Bescot Banter: More draws for Walsall

Well, it's a case of another week and another duo of draws for the Saddlers as their season of struggle continues.

Brian Dutton.
Brian Dutton.

First up was a Good Friday clash with Harrogate Town in a meeting which saw Brian Dutton's side come up against a goalkeeper in superb form as former Saddlers scholar James Belshaw displayed some of the ability which saw him offered a professional contract some twelve years ago.

Thwarting his former team at every turn, Belshaw, who turned down the Saddlers' advances in order to study at Duke University in North Carolina, was probably the most tested 'keeper to take on the Saddlers in many months, but he proved to be more than up for the task as he produced several superb saves - including one which saw Emmanuel Osadebe denied from the spot.

Just a few short days after the stalemate with the Sulphurites came an Easter Monday meeting with Play-Off-chasing Leyton Orient, a team which had reached the match on the back of four consecutive victories, a spell of form we can only dream of at this stage of the season.

Despite the Saddlers going on to secure their third clean-sheet in four games, yet another failure in front of goal saw the spoils shared as the two teams were only able to produce one shot on target during a scrappy afternoon in East London.

With the number of available points shrinking game-by-game our front line really has to find their feet in the final third. Scoring at a rate of just a-goal-a-game, Dutton's side have made hard work of many of their recent outings as opportunities to win have passed them by, something which is evidenced by the run of five draws in six games.

And, although the team has become far stronger at the back, the stagnant strike force is an issue which simply has to be addressed, and soon. The very fact that Elijah Adebayo, who left the club in favour of a move to Luton Town on Deadline Day, is still our top scorer speaks volumes about the recent form of our front line.

With Josh Gordon picking up more bookings (6) than goals (5) so far this season, and his frequent strike partner Caolan Lavery netting just twice in his last eleven outings, it's not hard to understand why the winless streak has stretched to fourteen games ahead of this weekend's clash with Forest Green Rovers.

Despite head coach Dutton recently insisting his team is doing enough to secure survival, and whilst the odds remain in our favour, it'll only take a few unfavourable matchdays to put the team into the relegation zone and, given our recent spell of form, it'd be difficult to back the team to drag itself out of danger before the campaign comes to a close.

The welcome return of Rory Holden has and will continue to go a long way to boosting our goal-scoring opportunities, his absence has played an immeasurable role in our steady slope towards the drop zone, but he can provide all the openings he wants, he'll still need his colleagues to make more of their chances if the team is to retain its place in the fourth tier for at least another season.

Whilst our weekly columns have gone from unfounded optimism to increasing levels of doom and gloom, there will always remain a place for hope. And, with the Saddlers still within a few positive results of securing safety, we hope the team will be able to end the season in safety ahead of what will no doubt be a busy summer of change in WS1.

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