Walsall v Sheffield Wednesday In-depth Tactical Analysis

‘Football. Bloody hell!’ Not my words, the words of Alex Ferguson after Man.Utd came back from a goal down to score two goals in injury-time to beat Bayern Munich in the European Cup final. Today was our Bayern Munich.

Walsall lined up in a standard 4-4-2 with Taundry on the right, Nicholls on the left of midfield and Paterson up front with Macken. In the first-half nothing happened of note except Manny Smith played a beautiful cross-field pass over to Nicholls to send him on a run that took him into the Wednesday box. Was it going to be Manny Smith’s day today?

In the second-half we changed things round slightly as Nicholls switched with Paterson  which meant both of those players came into the game more and with Peterlin controlling the midfield, passes to the forwards actually came from the midfield and not from our defenders for a change. This meant that we started to create a few chances, mostly shots from just outside the area, and we began to dominate the game as Paterson whacked one of those shots across the Wednesday bar.

Trouble was, we were one- nil down a minute later as they hit us on the counter-attack for the dangerous Ryan Lowe to finish well. We kept going though and Nicholls caused the Wednesday defence trouble, with one particular turn catching the eye and Paterson was less bullied out on the wing and became our most creative outlet.

Then Smith took Paterson off for Gnapka and Taundry off for Bowerman and we lost a little of our impetus until we had huge strike of luck when Gnapka’s shot took a massive deflection and we got an equaliser in the 91st minute. We then did not sit back for the draw but still pressed for a winner and amongst lots of confusion in the box, Manny Smith came up with the winner in the 93rd minute to prove that it really was going to be his day.

What an amazing game. We even had a tiny bit of crowd trouble to keep the fans entertained for a couple of minutes as well. Walker was bizarrely given the sponsor’s MOTM but the players that stood out the most for me were Beevers, Smith, and when in their correct positions, Nicholls and Paterson. But, my MOTM was Peterlin as we actually had a midfield today that wanted the ball and were given the ball and he was at the heart of everything that was good about Walsall today. By far the best performance by a central midfielder this season.

The atmosphere was something else today, the best since we beat Rotherham 3-2 on the last day of the season, but were relegated from the second tier. Alex Ferguson’s quote summed today up perfectly.

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Gaelic Football and the Saddlers

Are there any fans of Gaelic Football?

Thought not. But, I will tell you this anyway. In 1976 our Irish winger, Miah Dennehy (no, me neither) faced a future Saddler, Tony Grealish, in the championship final of Gaelic Football. Miah was victorious man that day.

I have nothing more to add on this subject as I do not know anything more than the Wikipedia entry for Miah. If anyone has memories of him as a player then please let me know. If anyone knows of any other Saddler who played another sport to a high-level then please get in touch with me. All I can think of is Kyle Lightbourne playing cricket for Bermuda. His stats on Cricinfo do not reveal much though.

As a piece of journalism I realise this is very poor. It is more of a plea for information than a story. Please post your comments below if you can help.

Walsall’s Zenith – Cardiff 0 Walsall 1 Boxing Day 2003

Whatever the result on Sunday we will still be towards the bottom of League One, which is in sharp contrast to where we stood on the 26th December 2003.

We were sitting pretty in 13th place in the Championship that day. As we kicked off early and beat Cardiff, one-nil, away from home we were actually in 9th place before the other teams kicked off, meaning we were just outside the play-offs and a crack at the Premiership.

I didn’t go that day as it didn’t seem like a glamorous enough game at the time and perhaps I was part of the problem as this was our third season in the division and I had begun to become quite apathetic to it all, much like a lot of other Saddlers.

Neil Emblem was the goalscorer and you can read the match-report here:http://news.bbc.co.uk/sport1/hi/football/eng_div_1/3331231.stm

We only got 17 more points in the remaining games as we went on an absolutely awful run of form with arguably the best set of players that Walsall have ever had. There were various factors that caused our relegation; the aforementioned fan apathy, Walker being banned for three games and being replaced by the awful Petterson, Samways and Merson going missing for different reasons, a lack of investment when we were going places, a manager who was looking to leave, Merson taking over and refusing to shut up shop against Norwich and therefore destroying our goal difference. Every fan has a differnt viewpoint, I believe that it was a mixture of all of these factors.

So we all know what happened next and the last time I believe that we were close to building up the same momentum as we had on that Boxing Day was up until transfer deadline day in 2008 when we sold Fox and Dann and went down the league as we looked like being on the brink of the play-offs again.

Maybe the people who were apathetic and those who expected more during Colin Lee’s reign should just count themselves lucky that they experienced these highs, as they have simply never had it so good as the 26th December 2003.

The Scurge of Conceding the Last-Minute Goal

‘Typical Walsall’ is a phrase I so often hear when we concede a goal in the last minutes of a game, just like we did yesterday. But is it typical of Walsall to do this?

Well, this season we have conceded 3 goals in 3 different games in the last-minute of normal time or in injury time that have had an impact on the result of the game. We conceded an injury-time equaliser at home to Scunthorpe, an injury-time equaliser in the FA Cup away to Exeter and yesterday an equaliser against Chesterfield. The FA Cup result did not matter at all as we won the replay but the four points we conceded in the league would have been the difference between us being 21st or 18th in the league at Christmas.

The reason why this keeps happening is that we sit back and defend the penalty area, inviting the pressure onto us and we do not have enough confidence or experience within the team to kill the game off. We have now conceded a lead in nine of our games this season (in all competitions), which had we held on for maximum points would have made a dramatic difference to our league position. I have a memory of us conceding lots of late goals when we were in the second tier with Ray Graydon and that was because of the exact same reasons as to why we are conceding late goals now.

When was the last time Walsall scored a last-minute goal to equalise or win? The last time I can remember it happening was Dean Keates against Swindon, although I’m sure someone out there will be able to correct me.

 

Richard Taundry – Leave That Man Alone

I have just come back from the Dagenham game and feel that disgusted with some of the Walsall ‘fans’ treatment of Richard Taundry today, that I have to make my feelings known. I was sat directly behind the goal today (I normally sit a bit more to the side), as there wasn’t much of a crowd when I got to the ground fifteen minutes before kick-off and I didn’t expect many more people to turn up. One minute before the kick-off a group of lads came and stood directly in front of me, and after the first 30 seconds had gone spent the rest of the time criticising the whole team and in particular shouting abuse at Richard Taundry.

If Taundry ever misplaced a pass then he would get abused not just by these lads but the vocal majority of the crowd. The most annoying part of today was that Taundry had his best game for us since the first game of the season, particularly in the second half. One thing that can never be questioned about Taundry is his effort and also his willingness to stand up and be counted. He still took all our set- pieces very well apart from one (which was greeted with jeers) and drove the team forward in search of a goal.

Why get on the back of someone who is still trying? What are you people hoping to achieve by this? I am well aware that Walsall are not a good team at the moment. On the train back I thought about who from the current squad would get in the team we had under Ray Graydon and I could only think of Andy Butler. So why pick on one player, particularly as he is the only Walsall born and bred player in the team? We were very poor in the first-half but improved greatly in the second-half and deserved to get the victory thanks, in part, to Taundry. As soon as Dagenham equalised the negativity started again. Why bother going to the match if you hate it that much?

Even at the end some people purposefully went over to the tunnel to berate a few players, with Taundry again the target for some abuse from another vocal ‘fan’. Taundry as he had been doing all game kept his head up and looked this man straight in the eye. Well done Richard Taundry today and shame on those supporters of Walsall who decided to make you the butt of all their own personal frustrations.

If you think you have a right to shout abuse at someone because you have paid £22 to go and watch a football match, I completely disagree. May I suggest that next time you don’t bother going, but instead donate that £22 to this good cause and spend your next Saturday afternoon trying to solve your own problems instead of deflecting them onto someone who is trying their very best at their work.