Chris Marsh: Just six games left of a stormy season for Walsall
Walsall have come out of a tropical storm.
They have just about survived still in one piece, but it’s still raining hard and now they have to man-up and come out fighting because there are just six games left to save the season.
We all know the run of fixtures over the past few weeks has been tough. Portsmouth, Sunderland, Barnsley and Doncaster provided a gruelling run of games. But the bottom line is we lost all four. We didn’t get a single point.
There were some good performances along the way and we’ve also had some rotten luck. But football is a results business. And those four losses on the spin mean we are staring relegation in the face.
The big positive is we are not cut adrift. Still, we are only in the bottom four on goal difference. But we need to start picking up results and cutting out the mistakes that have blighted the season.
I saw a statistic this week that said 23 per cent of the goals Walsall have conceded have been in the first 15 minutes of matches.
We are slow starters. There is no other way to say it. And we can’t let it continue. It was absolutely ridiculous that, after four minutes, Walsall were 2-0 down at Doncaster last weekend. And I felt so sorry for my pal Keatesy.
The first goal wasn’t a penalty, we’ve all seen that now with the benefit of a replay. But after conceding so early, you cannot then gift the opposition a second.
Keates had warned his players what to expect from Doncaster winger Mallik Wilks. He is a good player. But they were told he likes to cut in off the flank to get his shots away. But Walsall just allowed it to happen. You can’t blame the manager for that.
He has gone out, given them their instructions and a game plan and within four minutes it’s completely ripped to shreds. Once they cross that white line, the players are accountable. And they have got to start learning and taking responsibility for their actions because it’s happened all season.
You have got to give yourselves a chance in games, but we didn’t against Doncaster.
Another stat I saw this week is that our last seven goals have all come from set-pieces. That shows they are working. But it also means we aren’t scoring from open play. And that’s where the wingers and the midfield players need to contribute more.
It’s no good playing well and getting into dangerous postilions if there aren’t goals and assists at the end of it.
Now we’re into a six-game mini-season which begins with Oxford at home.
And I can tell you they are no mugs. I saw them against Coventry a few weeks ago and they have got some talented players.
They are dangerous going forward and we can’t just go out there and gift them goals.
This is an absolutely massive game. I know it’s obvious, but time is running out and we need three wins from our last six games to have any chance.
Three wins. It’s doable. Very doable.
But the players need to hit this challenge head on because on current form we are going down.
There is no hiding place. They are in a cage and they have to come out swinging.
But it is just three wins. They have proved in the past they can do it. Now they have to step up and deliver.