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Analysis: Woeful Walsall show their worst side once again

Walsall fans are sick of being let down with performances like this – and who can blame them?

The third goal goes in for Stevenage
The third goal goes in for Stevenage

This knack of handing struggling teams the points that they have craved for so long is infuriating.

And as long as it carries on, the Saddlers are not going anywhere fast. More mid-table mediocrity in League Two is the best they can hope for as long as they continue to buckle against the division’s lesser lights.

This 3-1 defeat to Stevenage joins losses to both Carlisle and Bristol Rovers, as well as draws with Scunthorpe and Barrow, on the ever-growing list of bad results in the 2021/22 season.

What happened at the Lamex Stadium was probably the worst of the lot, too.

The first half was pathetic. Yes, they improved in the second and threatened to make a comeback for a while, but it was impossible to be any worse than they were in the first 45.

The 338 Saddlers supporters who made the trip down to Hertfordshire will be asking themselves why on earth they bothered.

If that first-half display – not a one-off by the way – is what they are going to be offered up, then what is the point?

It took Walsall just 25 seconds to fall behind courtesy of Rollin Menayese’s own goal.

By eight minutes, they were two down thanks to a header from Chris Lines.

All of this against a Stevenage side who had not won in six games, sat 22nd in the table and not scored in five hours of football heading into the clash. That says it all, really.

The Saddlers have done a great job of making lowly sides look like world-beaters.

Matt Taylor did have the blow going into this encounter of losing Ash Taylor to Covid in the early hours of Saturday morning.

That forced a defensive reshuffle which saw Hayden White move to centre-back and Zak Mills make his first league start since August.

But they cannot use that as an excuse.

Any footballer should be able to do the basics, but in that first half, nothing worked from a Walsall point of view.

The defending was downright shambolic.

The midfield lacked bite off the ball and control with it.

And main striker George Miller – still the Saddlers’ leading scorer – is now 13 games without a goal.

There are lots of problems and while Taylor continues to reaffirm his faith in his group of players, there is clearly something wrong with their mindset.

Walsall manager Matt Taylor

They keep losing games like this and just when you think they might be onto something, things come crashing down with an almighty thud.

Obvious parallels can be drawn between this loss at Stevenage and the depressing 1-0 defeat at Carlisle in early December.

Walsall went to Cumbria on the back of what everyone considers to be the best result this season, beating Darrell Clarke’s Port Vale 1-0.

This time around, they were fresh off the euphoria of Conor Wilkinson’s amazing late goal to draw 3-3 with Newport County.

Both times, as we know, they failed to build momentum and put in abject showings.

Again, it points to nothing more than a middle-of-the-road finish.

Taylor’s charges are consistently inconsistent and need to take a long, hard look at themselves.

Focusing on the goals, Menayese, fresh from being snapped up on a long-term contract, endured a nightmare first half an hour. He got it all wrong as his own goal handed the Boro the lead inside 30 seconds.

Luke O’Neill’s low cross looked set to be claimed by Carl Rushworth, but Menayese clumsily stuck a foot out and diverted the ball into his own net.

It was the exact opposite of what Walsall did at the Lamex last season – going in front through Caolan Lavery in the first minute. It quickly got worse as well.

The Saddlers’ backline completely fell asleep as Lines headed past Rushworth.

Jake Reeves was afforded the freedom of the borough down the right flank and his unchallenged delivery found midfield partner Lines, who sneaked it in at the near post.

It was utterly abject stuff from Walsall and Menayese was soon lucky not to have given away a penalty for a clear push on Luke Norris.

Surprisingly, Taylor stuck to his guns for the beginning of the second period. They showed more energy and intent – which was not hard.

The Boro then started to sit off somewhat and the Saddlers, despite all their shortcomings, managed to pull a goal back.

Jack Earing surged forward and fed Brendan Kiernan, who finished well with his weaker right foot.

Menayese almost grabbed a dramatic equaliser as he headed wide and Walsall pushed for a bit but, instead, Stevenage added a third to make sure of the victory in the dying seconds.

Anything less than three points would have been incredibly harsh on them and the industrious Jake Taylor, who poked the ball home in the 94th minute.

A huge result for the Boro in their survival quest. They would probably like to play Walsall every week.

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