Saddlers Social: It is better, but Walsall attacking players still misfiring

Following another two draws for Walsall over the Easter weekend, the Saddlers Social columnists have their say on the club’s fortunes.

Saddlers Social
Saddlers Social

Nick Etheridge

Another two games, another two points. The performances were much better, more to do with how poor they have been previously rather than how outstanding they were. There’s no doubt that Brian Dutton still has the players on side, performances wouldn’t have improved if this wasn’t the case. He’s also improved us defensively with three clean sheets in the last four (albeit against poor opposition). It’s just not very entertaining though is it? I very rarely get up off my seat when we mount an attack because I just don’t see us scoring.

I sympathise with Dutton given the mess of the squad that he was left, but he just doesn’t do himself any favours in team selection. The switch to a back four has been a welcome one, but then the odd selection of Liam Kinsella at right-back is a real head scratcher. The Max Melbourne saga is another one that’s not been dealt with with any sort of authority and has left more questions than answers, and that pretty much sums up the Dutton regime.

He’s definitely not the man to go forward with next season but with so little time to run before this one ends, another major upheaval would do more harm than good. If we can limp over the finish line, then a new manager through the door would be ideal. The contract situation with other players means that whoever would come through the door would have a blank canvas to work with. That would make us a more attractive project than having to gradually alter a squad. Lets hope that we’re still a football league club when it’s decision time.

Roberto Petrucco

A better week for the Saddlers. Back to back 0-0s doesn’t exactly set the world alight, but it has at least shown us that Dutton can organise a team. While questions are still being asked about the attack, defensively we have looked very solid.

With the summer fast approaching, and many players out of contract, it does beg the question as to which attacking players Walsall will try and keep. Josh Gordon and Caolan Lavery are leading the line, but neither have looked prolific. Wes McDonald seems out of favour, and Jack Nolan may well be let go after his recent social media antics. That leaves Emmanuel Osadebe, who has looked better, but like others, not particularly effective. I am not worried about us defensively, and if we can keep the majority of the defence next season, it will stand us in good stead. However, I think its time to part ways with the attacking players, because they simply have underperformed for too long.

Chris Saunders

We are crawling week by week towards safety and while I would have much preferred a comfortable mid-table finish it has been nice to see a bit more fight out of the players. Although Harrogate was the more winnable of the bank holiday fixtures, Leyton Orient was the one that impressed me more. Usually when a team is dropping down the league the players heads drop and eventually effort levels go with it. Now while Dutton hasn’t been able to get his elusive win, the performances are improving.

We came out in the latter of the two games and committed to playing a high press, this worked in the main and forced Leyton Orient back and led to us never really looking like losing the game. Considering we can’t win at the moment, that makes the players keeping this up for 90 minutes all the more impressive.

Certainly the bit of quality we need to change draws into wins isn’t currently there but the effort and way the team set up I felt was impressive, could Rory Holden being back be the key we need to get that elusive win?

Rob Harvey

Two draws, two points and a better performance in both games than in recent times.

Still, we can’t hide from the fact that that’s zero wins in 13 games from Brian Dutton’s tenure. On the other hand, we seem OK-ish at the moment in regards to keeping our league status which does appear to be our target first and foremost rather than free-flowing football.

I feel sorry for Dutton in some ways, he’s been left with a squad compiled by a previous manager to suit his style, and he’s been left without the better players that the previous manager had. On top of that, with most of the squad being out of contract at the end of the season, can it really be said they they are all giving 100 per cent to the cause? Perhaps a lot of them already have their next move lined up.

I know I was firmly Dutton Out last time we wrote, but having reflected and seen these last two performances, where improvement has been shown, we should stick with him until the end of the season and see what happens. Personally I don’t think any new manager coming in at this stage would be able to get anything extra from the group.

It’s not pretty, it’s not entertaining, but let’s just get this season done with, preserve our league status and then we can hold the inquest at the end of it all and hopefully endure another season such as this one doesn’t occur for a long, long time.

James Kenealey

I’m getting bored of writing the same things repeatedly, and I’m sure most people are bored of reading it, but here we are again.

The lack of goals in this side is frightening. I still maintain my prediction that we won’t win another game this season, and this is already an historic record. As Jeff Stelling himself announced as the results trickled in on Monday, our worst run of form since 1989. But at least that involved football in the second tier, not rattling around the lower reaches of the fourth.

I’ll be honest, I didn’t watch any of the last three games due to other commitments – and also because I just can’t bring myself at the moment. At least Holden is back, but the fact that, however talented he is, we’re pinning our creative hopes on a 23-year-old with under 100 senior appearances in his career speaks volumes.

Just to complete the broken record vibe, a quick reminder as we pass the two-year anniversary of the sacking of Dean Keates that the definition of insanity is the same people doing the same things and expecting different results. This isn’t personal but change needs to happen. There needs to be some accountability for the mess we find ourselves in, whether we start next season in the Football League or out of it. Relying on Southend and Grimsby being that little bit more rubbish than we are as we bore our way through week after week of turgid football isn’t going to bring people back, and I as far as next season goes I’m worried already.

Ian Newbold

So it’s 13 League Two games without a win for Brian Dutton. I think the most alarming thing I’ve seen of the last week is our chairman claiming him as one of the country’s best young coaches.

I mean. He could be. But how could he possibly know that?

The progress of Sam Perry and Tom Leak were cited as evidence of his brilliance, but what progress? Have they really made exceptional strides in short time or have their opportunities come about because of the dreadful form of the more senior players?

With regards to coaching, who has improved under the near two seasons Dutton has been an important figure? McDonald, Norman, Gordon, Bates, Nolan, Lavery, Scarr, Cockrell-Mollett, Roberts? I see regression or stagnation all across the squad.

And we don’t owe Dutton any loyalty for not fleeing with his former housemate Darrell Clarke, he’s stayed to take the early opportunity of a management job. The wheels at Walsall would have continued to turn if he had gone. Loyalty should stay and end with fans. The ones putting money into the club, rather than those taking a wage from it.

I desperately hope the imminent Director or Football is the right one, and they get given the authority to make the seemingly wholesale changes needed across our entire football operation.

Stuart Cox

It’s marginally better, but not great. I would have taken a point at the start of the day but I should have staked my house on the score having nil next to Walsall’s name.

I do actually think we’ll survive now – there is a decent gap between us and the bottom two after their results meant they didn’t gain any ground on us and games are running out, but how painful is it that we a talking about ‘surviving’ in League Two.

I was expecting there to be some movement on the Director of Football appointment or on Brian Dutton’s position over the last seven days but neither have happened.

I think we will limp through to the end of the season with Dutton then hopefully changes will be made for next year, both on the managerial front and with the playing staff.

Who would I keep? Rose, Scarr, Perry, Kinsella, Leak, Melbourne, Holden and possibly McDonald, Bates, Osadebe (based on the last four games) and Norman if there is nothing better out there.

If Sadler is still fit then play him too, but definitely keep him in a coaching role. The rest have not shown that they are good enough to get us out of this division.

That is a massive rebuild, but unless we do, we are going to be at the wrong end of the table again next year. Money on Walsall nil again on Saturday?

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