Walsall Rescue Point
Paul Merson maybe gone but he is not forgotten. As he looks down upon Bescot Stadium tonight from the many VSA game billboards and posters, you can't but wonder if he is having a wry smile to himself as two of his deadline day signings in Keates and Barrowman rescued a point for the struggling saddlers.
The surprises came before kick off with the absence of recent skipper Daniel Fox, this further weaken a depleted defence. Fit again Oakes was joined with a back four of Pead, the semi fit Roper and debutant Pablo Mills from Derby County, with right winger Mark Wright slotting in at left back as he did against Chesterfield. Midfield consisted of Osborn, Smith and making there home debuts Paul Devlin and skipper for the day Dean Keates, with Mads Timm playing upfront alongside another making his home debut Andrew Barrowman.
In truth the first half performance was abject with the team disjointed with so many changes, we really should be used to that by now!. It was also evident that the 5-0 trouncing last week had drained confidence. Despite this the lads had more of the ball without really creating anything clean cut. The games first twist came after 19 minutes when Timm fell under a challenge on the half way line lying motionless as the Walsall team stood awaiting the refs whistle, Scunthorpe played on with Keogh enjoying the space to hit an unstoppable shot from distance. Timm was taken off replaced by Kevin James whilst Walsall continued to protest to the ref. The confidence visible drained from the team, with a number of players going missing. Things changed when man of the match Keates dogged determination on the edge of the box created the opportunity for him to lash a right foot shoot through the keeper into the roof of the net. What a return for the local lad. As the first half drifted towards half time another contested decision by referee Mr Curson, turned the tide in Scunthorpe's favour. A free kick central to goal was fired low to Oakes left following a neat training ground routine by Neil Mackenzie from 25 yards in the 45 minute, soon after the Saddlers looked a beaten team as they walked off with boo's echoing in there ears.
Events involving other teams couldn't lift the gloom at half time, the crowd tried to lift the team, but the expected second half onslaught never arrived where was the passion where was the belief and fight. Barrowman was looking no better than Constable or Nichols, James was frustrated with a lack of service, and Smith lost wide on the left. Only Roper and Mills were standing strong with Keates battling hard in midfield. Things got worse in the 69 minute, Delvin was adjudged to have use his elbow in an aerial challenge with Foster, straight red card, Foster had leave the pitch with a cut under his eye as both teams squared up to each other. However by looking into the abyss Walsall got stronger Smith moving into centre midfield with James going wide leaving Barrowman upfront alone. In the 77 minute a long punt up field by Pead was not dealt with, leaving Barrowman clear to lob over Keeper Evans to make it 2-2. At this point the game opened up with chances at both ends. A world class save from Oakes as Scunthorpe looked certain to score with a free header from a rebound into an empty net raised the Dunkirk spirit in the crowd. Soon afterwards Keates hit the bar from a shoot cum cross, the deflection taking it away from James who was looking certain to score. In five minutes of added time it could have gone either way, but it didn't the spoils were shared.
In the end circumstance dictate a fair result but we needed three points, We are in deep trouble, the lack of organisation and discipline is still there. Only time will tell if the spirit found in the second half will carry us to safety. Also will Barrowman's goal be the start of a scoring run as he's confidence grew after the goal perhaps giving a glimpse of the player he could be. Colchester away on Tuesday I fear another Valentines Day massacre.
By Ian Lowndes