the area, he turned away in disappointment. But Ince managed to seemingly flap or punch the ball into his own net. If Ince hadn't have touched this free kick it would have hit his chest and gone away, it seemed even more stunning to think why on earth Ince did this. You could not help to think that Ince was left to look like a giant bananna, in his bright yellow Goalkeeping kit.
The loud small gathering support of Rochdale fans went wild with the present of a late Christmas gift. Dale had previously beaten MK Dons five. Walsall came back into the game, they worked an effort well only to see Keates' shot cleared off the line. In the thirty fifth minute Hector Sam managed to head over from three yards, if he would have left the cross would have gone in. Things just weren't going the Saddlers way. The team were fully deserving of their boos at half-time. They were poor against Boston, but then they had the excuse of poor referring, this week there were no excuses. Rochdale hadn't managed a shot during the whole half but managed to get in at half time with the lead.
The second half started with changes for the Saddlers, as they once again frustratingly attacked the away end. I like others like to see the Saddlers attacking the Gilbert Alsop in the second half of games, which has not happened in the last three matches. Craig Pead switched to right back, Gerrard was took off for Ismael, Westwood went to Centre Half, Keates came into the middle of midfield. The sub didn't yeild any results, in fact Ismael didn't look like he wanted to play, as when recieving the ball he stood still and gave the ball to one of his teammates instead of taking the oppostion on.
It was not long before more changes were made, Par came on for Sam and Mark Wright came on for Darren Wrack. There was no results and Walsall played into the visitors hands as they thumped the ball forward, their center halves gloriously thumped the ball away. Rochdale were looking to get a goal on the break, but their finaly ball was never good enough and Le Fondre's running of the line, was abysmal. The one time he did get through, Ince saved well.
The Walsall P.A. actually made a sponsors Man Of The Match, giving it to the distinctly average performance of Chris Westwood. In my reckoing if they had to make a decision it should have gone to Scott Dann who looked solid and composed on the ball. Then minutes later Dann recieved the ball just outside his own area. He ran with the ball into the oppositions half, ran past two defenders and then fired across the Keeper and into the left hand side of the post, to the relief of the home supporters. I don't know if Walsall deserved this but I know Rochdale didn't deserve to win.
The players are clearly not up for the fight, quality doesn't matter anymore, it's the time of bottle and mental belief. It's a time when one mistake can mean the difference between first and second and promotion and the play-offs. In my belief Ince should be dropped, I've seen Bossu once this season and he looked solid at Chester. Walsall were once again also poor up front. Par looks totally out of place in the English game, unable to fit into its pace. Butler and Sam struggled because they had no service. In a week where Money admitted he had the chance to sign Leon Knight and then went on to sell Conference prolific striker James Constable to Kidderminster Harriers, it seems now that a made bed must now be laid in it. This seems even more concerning since Knight spent the weekend scoring his first goal in an MK Dons shirt, our promotion rivals. It's quite simply if Walsall play at the best of their ability they may be able to take something away from Hartlepool next Saturday, if they don't they get nothing.
Date:Saturday February 3 2007
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