Walsall 1-0 Bolton Wanderers - REPORT
17/09/2016 - 15:00
Ten man Walsall produced a heroic performance to return to winning ways and stun league leaders Bolton in the most unlikely of circumstances.
Another question team selection by Jon Whitney meant that nobody outside the Saddlers dressing room had any idea what shape we`d line up in until we kicked off, when the answer was revealed to be centre half James McCarthy moving to right back, right back Joe Edwards moving into the holding role in central midfield alongside Adam Chambers, whilst actual central midfielders Liam Kinsella and George Dobson started on the bench. Kieron Morris, Ehrun Oztumer and Andreas Makris formed the 3 behind Simeon Jackson in attack.
We didn`t start too badly and were comfortably matching our hosts, but there was an odd atmosphere inside the ground; almost as though a section of the support was waiting for Bolton to score so they could start moaning about it. However, in the 16th minute the game and the atmosphere was turned on its head as the Saddlers were harshly reduced to ten men. Edwards, eyes fixed on the ball, lead with his elbow and clattered Chris Taylor. Referee Trevor Kettle brought the temperature in the ground straight to boiling point by immediately flashing a red card in Edwards direction. I must admit I thought it was fair enough, but both the players and the fans were steaming at the decision. You sometimes hear managers say that a players reputation sometimes influences a referees decision, but if anything Kettle was on the end of the same treatment today. An official who has a history of making questionable decisions of games involving Walsall, had suddenly sent off a man for something very few in the ground had seen. Also, and I apologise to Edwards here as this may come across as harsh, but if you had to pick a man to be sent off today he`d have probably been your choice. Not because he`s poor, he isn`t, but he was being played out of position and wasn`t really adding anything where he was. Suddenly we were forced to adjust to two banks of four and looked a lot more solid. Honestly, it was the best thing that could have happened to us as that time.
The next best thing that could have happened was for us to take the lead, which was something that duly happened 10 minutes later. A free kick from Morris was floated into the area and should have been a straight forward catch for Trotters keeper Mark Howard, but he inexplicably missed it, resulting in the ball bouncing in off the grateful James McCarthy.
Bolton were almost back on terms within minutes, this time it was Neil Etheridge turn to flap at a set piece, failing to claim a corner which saw Lewis Buxton head towards goal, only for record signing Makris to produce a brilliant goal line clearance to header the ball up and over the bar. The Cypriot may not have scored in Saddlers colours yet, but his match winning contribution today as well as his two assists in the Bury game show good potential, I really like him.
Etheridge was doing his best to wind up the opposition with an outstanding display of gamesmanship, directing the crowd on when, and where, to throw the ball back after it went out to waste as much time as possible. The fact it took Kettle until the 75th minute to book him for this was probably the biggest shock of the game. After the break, the Philippines international also produced an outstanding display of goalkeeping too, include one truly world class save Jamie Proctors 12 yard volley, as well as excellent stops from Taylor and David Wheater efforts.
Another player who found his way into the book was Bolton substitute Keshi Anderson, who was bizarrely cautioned as he came on for entering the field of play before the player he`d replaced, the villain of the piece Taylor, had left it. He would pay for that horrendous act of indiscipline in injury time when Kettle finally decided to even the numbers up, sending off Anderson for a slight pull on Scott Laird. It would have been a harsh yellow card anyway, but to send him off for it was ludicrous.
Personally it was the only decision he got wrong all day.