Saddlers Social: Walsall fans have their say
Walsall fans have their say after another week at the Banks's Stadium.
Saturday’s game was terrible really, and it highlighted a few things that have been there for a while but were brought even more to the forefront after this game.
Defence – way too leaky – at the start of the season it seemed pretty solid, but that’s unravelling fast.
Midfield – too lightweight, too many injuries, too much reliance on Danny Guthrie (who I think hasn’t ever played more than 25-30 games in a season anyway). When Guthrie isn’t there, it seems we are relying too much on Alfie Bates, which is sad really. I hope the expectation doesn’t stop him from being the player we can all see he could become.
Strikers – where to start? Afraid to shoot, missing practically open goals, no real ‘connection’ with a strike partner, no composure. The chances we’ve missed on Saturday and in other games are criminal. The only one who looks remotely like a striker is Lavery so let’s hope he can stay fit.
At the minute, we are in freefall and it’s down to years of mismanagement from the top down. Only now are we really paying for it. It’s time to strap yourselves in tight, it’s going to be one hell of a ride between now and May regardless of who is at our club.
Yet again another mistake cost us dearly and we switched off and now have a tricky trip to Darlington which I don’t fancy us in the slightest.
The club as we stand is arguably at its lowest since the defeat away at Slough in 2004 and I can’t see many positives as it stands, Alfie Bates aside.For the first time in a long time I no longer look forward to heading to the Banks's, the quality of football is poor and overall match day experience has been in decline for a number of years.
Something needs to change and fast as I am sure I am not the only Walsall fan feeling like this and another season in League Two or lower isn’t going to see Pomlett achieve his 5,000 home fans target.
I’ve said before that January will be huge, but we cannot discount the rest of November and December and need to get some wins and positive feeling around the club. Darren Clarke is on a very fine tight rope with the fans, I think he has the backing of the board but lose the fans and the boards view will have to change.
Crash, crack, clunk, bang, booooom, ping, parp, smash, thump, thud, wallop, does anyone know what the sound of hitting rock bottom is? Have we hit it yet, or is even worse still coming?
Personally I feel it’s the latter.
I’ve written here before that surely it can only get better, and I still stand by that, but we may be waiting until August - and I’m not committing to a year - before that actually happens.
It’s properly painful to watch, it hurts so much I have to physically look away at times, the most painful it has been since our move to Bescot. Those turning up paying £5 this Saturday may genuinely feel ripped off.
Will this bargain offer game versus Cambridge be a turning point? Roared on by a bigger, noisier, crowd, a sea of red willing the boys to three much needed points? That could indeed happen, and work in our favour, however the chances of one enormous backfire are perhaps much more than equal.
I fear the worse, almost expect it.
Roll on happier times.
On Saturday I did something that I’ve never done before....missing a home game by choice. As a season ticket holder, I’m pretty much tied in for the long haul, but I usually snap up my cup tickets too. At the weekend though I just couldn’t face the prospect of being dumped (why is it always dumped?) out by non league opposition. Most of us had a bad feeling about the game on Saturday, and it came as little surprise when checking social media that we’d gone a goal down.
When Dan Scarr saw red it felt like the inevitable happened, yet somehow we managed to claw level and even get in front, only to be pegged back again with the last kick of the game. That goal could have a massive psychological blow on a side already short on confidence. Regardless of the opposition, the team would have got a real boost from coming back from a goal down with ten men. To concede again is another hammer blow. Amongst other things Darrell Clarke really needs to boost the morale. The only real plus point being Caolan Lavery showing the strikers instincts that we’ve badly missed.
One of these weeks it will be enjoyable to sit down and write this piece. Another absolute disaster on Saturday. I was actually embarrassed as we entered stoppage time that we were actually winning a match that we really didn’t deserve to.
Where do we start? Gaffney and Adebayo must have bet against themselves scoring as their finishing was absolutely woeful. I must have cursed Scarr a few weeks ago when I said he was one of the most improved players this season. Since that day he has been really poor and Saturday was probably his worst game in a Walsall shirt. Gave the ball away numerous times, made a mistake that led to his first yellow (which from where I was sat was a nailed on straight red) then stupidly got himself sent off after again losing the ball. Has to be Jules and Sadler in the middle for me.
I think there is only one man in the world who thinks that McDonald should start on the bench. Every time he is on the pitch he causes so many problems for the opposition - at the moment he is the only player in the squad that does - he has to start.
The rest (apart from Bates who I’ll come to in a minute) - no clue, no threat, no ideas, same old story. I am really now fearing for us this year. There have been so many poor performances (team and individual) this year, you can’t say that it’s a ‘blip’.
Let’s end on a positive note though - Alfie Bates was the best player on the pitch on Saturday and has performed consistently well every time he’s played. He has the makings of a player who will go on to much better things and I’m pretty sure he won’t be with us come next season. Cambridge next up…it can’t get much worse…can it?
I don’t even know what to say. Where do we go from here? Surely we can’t go down? I just can’t imagine it.
Another very poor performance and let’s be honest, we are lucky to still be in the FA Cup. Can we take positives out of Saturday? I don’t think we can.
With the £5 a ticket offer game up next against Cambridge, let’s just hope that we can put on a performance for the extra couple of hundred fans that wish to take advantage of this deal.
I believe that DC has two games to save his job. Cambridge this Saturday and the already six pointer against Stevenage at home on the 23rd of this month.
Was Saturday unexpected ? Not really. The magic of the FA Cup always brings highs and lows within games, The lows of being down to 10 men and 1-0 down with 82 minutes on the clock to seven minutes later being 2 -1 up to then finish the game 2-2. We love the FA Cup don’t we! A wet and windy midweek replay in Darlington awaits.
Saturday's double substitution after 20 minutes has shown that DC got the team and shape totally wrong, but with Hardy and Mcdonald on the pitch and the 4-4-2 formation we looked more lively and threatening. For me those two players have to start every week, they are the two most explosive players we have in the squad and like I have said before, they create buzz around the ground when they have they ball.
Lavery if he is fit also has to be a starter. He is the only natural finisher that we have, Adebayo and Gaffney have had enough chances now to cement their starting places but it just hasn’t happened for either of them. As a striker your job is to score goals, they both show work rate and determination in patches but they will always be measured on goals scored and at the moment it’s just not happening for either of them. I was hoping that a goal each may have kick started a run and boosted the confidence but it just hasn’t happened. Does Mitch Candlin deserve a shot ?
The centre midfield spots will be an interesting watch over the coming weeks, Alfie bates has been the highlight of the last month or so but when Sinclair and Guthrie are both fit how does DC manage that? 4-4-2 seems to be the formation that works for us, but then only two of those three make the cut, they all have positives and bring different strengths to the team but which two of three fit the bill ?
Onto Saturday, a huge game in our season. We have to find three points and get behind the 11 that DC puts out. If we’re going to let them know how we fell let’s do it at the end of the game and make sure for 90 minutes we get behind the boys and try and bag a crucial three points.
We have a second bite of the cherry in the FA Cup, but it will involve going to Darlington and winning there which is not going to be an easy task. The chances created Saturday were much better and in reality the game should have been finished long before with strikers guilty of missing far too many opportunities. Not taking anything away from Darlington they put in a performance they should be proud of but a team with any confidence would have put the game to bed long before the last ten minutes.
The fact Clarke got it so wrong that he had to make changes 20 minutes in is a massive worry, especially when you consider we had to change our game to compete and get on top. With no disrespect to Darlington we should have the ability to play our own game and win the match, not to have to make changes to contain and then control the game.
Mentions again to Alfie Bates who is grabbing this season by the scruff of the neck and also to Hardy, McDonald and Lavery, hopefully they will get their chance to start games and turn our fortunes around.
What do we have to do to win? The team are playing without any confidence, and very few players actually look like they want the ball. Earlier in the season, I was impressed with how we tried to move the ball around, and the effort players were putting in, even if we lost. But now, there are several players that look nervous when they are in possession.
One player who stands out for me is Alfie Bates. On Saturday, he was constantly calling for the pass, and trying to make something happen. At 18-years-old, playing in a team with this lack of confidence, it's amazing how he has gone from strength to strength.
There's a lot I could say about Gaffney's miss, lack of work rate, and shushing of fans, but instead I will say how great Lavery looked when he came on. He looked sharp, he made runs, he called for the ball, and is in the right places as a striker.... and can hit the target. He looked like a real striker, and I hope he is fit enough for the next three home games, because we need him.
Find someone you know who doesn’t have a clue about football. Show them the highlights of Walsall v Darlington from last Saturday and ask them the following questions:
- Which side is the full time, professional Football League team?
- Which team is being coached by a manager with the highest European coaching badges?
- Which set of supporters have the most to look forward to in the near future?
- I guarantee those answers will be both predictable and depressing.
I’m really getting fed up with writing the same thing over and over again. I’m actually running out of things to say about the performances. Inept. Horrific defending. No quality. The failure of basic footballing rudiments. A selection of strikers who seem to be having their own ‘miss of the season’ competition.
Outside of that, I’ve heard a lot of substantiated talk recently that over the last few years, our lord and saviour Jeff had been taking additional money out of the club alongside his usual wedge in rent. If this is true, which I suspect it is, it perfectly correlates with both the quality of the signings since 2016 (gradually getting worse) and the ‘drawbridge up’ attitude that was worse than ever towards the end.
People are already on Pomlett’s back but stopping this slide is going to be monumental. After all, he never said he has millions to pump in, and he’s bought a husk of a club long since bled dry of hope. Good luck.