Coventry 5 Walsall 1 - Match analysis and pictures

A mid-season break to Wales was supposed to revitalise Walsall. Instead it looks like the Saddlers are still AWOL in Snowdonia.

The club have climbed more metaphorical mountains than molehills in recent times, but their current peak continues to be out of reach.

Perhaps it was fitting that they were unable to scale Snowdon because of bad weather 10 days ago, because they look unlikely to conquer their latest challenge after Saturday’s Ricoh rout.

Stuck at base camp, they extended their winless run to 15 games in all competitions as Coventry left the Saddlers on their slippery slope.

Treacherously poised two places and two points above the League One relegation zone, Walsall will see the abyss widen should the run continue.

They are now in a relegation battle, something Dean Holden admitted afterwards, and desperately searching for inspiration.

Dean Smith’s damming condemnation of the official’s performance was, to an extent, justified but he knows the team cannot hide behind referee Nigel Miller’s errors.

It was a careless defensive performance as they failed to get to grips with two-goal David McGoldrick and paid the price.

Andy Butler’s late red card intensified the hurt and frustration as the season reached another nadir. The Saddlers are a shadow of the team who were flying 10 weeks ago now and questions over their capabilities continue to grow.

There is only so long the club can urge patience and remind their long-suffering fans they are a developing side.

Fans are now openly questioning Smith, as is their right, but the club will not entertain discussions over a manager’s future after he signed a two-and-a-half year deal in October. They feel it is statement enough that they are backing the boss who no-one doubted in September.

The Saddlers embarked on a project over the summer and they are not about to bin it because of two rocky months.

It is harsh to question a manager while the ink is barely dry on a new deal, but Walsall haven’t got the results – the only important commodity right now. Promise and potential is all well and good, but it must be backed up by three points otherwise those rumblings of discontent from the terraces will get louder.

One hopes the supporters can understand Smith’s problems. There is no money; the cupboard is bare and, while they want to see a winning team, 19th in League One is about the norm for Walsall. They are where they are. Even so, pre-Christmas home games with Yeovil and Colchester have turned into ‘must wins’.

Saturday’s defeat moved them closer to the relegation zone and Walsall won’t want to be reminded of their first ever visit to the Ricoh Arena.

The last time the teams met, in 2004, Coventry won 6-1 and they went close to repeating the result.

Blair Adams’ swipe into his own net gave the Saddlers a deserved lead on 16 minutes but it served only to rile the Sky Blues.

After several near-misses, Carl Baker glided into the area to beat Aaron McCarey at his near post on 29 minutes and Walsall disintegrated.

Two strikes in two minutes from McGoldrick – although his second should be credited as a Holden own goal – sunk the Saddlers. First he chipped over McCarey after Jamie Paterson lost possession and then his shot ricocheted in off Holden after Butler’s goalline clearance.

That was on 41 minutes and the Saddlers had no answer to the rampant Sky Blues.

Will Grigg lobbed over after the break, but there was no great recovery. McGoldrick hit a post before Cyrus Christie’s 61st-minute effort ended the game as a contest.

Holden had a goal questionably disallowed for offside and worse was to follow when Butler walked for his second yellow card.

Baker then curled a shot into the corner from 20 yards with six minutes left before Walsall’s misery was ended. Time to call in the mountain rescue.

Nick Mashiter