Top Of The League?
The Bescot Stadium
Walsall reached the summit of League One as they fought out a narrow victory and Hartlepool failed at the inform Rochdale. Walsall made surprise changes from the side who failed to perform against Bury last week. Tony Bedeau who has recieved rave reviews for his performances at right back in the reserves came into the back four. Mark Wright replaced Kevin Harper and Ismael Demontagnac replaced Kevin Cooper. The absence of both onloan players suggests that there maybe a hickup in contract neogiations or in the case of Cooper seen as surplus to requirements. Wrexham had won their previous three with three shut outs, with a particular impressive win against the playoff hopeful Shrews in the week. There team consisted of a firm back line and a very offensive midfield, especially the former Premiership players Chris Lleywlyn (Welsh international?) and Michael Proctor (has the envious record of scoring two own goals in a Premiership match) out on the wings. Walsall started slowly as they did against the Shakers, hopeless balls played over the top, a midfield failing to get to grips and over playing the ball at the back. Our only hope was Demontagnac who made his first start and immediately attacked when he got the ball. The Benjamin-Butler factor seems to be worrying as well, both strikers lack any kind of link up play, they're like chalk and cheese.
Wrexham weren't much better themselves, they were solid at the back and flooded numbers back whenever they needed too. Up front they were quick to put pressure on the ball but failed to show any creativity or cutting edge. It's clear their success recently has come from solid defending and well worked set-pieces. Walsall wobbled but Wrexham just weren't good enough to take advantage. The half time whistle blew, with Walsall only having a Anthony Gerrard header into the side netting to show for their efforts.
Walsall started the second half a lot brightier, and must have been encouraged by the score from the Spotland as Hartlepool found themselves one down. The Saddlers got early quick corners and put the Dragons defence under pressure. Five minutes into the half the laughably poor Tony Bedeau was replaced by utility man Craig Pead and Mark Wright who had started the second half at right back went back to the right wing. Dobson and Keates finally started to get a hold of the game and Deano the new player of the season seemed determined to get his head kicked in as he threw himself into the action. At one point the diminutive midfielder threw himself into a dividing header just off the ground, winning the ball inches away from the flying boot of the defender. Walsall started to find a rthymm as they found balance on the wings between Ismael and Wright. They used to sing there was 'only one Mark Wright' but that's not true, there's in fact three Mark Wright's in League Two. The former Liverpool player and Chester manager Mark Wright. The Walsall winger who fails to impress and never lives up to his potential and then finally the Walsall winger who torments defenders and is full of confidence. Well it was the latter Mark Wright that showed and after doing reasonably well in the first half took the game and made his mark. Wright was instrumental in the clinical goal after playing a one two with Pead, Wright accelerated brilliantly onto the through ball and crossed-shot across the goal. Anthony Williams could only parry the ball and it fell to Demontagnac who volleyed into the top right hand corner of the net, style and calmness from the renegade midfielder.
The Saddlers brought on Hector Sam for the ineffective Trevor Benjamin and the former Dragon heated up the temperature. In fact the Trinidadian should have put the game to rest after racing onto a one on one but he fired wide. Wrexham put plently of balls into the box but Gerrard and Westwood were solid and in truth the Dragons had no bite.
The final whistle blew and Walsall went top on goal difference, knowing that if they could match Hartlepool's result next week they would win the Championship. But Walsall haven't played well in weeks and fail to show any title-winning form but Walsall go into the match at the County Ground knowing that their fate is in their own hands a bit like Wrexham who face Boston United on Saturday.