Ropers big day v WBA.
Well no one really expected a repeat of that distant August day when a Merson inspired team ran out 4-1 winners. However on the relative performances of the two teams on show, Walsall can be more confident than the Albion of a good start to the next campaign.
Albion came with a team full of top flight experience although there were some noticable absences. In an even first half Saddlers fans were wondering if last season had actually finished when four good chances went begging only for Albion to go into the lead four minutes before the break, after a clever over lap by the impressive Jono Greening was clinically finished by himself with a hard shot into the far post, past a startled Clayton Ince.
Half time brought one change with Kris Taylor coming on for Tony Bedeau who strugled after a strong tackle by Greening. Taylor sloted into the left back role which he refused to play under Merson allowing Daniel Fox to push up into a wide midfield role. Fox immediately linked up with Butler resulting in fox breaking into the box but failing to finish with only Hoult to beat.
The equaliser however came on the 50 minute, good work and a clever through ball from Hector Sam allowed Martin Butler to wrong foot Russell Hoult with smart finish low into the corner.
James Constable came on for Hector Sam (59 mins) and Craig Pead came on for Mark Kinsella in 65 minute and shortly afterwards a long aimless ball out of defence was knocked into his own net by Anthony Gerrard as Clayton Ince came fall the ball but called loud and clear but too late.
Richard Money then gave run outs to Ishmel Demontagnac for Butler (73 mins) and trialist Tom Taylor (for Westwood 85mins) However the MOM Ian Roper was also allowed to milk the appaulse in the 88th minute as Dann came on. The game then fizzled out in that pre season way.
Whilst it was Ian Ropers day, and he did nothing wrong against Hartson and Ellington another man caught my eye.
Michael Dobson, the recent signing from Brentford provided the type of box to box performance our midfield has lacked for quiet a few seasons. It is early days but and wrong to judge too quickly but it was almost a Martin O'connor type performance.
Settled my nerves about his signing, not faultless by any means he would question himself on the first goal and there was the confussion on the second. However he commanded his box well came and got crosses with confidence and dealt with everything asked of him, should be just the ticket for league two.
Played in the right back role which he looked so uncomfortable in last season (especially at Blackpool)But he did well against Zoltan Gera and then Jonathan Greening, he will not play against many players of that skill level in league two. It just could be that a bit of coaching in the new role will give us options at right back. Of course he provided an ariel threat at set plays.
One mistake one trademark tackle to stop Nathan Ellington in his tracks. Looks like the youngster will be trying his best to hold onto that first team shirt.
When I saw that John Hartson had come along to rough up the testimonial boy I wondered how he would get along against the Welsh international. In truth Hartson never threaterned but Albion must be glad they didn't buy Hartson by the pound...he would have been a record signing!!!
Comfortable at full back and midfield, seems to be regaining the confidence he lost towards the end of last season.
Struggled to get into the game but was always willing to be an outlet. Was less effective after a heavy tackle from Greening. A quiet start but signs of better things to come.
My man of the match, definately a question of who plays with him for the start of the season.
On this performance the old man did well, it begs the question why didn't he play more last year...the Merson effect perhaps
I have given up trying to assess Mark Wright. He always has good bits and frustrating phases, today was no different. Last season he looked brilliant against Worcester, and we know what happened after that, this season he hasn't hit the heights of Worcester, so who knows.
This performance will cause more debate than anything else, was it good enough to offer a contract. He was of the pace at times and showed clear signs that he hasn't played for best part a year. On the other hand he was clever when on the ball, he was quick but didn't have blistering pace and showed signs of linking up well with Martin Butler.
I would personally like to see him at Bescot but we must realise that it maybe another 4-6 weeks before we see the true Hector Sam.
It was a typical Martin Butler performance, perhaps not as sharp as he could be but thats what pre season is all about. Missed one sitter, one half chance, nearly suprised Hoult with a snap shot from range, and finished his goal beautfully, also dropped off the front line to collect the ball well.
We have known Kris Taylor can play full back since the pre season game at Hednesford some time ago, perhaps he is starting to realise it too, did well when he came on.
Didn't make the same impression as the Halesowen game but the defenders were a bit better today. Also after the departure of Butler his partnership with Demon didn't really come off.
Came on and played up front with Constable and looked a bit lost in truth, his best contributions came when he drifted wide and beat the full back...enough said really.
Richard Money will have learnt more about the team today but I don't think there was any horror stories we looked more organised and actually looked like a team. He will have some decisions on how to use the rest of the budget and trialists.
For the record Tom Taylor showed nothing special in his five minute run out, and Scott Dann enjoyed his two minutes verses Hartson.
Bryan Robson will have more to concern him than Richard Money on sunday morning. It is early days and a long way to go, also it must be remembered that WBA were also at Kiddy but in truth they will need to improve in a number of areas if they are going to do justice to there favorites tag in the championship.