Walsall 1-2 Crawley Town
22/02/2014 - 15:00
Another disjointed Saddlers performance saw us slip to back to back home defeats for the first time since November 2012. The writing was always on the wall from the moment of the coin toss, when we were made to switch ends and attack the 'home end` during the first half. Have we ever won a match when doing this?
Andy Butler returned to the starting line up in place of James Chambers, and had a hand quite literally in the visitors opening goal. A routine cross into the box left our skipper flummoxed as to whether boot, chest or diving header the ball clear; the result was that it just bounced off him, across and into his arm. The referee, quite rightly in my opinion, awarded a penalty. Some would argue it was harsh, but had it happened down our end I`d have wanted a penalty for us in that situation, so the award gets no complaints from me. Matt Tubbs despatched the penalty with the minimum of fuss, sending O`Donnell the wrong way.
It was a good thing we weren`t trying to play a high tempo passing game, as if we had been then the persistent incessant whistling by the referee (ironically named Mr Wright) every five seconds for the slightest little thing would have been even more irritating than it was proving to be. However, we had taken to hoofing the ball aimlessly in the air to the hapless Michael Ngoo, so it didn`t really affect our game that much.
As with the MK game a fortnight ago, you kind of felt that if we could get to half time at 0-1, and with 11 men still on the pitch, that we may have had a chance in the second half. Having managed this, we then proceeded to press the self-destruct button five minutes after the restart. A counter attack by the visitors saw Billy Clarke pick out Tubbs completely unmarked at the back post to double his and Crawley`s tally for the afternoon.
Deano responded by replacing Ngoo with Sawyers and reverting to our usual style of play. The fact we scored moments later would suggest the change worked, but given it came from a corner which Westcarr would have taken regardless, it`s arguable it would have happened anyway. Westcarr laid the corner to the edge of the box for Sam Mantom to side foot home an exquisite shot that went in off the far post. 1-2, and surely game on.
This did result in our best spell of the game but, as has been the case so often this season, we desperately struggled to create anything. Crawley were doing their best to hand us a lifeline too with Clarke, who had already been booked for tripping Lalkovic in the centre circle, was sent off for petulantly kicking the ball away after being questionably flagged offside.
However, at the risk of sounding like Chris Hutchings, the sending off almost seemed to benefit the visitors more than us as they decided to stop trying to hit us on the break and instead shut up shop and invited us to try and break them down. Anyone who has seen the Saddlers at all this season knows that whenever a team asks this question of us, we usually fail to find the answer.
So it proved, and we now head into an eight game March on a run of form that has failed to see us win since smashing five past Notts County last month. It`s something that needs to be put right immediately, as if we don`t then our playoff dream could be all but over by the time we next step off the Banks`s Stadium pitch after the Wolves game in a fortnight. It really is becoming squeaky bum time.