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Chris Marsh: Walsall need to take a long hard look at themselves

By Joseph Masi | Walsall FC | Published:

It’s time for everyone at Walsall Football Club to have a long, hard look at themselves.

The manager. The players. The coaching staff. Even the substitutes.

Because the away record – and in particular the last two games against Bristol Rovers and Rotherham – have not been good enough.

They don’t need me to tell them that. Jon Whitney and all the players will be well aware.

But it’s got to stop now because it’s not acceptable.

We all know what happened on Tuesday night. The performance in the 5-1 defeat at Rotherham was dreadful.

But I want to start by talking about the Bristol Rovers game because when you are drawing – and the opposition are reduced to 10 men – you should not be losing that football match.

From the second you have that man advantage, it’s up to you to move the ball quickly enough to create chances.

You should force your opponents into two banks of four and and then do everything you can to break them down.

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If you then create chances, hit the post, hit the bar and the keeper pulls of a string of top saves then fair enough – you come away with a point. But you should not lose.

I understand the crowd play a big part. And the Memorial Stadium was rocking when Sam Slocombe was given his marching orders.

The home fans inspired their team. But I don’t care if you’re playing in front of 75,000 supporters at Old Trafford, you do not lose t 10 men.

And it’s particularly frustrating because of Walsall’s away record in 2017.

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We all know the Saddlers haven’t won an away game this calendar year.

But what an opportunity they had at Bristol Rovers to put that right.

Jon Whitney's side have yet to win away from home in 2017.

And can you imagine how different the mood would have been travelling to Rotherham if they had put that unwanted record to bed.

Rotherham away, on a cold, wet, windy night is always going to be tough. They are a very good side at this level.

But a win last weekend would have made the players believe they could go to the New York Stadium and really give it a go.

Psychologically, they would have been in a better place.

Instead, they were immediately up against it. And so it proved.

To a man, Walsall were not at the races. I always think you can have a maximum of three players not at their best. Any more than that and you are in trouble.

If you can come off the pitch knowing you’ve done your best that’s fine – but from reading Whitney’s comments, there was a lack of desire on Tuesday.

The players need to look at themselves in the mirror and ask ‘did I really do enough?’

The substitutes have to seriously look at themselves and ask why they are not getting in the team. And the manager and the coaching staff have to look at themselves and how tactically they could have done more.

Ray Graydon and Chris Nicholl were the two most successful managers I played under.

And they would question themselves in front of us players.

They would ask if they set up differently or if they made a substitution earlier whether that would have made us better or given us more of a chance.

That was there way of saying we are all professionals. We are going away and questioning ourselves – now you go away and question what you’re doing.

It’s a team game and everyone, from the top to the bottom, has to look at themselves.

I’m sure everyone will have done that from the moment the game at Rotherham finished.

And I’m sure they will continue to do so over the coming days.

Had Walsall beaten Bristol Rovers and lost at Rotherham, the pressure going into Saturday’s game wouldn’t be so intense.

But they didn’t and now they know there has to be a response against Peterborough.

It’s a massive game because, having seemingly turned a corner with their performances against Bradford and Plymouth, suddenly the players have to prove themselves all over again.

Joseph Masi

By Joseph Masi
Football MMPJ - @josephmasi_star

Football journalist for the Express & Star covering Walsall FC.

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