Bescot Banter: Walsall need a reaction

Walsall's recent run of form came to an end last weekend as they struggled to take their chances in an unwelcome reminder of just how frustrating supporting this team can be.

SPORT PIC MNA PIC  DAVID HAMILTON PIC  EXPRESS AND STAR 18/9/21 NEWPORT COUNTY VS WALSALL Matt Taylor demands more.
SPORT PIC MNA PIC DAVID HAMILTON PIC EXPRESS AND STAR 18/9/21 NEWPORT COUNTY VS WALSALL Matt Taylor demands more.

After avoiding defeat in four all-competition outings, Walsall's promising run of form came to an end last Saturday afternoon as Newport County left it late to take all three points at Rodney Parade.

Slipping to defeat by two-goals-to-one, the Saddlers struggled to create enough in attack - besides loaned-in Leicester City forward Tyrese Shade's first professional goal - and were ultimately punished by James Clarke's late winner.

Former club captain Clarke, who departed WS1 at the end of the disastrous 2019/20 campaign, got the better of once again in-form goalkeeper Carl Rushworth with a looping header from a Cameron Norman cross - Norman also making the most of his opportunity to stick it to his former employers.

A goal and assist from former players aside, probably the most frustrating thing to come from the game was the lack of attacking endeavour. After a few weeks in which the team looked like they were finally finding their feet, we were disappointed to see them struggle to make much of an impact in the final third.

On-loan Brighton goalkeeper Carl Rushworth was once again the man of the moment as he pulled off a string of saves and even denied County midfielder Matty Dolan from the spot shortly before Shade levelled the scores moments before the referee called for half-time.

Although the Exiles enjoyed a fairly dominant opening forty-five, the Saddlers were much-improved during the second-half, but still failed to create much of note after the teams returned from their refreshments and were eventually punished via Clarke's 87th-minute header.

Despite the result seeing the team tumble back down to earth, the recent unbeaten run remains something positive to build upon and, along with this weekend's clash with Joey Barton's Bristol Rovers, there are plenty more winnable games ahead.

Of course, a game being 'winnable' doesn't guarantee victory, and the team is more than capable of losing games that were there for the taking, but we're confident that the current crop is good enough to win games, but must begin to make more of their often fleeting goal-scoring opportunities if they're going to avoid a repeat of last season's slump.

Injuries to the likes of Rory Holden, who recently underwent an exploratory procedure aimed at overcoming his long-term knee issues, and fellow forward Conor Wilkinson, have done little to add to the team's goal-scoring prowess, but attackers George Miller, Tyrese Shade, and Kieran Phillips have all shown their ability to find the back of the net so should provide ample cover for their fallen colleagues.

We can all agree that the team has looked much stronger over the last few weeks, and aren't going to declare the campaign over after one defeat in five, but the team must show it's capable of getting back to winning ways soon, as with so many games coming up in October it'd be easy to have another lengthy run of winless games.

As mentioned in last weekend's column, the most important thing following a loss is the reaction. Return to winning ways on Saturday and the defeat to Newport will simply be seen as a bump in the road, but follow it up with another one, and it'll only add yet more weight onto the shoulders of the gaffer and his team.

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