Express & Star

Bescot Banter: Frustrating end to 2020 for Walsall

There is no doubt that Walsall ended 2020 in frustrating form. After enjoying an unbeaten spell towards the end of November and through the majority of December, the Saddlers ended the year with a duo of defeats.

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Heading into Tuesday evening's League Two clash with Scunthorpe United on the back of a Boxing Day defeat to Salford City, Clarke's crew were looking to avoid another loss and prove that their acquiesce to the Ammies was a mere bump in the road.

However, that turned out not to be the case as the Saddlers once again demonstrated their unwelcome ability to waste goal-scoring opportunities as the Iron grabbed all three points at a chilly Banks's Stadium - earning their first win in three league games along the way.

Goals from Myles Hippolyte and Alex Gilliead either side of Wes McDonald's third of the season were enough to see United home to victory, a victory made that little bit easier after Josh Gordon's second-half penalty was saved with the scores then tied at one all.

Speaking shortly after full time Darrell Clarke admitted he was frustrated to see his side slip to another defeat before insisting they regularly practice spot kicks, this despite missing four in the league so far this season - not to mention those in cup competitions.

Whilst many players and pundits will insist practising such things as penalties is largely pointless as it often comes down to a single moment in time, it's something worth working on, especially as match officials are awarding many more spot kicks as the rules have shifted in the favour of attackers.

Whether they practice penalties or not, the truth is the team as a whole has to be better at some of the basics of the game. Be it remaining alert at the back, forward-thinking in midfield, or simply available for the pass in attack, there are plenty of issues to overcome if we are ever to escape the fourth tier of the English game.

The recent run of six games without defeat gave us a glimpse of the Walsall FC we'd all like to see. Capable in attack, strong in defence and with a desire to overcome sometimes insurmountable - and often self-inflicted - odds on the way to taking at least a share of the spoils.

However, the last two outings of the calendar year also shone a light upon the Walsall FC we'd all be happy to see the back of. Error prone, disjointed, and frustratingly unable to take the game to another team when they're seemingly there for the taking.

Clearly, a duo of defeats is no reason to push the panic button, and the team has already proven itself capable of putting together a solid run of form, however, the squad must now show it can both return to and build upon the recent spell of form, or the manager may be forced to ring the changes in order to field a side that can.