Walsall v MK Dons – In-depth Tactical Analysis

A rousing second-half wasn’t enough for the Saddlers to gain three points but it did mean our best performance in many weeks.

There was no Michael Cain in the squad, and not a lot of people knew that, until the teams were announced. Sam Mantom was back in the middle instead. James Chambers on the bench, Jordy Hiwula on the left – the rest you all know.

The first-half was reasonably equal with Tom Bradshaw taking advantage of a goalkeeping error to head home. Will Grigg got MK Dons equaliser and was a threat throughout the first 45 minutes. There were two or three times he got the better of Paul Downing only to be flagged offside and had a questionable handball claim go against him after he had rounded O’Donnell. The goal came about from a cross from the left that Purkiss should have done a lot better to stop. It was all too easy. There was also a good shout for a penalty as Andy Taylor unnecessarily tripped a MK Dons forward. Mantom was anonymous.

The Walsall midfield didn’t have any grip at all in the first half but the second half was entirely different – it was all Walsall. Adam Chambers was superb and almost scored a rare goal. He was getting the ball of the defence and bringing it forward (as opposed to O’Connor bringing it forward against Leyton Orient) whilst Mantom sat in the middle and came more into the game. Sawyers linked everything up well but has no goal threat so it’s all too predictable – you know he’s going to pass instead of shoot. He had a great chance in the first-half but his finish was very poor.

Hiwula isn’t a winger, he is an out and out forward, we looked a lot better when Forde came on at the end as he gives us real impetus, and Murphy deserves a chance down the left-hand side.

It was more encouraging today and definitely more entertaining than what I have recently seen.

Bring on Wembley!


Walsall Reserves v Morecambe Reserves – In-depth Tactical Analysis

What a scorcher of a day, eh? I walked an eight mile round trip to see this game. I saw canals, flowers, graffiti and the M6 toll road as I crossed two counties (West Midlands and Staffordshire) from my home in Pelsall to the venue of Chasetown FC.

Anyway, first things first. We lost 2-0. It wasn’t all that bad though as I got to see Roy Whalley (ex-Commercial director for the Saddlers), Dean Smith (the gaffer) and the BBC Midlands Today presenter, Ian Winter. This – with the addition of a live and kicking Nelson Mandela – is also my ideal dinner party guest list, so you can’t imagine how happy I am right now.

Walsall lined up in a kind of 4-3-3 formation:

GK: MacGillivray

RB: Kinsella

LB: Probert

CB: K.Rowley

CB: Preston

CM: Mantom

CM: Delaney

CM: Heath

LF: Bakayoko

CF: Jones

RF: Murphy

Morecambe scored on the stroke of half-time from a free header from a corner. Defensively, we were all over the place as Morecambe ran us ragged for the first half as they also hit the bar and caused our keeper to make some impressive saves.

The second-half was a very good game with Walsall dominating the play and Morecambe hitting us on the counter attack. Murphy hit the base of the post with a turn and a shot and that was the closest we came to scoring. Morecambe scored from one of their breakaways as Walsall stood still waiting for an offside flag that never came.

It was good to see Mantom back in the team but he didn’t really do much to warrant a return to first-team action. I would have liked to see Bakayoko given a run down the centre as he was isolated on the left (and also on the right when he switched with Murphy) but when he did get the ball he was a real handful.

Murphy was the pick of the outfield players as he really ran at the defence and caused them a lot of problems. He didn’t have much support though so he was often running into blind alleys.

The trialist, Jones from West Brom, didn’t do much but looked tidy. Kinsella was good in the first-half at right-back, trying to support the attack, but I think he should have been marking the scorer of the first goal from the corner.

Man of the match goes to MacGillivray who pulled off four or five good saves and tried to marshall our shaky defence.

£2 to get in though! I thought it was free!!!!!!

In-depth Tactical Analysis – Stafford Town 0 Walsall 5

How many times have Walsall won the Walsall Senior Cup? Surely more than Bloxwich Strollers or Shelfield Athletic? Nope. They ain’t won it all. Shocking stuff. Surely the only professional club in Walsall could have won it at least once? No. The closest we came was when we reached the final in 2013.

Of course, we don’t play the first team players in these games but surely the youth team could beat a bunch of semi-professionals? Last night we had nine professionals (plus one on the bench) and six of these have seen first-team action.


Stafford Town are from the Midland Football League Division One (Tier 10) and were great hosts to approximately 300 fans. It was £4 each, £2 concessions and despite being able to qualify for concessions -UB40- I paid the full price. This is because I am a very generous man and not (as the cynical may think) because I had forgot my card to prove that I am on the dole and was that cold I couldn’t be bothered to plead my case with the turnstile operator.

Anyway, to cut a dull story short, we walloped them. There were a few tasty challenges from the Stafford lads (you could hear the thuds in the stand) that lead to a couple of penalties and we had about eighty percent of the possession. Apart from a couple of free-kicks on the edge of the box (that came to nothing) and a very late goalmouth scramble Stafford didn’t trouble our defense at all.

Bakayoko scored the first from the spot. Murphy got the second after an amazing two-thirds of the pitch run from the left-back Rico Henry. In the second-half, Benning got our second penalty, Murphy produced an excellent finish for the fourth and Bakoyoko got a late fifth from outside the box.

Man of the match was Rico Henry who coped easily with his defensive duties and had a major influence on the attack, particularly with the second goal. Out of the other professionals, Benning had a lot of possession on the wing and combined with Henry well, but overplayed things at times. Morris had a good game on the right-wing, cutting in on his left many times and hit the bar in the first-half after a great run and shot. Flanagan was calm in the middle and did the simple things well, keeping the game ticking over. Preston had so little to do it was difficult to judge him. He is big though – by far the biggest player in terms of height and build on the pitch, until Stafford brought on an enormous sub –  and shouts a lot, something we seem to be lacking in the first team at the moment. Murphy was the pick of the strikers, he is fast and can definitely finish well. Kinsella had a good touch and was calm but got roughed up a few times. Bakayoko was OK. He wanted to cut-in with his left foot too many times and the keeper should have saved his second goal. MacGillivray had next to nothing to do. Roberts didn’t get a game (again).

I was sat next to Dean Smith in the second-half who was talking to a mysterious old man throughout. He looked like a cross between Roy Whalley and Tommy Coakley. Despite the use of my grandma’s ear trumpet, I couldn’t hear a bloody thing though.

Whilst I was having my half-time Bovril I was sat near to Neil Baldwin. I told him that it would be marvelous if Walsall won 5-0 and he managed to arrange a lift for me back to Pelsall. Both of which he agreed upon. When the final whistle went I turned to him to say what a marvelous result it was but he had already gone. I then had to walk to Stafford station in the snow, catch the train to Wolverhampton then wait for my bus to Pelsall with a load of angry Wolves fans. It took me two bloody hours to get home. The public transport in this region is far from bloody marvelous. I’ll tell him that, next time I see him.

Walsall v Tranmere – In-depth Tactical Analysis

Today, with the sun shining, it was a chance for me to wear my £270 Rayban, polarised, prescription, Wayfarer sunglasses for the entire 90 minutes.

It was a good job I was wearing them for the first thirty minutes as our football was dazzling.

I won’t bother giving you the line-up as you should already know. I will just give my thoughts on our play.

For the first 30 it was all pass and move, full-backs bombing on, wingers changing sides, Lalkovic and Westcarr swapping round. It was awesome as we bossed play and deserved our 2 goal lead.

After that Tranmere got back into it and scored a cracking free-kick just before half-time, after winning a rash of corners.

The second half we looked tired – maybe those many pre-season games were showing – we started to panic in possession, play a few aimless long balls and look ragged.

Just before we prepared a few subs, Westcarr got his second after a neat exchange with Lalkovic.

Sawyers came on and looked good. We were in complete control and Westcarr had a great chance for his hat-trick before play got pulled back for a free kick to us.

Individually, I would give Lalkovic MOTM followed by Westcarr and then Hemmings.

Everybody else did the job expected of them.

O’Donnell was impossible to judge as he hardly anything to do.

On this evidence we won’t be missing the big players we lost in the summer.

Alfreton Town 0 Walsall 6 – In-depth Tactical Analysis

Easy peasy lemon squeezy this one.
First of all the goalscorers:

32: Sawyers – easy lob after mix up in Alfreton defence
36: Lalkovic – from tight angle
68: Hemmings – into bottom left corner
69: Westcarr – another mix-up in the Alfreton defence and great work from Baxendale sets up easy chance
72: Westcarr – tucks away after great long through ball from Flanagan
90: Hewitt – from close range after cross from George

This was a great display of movement and passing with Alfreton hardly getting a look-in except for a five minute spell in the 2nd half when our backline was a bit shaky after a few subs.
The first half saw Mantom and Featherstone dominate midfield and the defence very comfortable.
The second half we attacked with more aplomb and created bags of chances.
Throughout the game I can only think of one time when we hoofed the ball clear instead of passing.

Out of the non-regulars, trialists and new signings, Reece Flanagan stood out for me. He had so much time and looked very comfortable on the ball spreading play around and threading through balls. His pass for Westcarr’s second was sublime.
All the others did well, with Mantom and Westcarr being the best of the regulars.
Both the new forwards took their goals well.
Morris did ok as did Robert McQuilkin. O’ Donnell was hardly tested.

Our team in full:

GK O’Donnell

RB Ben Purkiss
LB Benning
CD Butler
CD Downing

CM Mantom
CM Fetherstone

LM Morris
RM Mcguigan

AM Sawyers

CF Lalkovic

2nd Half

Holden for Butler
Taylor for Benning
Baxendale for Mantom (Mcguigan moves into CM)
Westcarr for Sawyers
Hewitt for Lalkovic

67m Subs

James Chanbers for Downing
Hemmings for Morris
Flanagan for Fetherstone
George for Purkiss

As long as we don’t have James Chambers and Holden as centre halves, all bodes well for next season.

Walsall v Bury – In-depth Tactical Analysis

We were desperate today and so was the pitch. Our goal was the only moment of quality. Credit to Bury though they didn’t let our creative players get into the game apart from that moment. Normally we would have Taylor bombing down the left and providing us with more width but he was sadly missed today. Grigg barely had a sniff all game. Mantom is a good player but he plays within his comfort zone, doing the simple stuff well but not driving the play forward. The whole team was flat and missing Butler’s spirit and also his defending. There were a few mix-ups between Holden and Johnstone, not necessarily Holden’s fault though but the back four in Butler’s absence haven’t looked a cohesive unit at all. Holden looks a yard off the pace and has to rely on his determination to get him through games. Chambers is missed over at right-back as well as there is not enough passing from the back when Purkiss fills in, although he is defensively sound.
All the subs were disappointing, especially Sawyers who did nothing to impress. Was the Bury goal offside? The bloody pillars were in the way so I have no idea.

Thats it for me now. Cricket will take over in the next few months. Lets hope we can hold on to most of our players so we can enjoy those Midlands derbies that are coming our way.

Walsall v Sheffield United – In-depth Tactical Analysis

It feels like a defeat today. It was a game we should have won, Brandy guilty of missing the best chances.

Due to a steam train setting the countryside on fire just outside Bicester, The Gilbert Alsop arrived at the ground at 3.40pm. Two minutes later, Westcarr turned and scored to give us a half-time lead.

After the break we went to force home our advantage and this is when Brandy had those chances, created by Westcarr and Baxendale. United took advantage to equalise from a tap-in after a long distance shot bounced off both posts.

Benning, who had to come on for an injured Taylor, was caught out for the goal. Although you cant blame him directly, there was certainly a lack of understanding between him and Paterson, who was on the left. First of all they both left the ball so it went out for a United throw-in and then a few moments later Benning allowed the attacker to run into a large space for the goal to be scored.

After the goal it was fairly equal and we almost got caught out at the end with Butler playing on with an injury and Downing having to make a well timed last-ditch tackle.

Defensively we were sound up until Taylor came off and then looked a bit shaky after that. Purkiss, who doesn’t offer as much going forward as James Chambers, did ok.

Adam Chambers was man of the match. He carried the ball forward a lot and also tracked back, he seemed to be everywhere. Mantom was content to do the basics and did that very well. Paterson was quiet, offering only a glimpse of his talent. Baxendale faded towards the end but was involved in a lot going forward. Westcarr did well, linking up play and scoring. I think he lacks a little confidence at time though, particularly when faced with making decisions. Sawyers had a decent cameo in his usual three minutes. Playing a great pass to send Paterson free.

And then to Brandy. In many ways he was the best player today. The United defence struggled with him throughout. He just couldn’t score today and with a goal return of only six for the season, for all his talents, this appears to be his weakness. He had five chances today, one quite easy, two he should have got on target and two that were difficult.

Bloody hell! What could have been? Nine points from the last three games may not be enough, but The Gilbert Alsop hasn’t given up hope and will be at Scunthorpe next week.

Walsall v Coventry City – In-depth Tactical Analysis

Wowsers! What a performance today. A deserved scoreline for an awesome display.
Grigg wasn’t playing so in came Baxendale to tear them apart and Westcarr went up top. Why didn’t Smith play this way against Hartlepool?
With Baxendale in the team we look like a really slick outfit. He is good with the ball and allows Paterson and Brandy to create chances as well.
Paterson opened the scoring with some good close control in the box and a great finish from a tight angle.
Westcarr got a penalty after Baxendale had been chopped down. Coventry went down to 10 men and then Westcarr and Paterson helped themselves to more goals.
Westcarr, the least mobile of our attacking players, played well doing the simple things well.
The back five were a compact unit not giving Coventry a chance. Chambers and Mantom protected the back four and ensured our creative players got as much as the ball as possible.
And boy did we create. Brandy did most of it, popping up everywhere and picking up lots of free-kicks. This gave Paterson loads of space to exploit which he did superbly. As well as his two goals he went on some other brilliant runs and could have got more.
A great day to be a Saddler.

Yeovil v Walsall – In-depth Tactical Analysis

The whole team defended superbly well today with the two centre-halves being the pick of the bunch. Johnstone hardly touched the ball at all and we restricted them to a couple of long range efforts from their big centre-half.
The first half was pretty equal I thought. Brandy going the closest with a long-range effort the keeper could only parry away. Although they had good spells of possession (their right-back appeared to be everywhere) they couldn’t do anything with it.
As soon as the second-half started we got Brandy more into the game and were all over them as we had wave after wave of attacks in the first ten minutes but came away with nothing to show for it and no real chances created.
Grigg came the closest just before he was substituted, at last forcing their keeper into a save from a run of successive corners. Hemmings came on for Grigg and Brandy played up top, with Hemmings on the left and Paterson on the right. We still couldn’t create a decent chance though and the game huffed and puffed to its inevitable goalless conclusion.
Although we were the slightly better team I think a draw was the best result.
Sawyers had a few minutes at the end and won a couple of headed flick-ons but you can’t really judge him on that alone.
Man of the match is anyone from Butler, Downing, James or Adam Chambers. I will plump for Downing who looked in control throughout and also kept possession well.

There were also two farcical moments when we went down to ten men. Brandy came off for five minutes in the first half as he appeared to have lost a shin pad or something like that and disappeared down the tunnel then got called back and after much faffing around on the bench eventually came back on.
Then with a couple of minutes left, Hemmings came off as I think he took a whack in the face. Baxendale was ready to come on, the paperwork handed in, then all of a sudden Hemmings rose from the dead (appropriately, for this time of year) then sprinted back on, leaving Baxendale jilted at the altar. Can anyone clear up what actually happened in both these cases?

Hartlepool United v Walsall – In-depth Tactical Analysis

A disappointing day.

I can take losing or drawing but to approach this game the way we did has left me more disappointed. Why did Featherstone play? I like him but he is not a creative player. We should have played Baxendale instead and played more positively.

When Featherstone came off we looked a lot better. Hemmings had an impact straight away and had our best chance of the game as we dominated the last 30 minutes. It also Brandy more into the game. Loads of half-chances were created and on a better day and with Grigg in the team we would have taken those.

Johnstone had a decent debut making a fine save in the first half as Hartlepool coped with the windy conditions better and twice narrowly missed scoring. His distribution could be better but it was very windy so I can let him off with that.

We scrapped and fought throughout an awful game. We needed some quality and only got that towards the end when Hemmings came on. As well as Hemmings’ miss, Bowerman, Paterson, Mantom and Brandy all squandered decent chances as we panicked in front of goal.

Roll on Yeovil.