Walsall comment: Saddlers heading in the right direction
A lot has been made of Walsall’s six-game losing run in October and how it has affected the club’s play-off chances this season.
The statistics don’t lie – had they picked up more points in that time, they would be right in the mix.
After the 3-2 comeback win over Northampton last week, Walsall’s season can now be split into two halves, with the October losing run at the heart of it.
In the first 17 games of the season, which leads up to and including the 2-1 loss away to Swindon on November 2, the picture is very different to the 17 games following it.
The loss to Swindon was the final game in the club’s six-match losing streak and left the squad with four wins, three draws and 10 losses from the first 17 fixtures.
The feeling at that time was the Saddlers were undoubtedly in a relegation scrap.
They sat 22nd in the division and were failing in front of goal – scoring only 12 times, while conceding 25.
Darrell Clarke’s men had 15 points and it all looked rather grim.
It got slightly worse before it got better, with a 2-2 FA Cup draw with non-league Darlington to follow, but in the league the tide began to turn.
In the next 17 league games following the Swindon loss, the outlook was a lot brighter.
Including the Northampton win, Walsall picked up eight wins and four draws, losing only five times.
They have halved their losses and doubled their wins.
While goals against is only four less on 21, goals for has increased dramatically to 23 in that time.
It gives a points total over those 17 games of 28, which as Clarke says is play-off form.
“For me, the form has been pretty consistent, it’s been top seven form in the last 17 games with a few bumps in the road,” he said. “But we want more and we’ve got to build from that so I think you’ve got to put things in a bit of context and realise where the group was and where it is at the minute.
“Is there going to be some more bumps? Yes. Are we looking at one or two players between now and the end of the season? Yes.
“So we’ve got to realise that we’re moving along quite nicely.
“I’m quite pleased of where we’ve been in the last 17 league games but I also want a lot more, a lot more from my players and better consistent results over a long period.
“That’s the question mark hanging over this group of players with 12 games to go.”
Consistency has certainly improved for the Saddlers throughout the course of the season.
What has stopped them from a play-off charge this season is the poor October form and inconsistency at the start of the season.
The two losses to Carlisle and the defeat to Morecambe, in December and January, have also contributed.
But the numbers suggest that the team is surely heading in the right direction.