Walsall 0-2 West Bromwich Albion
28/07/2015 - 19:45
It`s a well-known fact that you should never read too much into pre-season form, but last nights` kick about with the Baggies was so remarkably similar to much of last season that it would be dangerous to ignore it entirely. It was an evening that saw the Saddlers dominate 80% of the game and 80% of the pitch against mediocre opposition, only for our inability to put the ball in the net and our lack of a dominant centre half to condemn us to a defeat we didn`t deserve.
There were many promising performances from those within the Saddlers ranks, with Reece Flanagan looking particularly impressive and James O`Connor again showing he has the ability to become one half of a decent central defensive pairing in a display so dominant it meant goalkeeper Craig MacGillivray didn`t touch the ball with his hands until he caught a cross in the 33rd minute. New right back James Demetriou also looked far more impressive than I expected, with a promising and surprisingly competent attacking display. If Ben Purkiss earned the nickname 'The white Cafu` then Demetriou will find himself christened 'The Cypriot Danny Alves` if he continues to perform like that.
The dominant Saddlers saw Flanagan flash an effort narrowly over just moments after scuffing a promising free kick, James Baxendale put a couple of efforts wide, and then squandered many more opportunities to shoot by virtue of it not being their first instinct when in and around the box.
Our greatest chance to take a half time lead came when Baxendale was fouled in the area and Tom Bradshaw stepped up to take the spot kick, only to hit the one post, find the ball go straight back to him, and then stab it wide of the other one when he had far more time than he thought.
The second half was a far more fractured affair with the game stopping at regular intervals for a plethora of substitutions, mostly from the Saddlers who in fairness at no point looked any weaker for the replacement players coming on. Baxendale was continuing to look dangerous and produced a 'camera save` from Boaz Myhill when his curling effort from outside the box was palmed over on 50 minutes. But a couple of minutes later the visitors took the lead with their first notable attack of the game, with Saido Berahino tapping home from close range.
The Saddlers had chances to level when Keiron Morris smashed against the bar having done all the hard work, and then a goalmouth scramble produced what felt like the inevitable conclusion of the ball not going in the net. Milan Lalkovic was apparently producing a man of the match display despite the fact he replaced Bradshaw at the break and barely spent any of his time on the pitch in the central striker role, preferring to drift out wide and out of goalscoring positions.
West Brom completed the scoring with 8 minutes remaining as Ideye tapped home from close range from a Chris Brunt cross. If this was a league game I`d have been furious to have lost it, and our visitors will probably be pleased with the result; but there was plenty of evidence to suggest they may struggle this season. Us on the other hand certainly have enough about us not to be flirting with the drop, but whether we have enough creativity and killer instinct up top to make the season truly memorable is something I remain unconvinced of.