Chris Marsh: Walsall checking out of the Checkatrade Trophy is a big blow
Back to reality with a bump – that’s how Walsall’s defeat to Bury in the Checkatrade Trophy felt to me.
And I know there are a lot of Saddlers fans who felt exactly the same, writes Chris Marsh.
Jon Whitney’s side had registered two cracking wins by first beating Fleetwood at home and then overcoming AFC Wimbldeon at Kingsmeadow.
But yet again they couldn’t go on and win three games on the spin.
It was back in October 2016 that the Saddlers last won three matches in a row. That just isn’t good enough.
And this latest defeat to Bury left me feeling incredibly frustrated.
Okay, it was in the Checkatrade Trophy. We all know it’s not the most glamorous competition in the world.
The FA Cup will always be the most important knock-out competition for me. Even now it’s a competition that excites me. I was glued to my TV for the third-round draw on Monday and I wished Walsall were still involved.
But the Checkatrade Trophy gave us a chance to get to Wembley. It was a shot at success. And in football success, breeds success.
Back in 2015 we got to the final under Dean Smith and in doing so Walsall got to play under that famous arch for the first time in their history.
We didn’t turn up on the day. But Saddlers fans still got the chance to travel to London and dream that their team was going to lift a trophy.
It was a day out. It was exciting and it gave supporters something to look forward to.
But what have they got to look forward to at the minute? The season is starting to feel very stale and we’re only just in December.
Going far in the Checkatrade Trophy would also have really helped ease the pressure on Whitney.
But now we are just back where we started. We win a couple, we lose a couple and we draw a couple.
The good news is that we are on the brink of the busy Christmas period. Games will be coming thick and fast which is always enjoyable.
But I think all of us now have one eye on January and whether the Saddlers can keep hold of a host of their key players.
Tyler Roberts, Zeli Ismail, Daniel Agyei and Shaun Donnellan all see their loans expire at the turn of the year. There has been so much speculation regarding Roberts’ future that I can’t see his loan being extended.
But I now have the same fear about Ismail who I think has been outstanding over the past few weeks. He obviously couldn’t play against Bury because he’s on loan from the Shakers.
But they have got a new manager in Chris Lucketti and I wouldn’t be surprised if he now wants to run the rule over Ismail to see what he can offer.
You also have to throw into the mix Erhun Oztumer is out of contract in the summer so the club will surely receive offers for him in January.
Replacing these players will be very difficult. And I certainly don’t think we can afford to lose all three.
Walsall, it’s over to you.