Walsall 0-3 Crystal Palace
26/08/2014 - 19:45
For the third season in a row the Saddlers bowed out of the League Cup in the second round, against Premier League opposition who managed to put three past us. In the previous two seasons, having landed very difficult away ties at QPR and Stoke respectively, we went down bravely against superior opposition having done everything in our power to try and win the match. Tonight however we decided not to bother as we produced the most disjointed, one-paced performance you could ever wish to see from a lower league side hoping to pull off a giant killing.
When the draw for this round of the competition was made we narrowly missed out on a home tie against Manchester United, who were humiliated 4-0 by a Will Grigg inspired MK Dons tonight. Make no mistake about it, they wouldn`t have lost to us.
Barely six minutes had gone when Dwight Gayle sprung what I assume was our attempt at an offside trap from a quick free kick and slammed the ball past Richard O`Donnell. With the Saddlers then needing to score to get back into the match the game was as good as over already. Any lingering hopes the home side may have had of getting back into the game evaporated on 25 minutes when Gayle struck a free kick along the ground, under the jumping wall, and past O`Donnell who on first viewing I thought might have done better with it. The Saddlers then did the courtesy of allowing Gayle all the time in the world to complete his hat trick five minutes before the interval.
Never mind, at least Deano could get them in the dressing room at half time, give them a right rollicking and then they`d come out second half and at least give it a good go.
Ashley Grimes did at least strike a post with a deflected effort five minutes after the restart, and Adam Chambers missed a free header from a corner six yards out with ten minutes left, but other than that we were hopeless. Tom Bradshaw again worked very hard and put himself about, but he was so isolated for the entire game. Dean Holden, despite being clearly past his best, at least looked like he wanted us to win the game with his occasional wondering around up front. And Reece Flanagan gave the impression of a man who at least knew what he was doing in his second half cameo, but other than that the performance was desperate.
When we had the ball in around the final third, you were looking around and asking "How are we going to build an attack from this?" The answer, time again, was that we weren`t, and didn`t. A line Dean Smith has always fallen back on when questioned on our lack of goals is that at least we create chances. This has always been a questionable argument, but right now it looks laughable as even if we were still on the pitch now (and Palace had left it at the final whistle) I still don`t think we`d have scored.
The game did end on a sour note after Glenn Murray did a disgraceful stamp on Paul Downing, only for the referee to completely misinterpret it as the Palace striker trying desperately to avoid coming down studs first on Downing`s midriff. Or maybe, like the Saddlers team he was officiating, he decided he couldn`t be bothered to do his job.