Writer: Alsop Richards
Date:Saturday February 24 2007
The Bescot Stadium
Walsall came into this match unable to sing their regular anthem of 'top of the league', I do like that one, maybe I'll be able to hear it sooner than later. So would the Saddlers be able to react to their new title as the 'Challengers to the throne' or would they sink farther down the league. Walsall in recent months had failed to show a cutting edge up front and after a cold night at Edgedly Park, gaffer Richard Money could take it no longer. Kevin Harper and Kevin Cooper joined the Walsall promotion ranks and the abysmal Tony Bedeau and promising striker Alex Nicholls were loaned out.
Barnet came into this match after an impressive win against Swindon Town and had an attack full of ability and cutting threat. Walsall started of brightly and they mirrored small children on Christmas day as they gave possession quickly into the feet of the two Kevin's who were only to willing to take the game to the Barnet defence. But it was against the run of play that Barnet took the lead, Ollie Allen firing past Clayton Ince after Scott Dann had slipped. I got the sense of deja vu from recent matches which was only confirmed by the Barnet defence thumping away any balls that came in their own half (ala Rochdale and Boston on previous occasions). Walsall pushed forward and onwards but looked to be lacking in confidence and equalised with a touch of luck and fortitude in the thirty third minute as Cooper's tricky cross was touched in by former Birmingham City player Ian Hendon into his own net. Walsall pushed to get the lead before half-time and Barnet looked shellshocked as they didn't seem to have a plan B as Walsall piled forward with an increasing confidence.One of the most impressive factors of the first half performace was the willingness of both of the new wingers to switch wings and drift into central midfield to bring creativity to the Walsall final third.
Walsall started the second half even brighter and pushed forward in tirade after tirade, Barnet pushed players back to deal with the threat. Money was willing to play his first hand as Ismale got ready to come on from the subsitiutes bench but was intervened by a Walsall free kick on the right. Keates swinged the ball in and Michael Dobson flicked a header in off the back post. The Skipper was back and ready to roll up his sleeves and work after nearly a month off work, when Walsall saw their form turn. It was surprising to see the Saddlers with their lead not camp back into the half and try and hang on for the three points. Mark Wright came on for Hector Sam and Harper pushed up front just behind Martin Butler. It was this change that saw Walsall double their lead in the sixty third minute as Harper went on a mazy run, played a one two with Butler and then ran on to flick the ball past the Keeper and in off the far post. All ideals of this being a contest were over in the seventy seventh minute as a corner to the back post was headed by Dann to Harper who volleyed into the net, to the delight of the Walsall fans. There could have been more, Walsall were rampant as if they were making up for their recent impotent spell in front of goal. Par came on for the impressive Kevin Harper and looked to torment the visitors defence. Cederqyst looked like the player who had looked impressive on his debut against Grimsby Town as he chased down long balls and looked to offer avenues of attack when Walsall seeked to penetrate the Bees. The Big Swede and Mark Wright both missed chances to extend the Saddlers lead as they dithered in promising positions that would have been unheard of by the two new arrivals.
Put quite simply the Saddlers' promotion push is back on track and recharged as the Saddlers will seek to take back top spot. The back five and Dobson now must concentrate on getting clean sheets and the rest of the team should look to flood forward. Quality was needed in the last third and now it has arrived. 'The Harper' has returned and he played to the delightful ears and eyes of the Saddlers faithful. Now I'm starting to look forward to matches again.
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Date:Saturday February 24 2007
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