Express & Star

Bescot Banter: Walsall slump shows little sign of slowing down

Seven more days have passed and the Saddlers' mid-season slump has shown very few signs of coming to an end.

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Last weekend Brian Dutton led his side into a clash with title-chasing, though recently inconsistent, Cambridge United, with the Reds looking to return to winning ways after failing to secure maximum points in any of their six previous outings.

Continuing the run of creating hardly any shots on target, the Saddlers were punished for their lack of goal-scoring opportunities as striker Paul Mullin netted his twenty-fifth goal of the season, four minutes into second-half stoppage time.

Whilst there is no doubt that progress has been made under Dutton, the team is conceding fewer goals and has begun to utilise the midfield rather than send high balls over the top, but the attacking output has ground to an almost complete halt.

If the team is to continue to play the new style favoured by Dutton then more emphasis has to be made on the attacking end of the game. The creation of so few goal-scoring opportunities, the Reds creating just two shots on target against Cambridge - up from the zero achieved versus Exeter, simply can't be allowed to continue.

Recent results have seen the team slip closer to the relegation zone and whilst there is plenty of time to secure a place in League Two for another season, the longer the possibility of relegation remains the more urgent the situation becomes.

As mentioned many times, the team is clearly missing Elijah Adebayo, his ability to find space and hold up the ball, not to mention his eye for goal, was a major factor in the team's style of play and replacing him will be crucial if the team is to take anything from the current campaign, never mind next season.

Clearly, the club is unable to simply enter the market and sign a player to take Elijah's place, the now-closed Transfer Window and simple lack of ready cash among the many reasons, but there are enough players currently contracted to the club who should be more than capable of becoming the team's attacking outlet.

Over recent weeks we and many of our peers have called for someone to step up to the plate and make the most of their chance to lead the line, but there is yet to be any signs of it taking place, in fact, many fan favourites are simply failing to perform to a level which we know they're capable of.

With the majority of contracts set to expire in the summer, some have questioned whether those soon-to-be free agents are simply biding their time before leaving at the end of the season, and, whilst recent performances may go to strengthen that argument we have to assume that, with the number of clubs feeling the pinch, squad spaces are going to be few and far between, and if anything this should spur prospective signings to be at their best.

Along with the departure of Adebayo, the loss of Rory Holden has also hit hard as the former Bristol City man was one of the team's form players, and it's no surprise that the Saddlers have won just one of the games since he was forced onto the sidelines in mid-December.

With Rory well on the road to recovery, the former Northern Ireland Under-21 international has recently been seen warming up before games, there is at least a small spot of light at the end of the tunnel, and we remain hopeful that the team can secure enough points to at least secure safety - a sentence which is almost soul-destroying given the positivity which we felt at the start of the campaign.