Chris Marsh: Bad day at the office for Walsall
Jon Whitney came out and put Tuesday’s 3-0 defeat to relegation-threatened Rochdale down to tiredness – and I don’t really buy that.
Jon’s past is as a physio and preparation for games – fitness – is his strong suit.
One thing he has always done, in fairness, is prepare the side well for games and he knows the tricks of the trade – so fitness should not really be a concern.
I’m just putting it down to a bad night at the office, they happen from time to time – not energy levels being low.
Of course, the disappointment of Tuesday followed on from elation at Southend on Saturday, winning 3-0 there.
That was a great result at Roots Hall, which is a very tough place to go.
After the game, I sat back and thought ‘We are safe now’.
I know, mathematically, we need some more points – being on 44, with 10 games to go – but I just thought ‘that’s it now, nothing to worry about’.
But after the loss to Rochdale, and the manner of it, there is still a little bit of doubt in my mind. The Dale came down to us in high spirits after the trip to Wembley to face Tottenham in the FA Cup.
Even though they were soundly beaten by Spurs, the occasion has lifted the mood there and they seem to be playing with that bit of freedom despite their precarious position.
They have a few games in hand to try to get out of trouble in League One and they’re just going for it, giving it their best shot.
And, undoubtedly, they deserved to win on Tuesday.
It is just very disappointing as those are the games the Saddlers should be winning at home.
Let’s hope they can come up with a response at Shrewsbury on Saturday.
The games don’t get any easier but, let’s remember, Walsall did beat them 1-0 at their patch in the Checkatrade Trophy earlier this campaign – the competition that Town are now in the final of.
It can be done. They key word is consistency, trying to string together a run of results.
I don’t think it’s complacency, Jon knows how tough the division is and, with his background, he does know what players need to do in the build-up to games.
One thing I would like to see is more goals coming from the forwards.
For too long the onus has been on Erhun Oztumer to get the goals.
He got a sublime second-half hat-trick on Saturday but had a penalty saved against Rochdale.
For a while the goalscoring burden was shared between him and Joe Edwards but with the latter now injured, the strikers – mainly Ama Bakayoko – really need to step up to the plate.
Justin Shaibu and Julien Ngoy – on loan from Brentford and Stoke City respectively – have also led the line as of late, but it is a bit more difficult for loanees to make their mark.
Ama has scored eight goals for the Saddlers this season.
He is still only 22 and he has a lot of admirers to be fair to him.
I do like him. There is a lot to work on but he does have potential.
I don’t want to be too hard on him but he should be scoring more.
It’s a little bit harder when you’re up there on your own and if it was down to me, I’d play two up front with Oztumer in behind – I’m a bit old school.
Whatever the system Jon decides to go with at Shrewsbury and beyond, though, the centre forwards need to be chipping in at a more regular rate.
A striker should end the campaign in double figures, that is a fact.
It’d be great if Ama or one of the loanees did so before what has been a difficult season comes to a close.