Saddlers Social: Walsall fans hail ‘huge’ win

Following Walsall’s first win under head coach Brian Dutton, our Saddlers Social columnists have their say.

Saddlers Social
Saddlers Social

James Kenealey

This is a family publication, so I can’t possibly print my initial reaction at the final whistle, but I’m sure you can all imagine.

That was a huge win. Given our track record, when an inexplicable eight minutes of stoppage time was announced I had my head in my hands. It seemed like once again fate was conspiring against us. I felt sure that there was a last minute penalty coming from somewhere, a clattering mistake or a Cambridge-style screamer. But no.

I still have worries about how we seem to flag in the last third of games but credit where credit’s due, that was a deserved – vital – three points.

That game laid bare how much we’ve missed Rory Holden. His composure was excellent throughout, his finish perfect. We looked, dare I say, quite fluid at times going forwards, so much so that we should have been home and dry long before they pulled one back, had certain players more composure in front of goal.

Sam Perry once again showed class above his years with another great performance. It’s always difficult for a young player when they’re getting their first taste of league football amidst a survival scramble like this, but he’s shone in every game so far. Well done lad.

We have a huge summer ahead of us across the entire organisation. There are several decisions that need to be made that have to be spot on. Among these, we need to get the recruitment and playing side of the club unified behind a purpose and a goal.

Ultimately this is one win and I’m not getting too excited. The same issues I’ve moaned about for years still exist and I’m not letting them be forgotten. Neither will I rest easy until we’re mathematically safe, because I’m a Walsall fan and I know better. But the Saturday evening afterglow of a win is one of life’s little pleasures, and I’ll be damned if I’m wasting the opportunity to enjoy it after so long.

It shouldn’t have been like this. We can’t afford for it to be like this again. But for now at least, a little sigh of relief.

Chris Saunders

Finally a win and I couldn’t be happier for Brian Dutton as he clearly cares and has got most of the players to care in what could have been a down tools scenario. For it to come against a side in the mix at the top as well makes it a bit sweeter.

For all that though in a way this is a beginning. It almost certainly guarantees our league status and that means we can now start to plan. It gives Dutton a chance to stamp more of his coaching style on attacking play and we can see if that is as impressive as he’s made our defence in recent weeks. It also allows us to think about what we need for next season now in order to try and mount a challenge.

I know the jury is still out on Dutton, but something about the way he has got the players to give their all and how he has managed to turn things around and make us solid after free fall had set in is impressive. I also like the early signs of the playing style which whilst solid also has flashes of allowing players to play football rather than hoof ball. With that said he will need to work with the DoF who comes in to assemble a coaching team as we look a little light in that area still so I’m guessing he has been working round the clock in most areas.

Finally praise has to go to Jack Rose, Emmanuel Osadebe, Perry, James Clarke and Holden. They all seem to be upping their levels and whilst other players are also giving their all these seem to be making a difference in the spine of the team.

Ian Newbold

Fifthteenth time’s the charm. Wow, it’s been such a long time waiting for a league win, and boy did the referee make us wait. Eight additional minutes? Where did he get them from?

I celebrated another three points against the vegans with a rare rump steak on Saturday night. Beautiful.

I’m all for taking the positives from that game, the main one being we look a completely different team with Holden in it. Perry was good in midfield, not wasting the ball and winning it back at crucial times. We created by far the better chances. Osadebe, whilst wasting some of our best opportunities, wasn’t completely useless. Though, we are miles from where we should be. And I’d not be sad to see the vast majority of this squad foxtrot oscar come June.

This season can’t end quickly enough for me, but at least now we shouldn’t be looking over our shoulders for the remaining few weeks. Breath.

BTW I know FGR lost their main man a few games ago, but blimey, still around the automatic promotion chase? This league is poor. We need out of it. And not by the means we’ve come closest to this year.

Rob Harvey

Wow, Walsall FC have won a game of football at last! It was a deserved victory too.

Our recent performances have picked up and against Forest Green Rovers we finally saw something resembling a decent 90 minute (or 100 minutes as Brian Dutton would want us to know it) performance that helped us to victory. Of course, one of the big reasons is that the starting XI seems to be our strongest XI based on the squad we have at this point in time, and another two reasons are the emergence of young Perry (who is quickly cementing himself as a regular starter) and the resurrection of Holden who is clearly our most technically gifted and skilled player. Easy isn’t it when your best players are available!

Hopefully this now allows us to push on for the rest of the season, gaining some good results in our next six matches, and then we can look to have a much better season next season where all being well we can all go and get back into the grounds to support the lads home and away!

Finally, as a bit of a side note, I am very pleased for Dutton that he finally has that win under his belt. He deserves it for his loyalty to the club when he could have very easily left, and for the fact that he seems to have a plan that is starting to show with the way the team is playing. Maybe the next six games will now allow him to show if he really would be up to the job on a full-time basis.

Roberto Petrucco

Finally! It feels strange being able to write about a win, and what a difference that win makes to the past few weeks. It is now five games unbeaten, and in that, the disappointing draws against the bottom two. However the defensive displays there have paid off against two play-off hunting teams in Orient and Forest Green.

The team played well. We can talk about the games before it, but we showed how good we can be. Holden was a different class, but he brought the best out of the team. Josh Gordon looked better with Holden there, and Osadebe too. He is key to the team, and the squad for next season must be built around him.

Also a shout out to the defence and Rose. They have been solid in recent weeks, and deserve credit for how they have improved as a unit.

Nick Etheridge

Finally! The monkey on the shoulder of everyone, especially Dutton has been shaken off. More importantly though, the way that results fell means that we pretty much retain our league status. It’s crazy to think that when he took over the role that we’d be talking about staying in the division at this stage.

Although good performances have been few and far between over the course of the season, Saturday is definitely up there with one of the best. It’s easy to look at the line-up and put your finger on the biggest reason for that as Holden made his first start for months and played like he’d never been away.

Over the past couple of weeks we’ve ditched the back five and gone to a more attacking 4-2-3-1. It’s no coincidence that the performances of Emmanuel Osadebe have improved dramatically over this period as rather than being asked to do a job for the team defensively, he’s been given more license to get forward and play his natural game.

Perry was my man of the match. His maturity and composure in tight situations matches his ability of picking the right pass and timing it perfectly. It takes a lot of pressure off the back four and will be vital to the team if the new Director of Football wants to instil a style that plays out from the back. He also gives us a bit of height and physicality in the middle of the park, something that’s been missing for a few seasons.

One final note is to mention the celebration of Clarke. He’s been excellent since his return from injury and although he has his doubters, it’s clear that we are a much more solid unit with him in the side. When his strike hit the net on Saturday, I wasn’t sure if what he did was premeditated or if he’d collapsed due to the shock of us scoring twice in a game!

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