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Saddlers Social: Walsall fans have their say

By Liam Keen | Walsall FC | Published:

Walsall fans have their say after a dramatic 3-2 win over Northampton Town.

Saddlers Social

Ian Newbold

Well Saturday was fun, and Northampton fans must be sick of coming to the Bescot just to get a last gasp sucker punch.

Despite the excitement, satisfaction and goodwill a win from two goals down yields, I can’t help also feel it was more than a little fortuitous.

Just take a quick look at the expected goal chart for the game. If Northampton’s goalscorer hadn’t spurned his other equally glorious chances we’d have had to listen to another apology from the manager for getting it wrong, again.

And I know, if my Auntie had…...she’d be my Uncle and all that.

But seriously, Nathan Sheron, Liam Kinsella AND Stuart Sinclair as the starting midfield three? A midfield that was largely going to be bypassed given the difficult windy and wet playing conditions? Talk about negative and uninspiring. You could argue we basically started with nine defensively minded players. At home, with wins at a premium.

Like many games under DC we ended the match with a much better team than we started it with. The substitutions, and Storm Dennis, contributed massively to our successful comeback.

Nick Etheridge

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Never dull being a Walsall fan (bar Newport) is it? At half-time on Saturday I’m sure most of us were more concerned with how many we’d concede rather than what we’d do at the other end of the pitch. I really feared the worst as a decent looking Northampton side didn’t get out of first gear yet still helped themselves to two goals, although some shoddy defending made it pretty easy for them. Zak Jukes in particular backed up Clarke’s point from earlier in the season

In the second-half absolutely everything seemed to go right. As soon as we put a bit of pressure on their back line, they looked just as poor as we did in the first half. It was all spearheaded by the excellent Elijah Adebayo who was the only player to come out of the first half with any credit.

Eli’s performance on Saturday really summed up the frustrations of the squad as a whole. There is definitely something there, it’s just about finding that consistency. It also showed what can happen if we grab the initiative and take the game to the opposition rather than them dictate the game. The midfield is a big part of that and we were so much better when Rory Holden came on. Everything he does may not come off, but he at least offers something different.

The main frustration for me though was that we outplayed a genuine play-off contender and even gave them a two goal head start. It shows what the lads are capable and again, with the right recruitment in the summer, there’s no reason why we can’t kick on again.

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If we are going to be bringing another striker in, we could do worse than the Cobblers number 39 Callum Morton, who scored both goals. He was a constant threat throughout, and the fact that he joined on loan from West Brom is a bit of a kick in the teeth. Time and again we miss out on good, young players from local sides. Trust a Walsall fan to go out on a negative after Saturday!

Chris Saunders

The cliche goes it is a game of two halves and on Saturday after the first-half I could have happily walked out! An abject display other than Elijah Adebayo trying to make things happen and we found ourselves 2-0 down to frankly another poor team. I guess however we too are now a poor team which is a hard truth to swallow.

Whatever was said at the interval worked and every player ended up coming out of the game with some credit. Back to Adebayo however, his display was top drawer but only doing it once is not enough. You can tell he has some natural ability but he can also look far below standard. The key to both his career and us getting back to League One is the same thing, consistency.

Daniel Price

What a rollercoaster of emotions. Saturday's game was played in the maybe the worst conditions that I have watched a game of football in, however the two goals that we conceded were not weather related. The first goal come from us not closing down the wide play quick enough and the forward ghosting in between two defenders, and the second we again never tracked the runner and hoped it would creep through to Liam Roberts.

Like many, I questioned at half-time leaving but the lad persuaded me to give it 10 minutes to see if it improved, what a great decision! The first goal was a great piece of play and Josh Gordon's finish was made much easier by the quality of Shay Facey’s ball. The second was a freak goal that you see in those conditions and the third was all a blur with emotions of coming back from the dead to win the game.

A few special mentions that seem to have been bypassed, Roberts makes a great save a 2-1 down to keep us in the game. If that goes in I fely the game was over and secondly the performance of the man of the match in my eyes Elijah Adebayo, he was a constant menace from minute one to 90, held the ball up well, used his body to full effect and his driving with the ball naturally kept pushing us up the field. The only thing missing for him was a goal but that’s a million times better performance than we have seen in recent weeks… Keep it up Ade.

Lastly the formation change to the 4-2-3-1 that after that first goal looks the way forward for us, a solid back line with two holding midfielders allowed the forwards to be fluid and free which I think was the game changer, we looked a lot more comfortable and confident and hopefully there more of that style of play to come.

Great win now let’s see if we can beat the Vale and allow me to have the bragging rights at work.

Jon Taylor

As I was sipping on my half-time hot chocolate there was no way I could have predicted what happened in the second-half. We couldn’t have complained if we had gone in more than two behind – Northampton played some good football and coped with the conditions far better than we did.

In the second half we played much better and utilised the conditions to our favour. Darrell Clarke’s substitutions were absolutely spot on, he brought on technical players in Wes McDonald and Rory Holden, recognising that we had to get the ball on the floor and not hoof it forward and bringing on Danny Guthrie having the range of passing.

We must not forget we have Liam Roberts to thank for his save at 2-1 which kept us in the game had that gone in I don’t think we would have made the come back as we did.

It has been something as Walsall fans we have wanted to see from our team for the past couple of seasons, some fight and determination as far too many times we have been on the opposite side of a comeback. If we play as we did in the second-half our future will not be a mid-table League Two side.

James Kenealey

If ever there was an example of how we need to start playing to our own strengths rather than adjusting ourselves for the opponent then it’s last Saturday.

We were awful in the first-half and I glumly predicted a 0-3 or 0-4 was on the cards as I stood in the swirling wind and rain questioning my own sanity. But what a second half. A couple of changes and suddenly Northampton couldn’t handle us playing how we play best.

I don’t know what went on in either dressing room at half time but from the moment Josh Gordon pulled one back you sensed that if there were to be any more goals in that game, we’d be getting them. I wonder how big of a role the battering wind played in helping Danny Guthrie’s lovely cross deceive everyone to level the scores?

Special mention to Elijah Adebayo for his best game in a Walsall shirt. I’ve been a vocal critic of his this season (an inability to stay on his feet, barn doors and banjoes etc) but he was man of the match for me. A real menace with some lovely hold up play. More of the same please.

The days of a potential play-off challenge this season are long gone (were they ever really there?) but a top half finish should be expected now and that’s something. It’s not much in the grand scheme, but it’s something.

It'll be interesting to see how the season ticket sales pan out. I don’t think we’ll be anywhere near the target the club has set but a strong finish to the season both on and off the pitch (time to pull out the stops in terms of service, folks, and show people what they could look forward to in 20/21) will do a bit to help the situation.

Robert Dearn

What a second half. Possibly one of the best 45 minutes of football I have seen in recent times. Bouncing back from 2-0 down to win is a fantastic effort against any team, let alone one that is (was) in the play-off's.

It is something we have lacked this season, bouncing back. However games against Northampton and Crawley have seen fans leave with a smile on their faces. With this season a mid-table finish, the fans still need reasons to turn up. DC will want to build ready for next season, and we, the fans, want to believe that we can push for promotion next season, so my message to the team, get us believing.

Rob Harvey

Well what a game of two halves that was on Saturday! I went from wondering why I was sitting in the rain to wanting to sit in it for even longer!

Saturday summed up why me, and I think a lot of other Saddlers fans, are frustrated with Darrell Clarke this season. He’s admitted he set up for the conditions which to me shows a bit of distrust in the players as he didn’t think some could handle the wind and rain. Second-half when the subs were made we were 100 times better and it showed that if he actually trusts his players he can get a decent performance out of them.

Quick shoutout for Elijah Adebayo, I’m not his biggest fan at all, but Saturday was his best performance in a Walsall shirt and he was just missing a goal. How he didn’t get man of the match is beyond me, he deserved it 100 per cent. If he can keep that level of performance up for the rest of the season, maybe we do have a good talent on our hands and it’s taken him a bit longer than expected to get up to scratch. A good summer with a bit of gym work and he could be a handful next season. Fingers crossed.

Also a very quick shout for Rory Holden, great to see him score the winner and his first professional goal. If there’s any chance of signing him permanently, I’d take him. He’s improving as the season goes on and maybe starting to prove a few people wrong.

Looking forward, we are nine points off the play-offs. Head says we’re too inconsistent to trouble them, heart says you never know. I’d go as far as to say the game on Saturday vs Port Vale is a potential season ender if we don’t win. Hopefully the players are up for it from the start as Vale are bringing a decent following and will be getting behind their team. We need to get behind the lads from the off! UTS!

Stuart Cox

After the recent borefest against Newport, Saturday brought some much needed excitement to wake everybody up.

The first-half was woeful and that’s being kind. Second-half we looked a completely different team, wanting to attack, frightening the opposition… descriptions that we haven’t used much at all this season.

Josh Gordon’s header was one the best headers I’ve seen for a while at the Banks’s and he worked his backside off again throughout the game. I can see why he got the Man of the Match award but really it should have gone to Elijah Adebayo who was superb. If he played like that every week he would be one of the first names on the team sheet. Let’s hope it gives him a bit of a boost and if he can produce some consistent performances it may well earn him some praise from those (including myself) who’ve given him some stick over the season.

We’ve run out of games to mount any kind of play-off challenge – it would need some title winning form to do that by pretty much winning every game left – but there are signs that we are making progress. Consistency has been our problem all season – a good run then a dismal one or a good half followed by a poor one. Let’s hope come the end of the season it’s clear to DC who are the players that will contribute to a promotion push next season and who are the ones that need to go.

Jury is still out on quite a few.

Liam Keen

By Liam Keen
Sports Reporter - @LiamKeen_Star

Sports journalist at the Express & Star, primarily covering Walsall FC and grassroots sport across the Black Country and Staffordshire. Got a story? Get in touch on 01902 319456.

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