Writer: Alsop Richards
Date:Saturday September 22 2007
The Banks' Stadium
Oldham Atheltic came out easy winners at the Banks Stadium and moved off the bottom to be replaced by the Saddlers. Walsall started well but barely threatened and it was the Lactics who could have took an early lead, the Saddlers back four looked flat and Craig Davies moved in on goal but fired wide. Once again the Saddlers midfield failed to take hold and looked desperate as the game wore on it was the visitors who looked likely to take the lead.
But all could have changed at the half hour mark a low ball into Mooney was cleverly flicked on by his back heel into the path of Butler. The former Rotherham striker had time to control and finish but decided strangerly to go for the an early header and was well wide. Butler is clearly low on confidence and chances are at a minimun to rectify the matter. Oldham went down the other end and took the lead, the ball was played through to a suspiciously offside Michael Ricketts, the big striker held off a desperate defenders late challenge and thumped the ball off the inside of the post into the net. Kudo's to the former Walsall striker who didn't celebrate his goal, though the Saddlers had to endure Craig Davies excessive celebrations instead. Walsall low on energy looked done for but did try and get matters square before half time. But it was the Lactics who could have doubled their lead. Craig Davies lost his balance outside the penalty area and to his triumph and the Walsall side's disbelief the Referee gave a free kick. Ricketts thumped the ball towards the goal but Ince got down low to turn the ball away for a corner.
Half time came, there were two exceptionally poor performances worthy of note. Daniel Sonner in the Saddlers midfield who was a virtual spectator as the game passed him by, his movement, energy and distiburtion was to put it kindly pathetic and his set pieces were consistently awful. But Referee Jon Moss (Yorkshire) was giving him a run for his money, the Referee was all to willing to give free kicks outside the Walsall area to Oldham for inconspicious challenges. Which is fair- but then to repeatedly allow Sean Gregan in the Oldham defence to push and shove Mooney and Butler and repeatedly offend all through the first half showed questioning inconsistency. Mr. Moss also failed to punish Oldham winger Chris Taylor's appalling dive in the Walsall area also of note was a Oldham corner given after a clear double deflection off an Athletic player.
The second half started with Sonner off to the delight of the Saddlers faithful, to be replaced by Ismael Demontagnac. Walsall once again started brightly- Gerrard in centre midfield was replaced as he failed to recover from a gash down his shin in the first half- instead of bringing on Dobson- a straight swap, Denney came into the Walsall midfield. The game became stretched, Eddy Sonko was coming to the fore and Walsall put pressure on the visitors goal, though failed to challenge veteran Mark Crossley. Sonko now flying was strangely replaced by Paul Hall.
Then came a moment of controversy, Demontagnac in the defensive zone was elbowed deliberately by the rattled Eardley but Referee and Assistant Referee close by failed to notice. Walsall still remonstrating the elbow gave away a clumsy corner. The ball was swung in and Ricketts who had been pushing and shoving all match was awarded a penalty. The incident was hard to see but Mr. Moss was closer than myself, though he barely deserved the benefit of doubt. Journey man Andy Liddell stepped up and placed his penalty well, though Ince nearly kept it out. An undeserved two nil but football isn't fair.
Heads went down but the Saddlers did keep trying- balls flew in and bounced around in the visiors six yard box but Mooney and Butler were nowhere to be seen as both struggled. Wrack who was ever trying through the match, he came close with a snap volley over the top, this was the Saddlers first effort of the second half. Paul Hall was poor and lost the ball ever time he was given it and couldn't be bothered to close down the Lactics defence.
The notorious Lee Hughes came on to the boos of the home crowd as the villian of the piece. He had a clear opportunity but volleyed over the bar. In the closing seconds, Walsall were sloppy at the back and failed to clear the ball. Craig Davies finally took control of the ball and sent a low shot into the corner of the net- to give the scoreline an undeserved emphatic appearance.
Money's post match left Walsall fans with sore heads and headaches. Dickie Dosh spoke of his lack of options in playing staff and the fact he had to play Denney in midfield. Money spoke of players not being hundred percent fit, Sonner apparently had a sore achilles, Sonko came off because he was suffering from hunger/tiredness the consequences of honoring Ramadam, Mooney had an agreement to come off after sixty minutes but suffered on. All in all the squad is thin and unfit- Richard Money is now paying the consquences for signing players at the end of their careers, Mooney, Hall and Sonner their appetite must be questioned, their legs are tired. To the outside world the Saddlers have a weaker side than they did last season in a divison below. Sonner was awful as he has been all season and it's hard to think that Craig Pead or Kris Taylor wouldn't have done a better job than himself in midfield? Mooney is suffering from tiredness but would Butler have been better partered by Trevor Benjamin or Hector Sam? Should the Saddlers have kept Butler since they apparently had received a bid of 100,000 pounds from Posh? Truth be sold the reserve outfit looks much more solid and threatening than the first team but that raises questions of first team football versus reserve. One thing is clear is that if the Saddlers fail to strengthen or buck up their ideas this is going to be a very hard and long season, which is especially disappointing after all the good work that was done against Vale and Millwall.
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Date:Saturday September 22 2007
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