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Bescot Banter: New year, same old Jekyll and Hyde Walsall

We're just a couple of games into 2022 and the Saddlers have already shown us both the best and worst of what they're capable of.

Walsall manager Matt Taylor
Walsall manager Matt Taylor

After opening the year with an action-packed three-all draw with Newport County - a match which saw Conor Wilkinson take centre stage as the Saddlers got themselves back on level terms on no less than three occasions - last weekend saw the Reds make the trip to Hertfordshire, where they took on struggling Stevenage.

Arriving at the match on the back of a six-game winless run, Boro, who hadn't found the back of the net in some five hours of football, should have been seen as perfect opposition for the Saddlers as they looked to earn their first win of the new year and resume their recent climb towards the Play-Off places.

However, in typical class of 2021/22 fashion, the hosts were not only afforded the freedom of the first-half, but were also handed an instant advantage as Rollin Menayese netted at the wrong end with just thirty seconds on the clock, Rollin celebrating his now-permanent stay in the worst possible way.

Buoyed by their early advantage, Stevenage went on to double their lead just seven minutes later as Chris Lines headed home, the midfielder given all the space he needed at the back post as, once again, a lapse in concentration resulted in an opposition goal.

Despite Brendan Kiernan going on to net his fifth goal of the season during an improved second-half showing - which only adds to the overall frustration felt by Saddlers fans both at home and in attendance - Jake

Taylor's late goal sealed the win for the home side.

Whilst we're always keen to give the team the benefit of the doubt, and still firmly believe that, with a few tweaks and changes, the squad has the makings to be a real force in League Two and beyond, the slow, sloppy starts have got to stop, not least against opposition which is struggling for goals let alone wins.

Far too many matches have been decided by a Saddlers error rather than a stroke of opposition brilliance, and that's with almost half of the season still to be played.

We all know that the team doesn't go out on the pitch looking to ship an own goal, or hoping to put the ball at the feet of a grateful opposition attacker, but points are all-important, and we can't go on giving them away.

There's no doubt the gaffer is facing a tough task. With finances already stretched, and far too many impactful players continuing to require the attention of Head Physio Marc Czuczman, his options are somewhat limited, but we're a little concerned about his unwillingness to change.

Just as some players have become permanent fixtures in the matchday squad, others are on the outside looking in. The likes of Alfie Bates, Sam Perry, and Tom Leak are among a group of players who have seen their match minutes severely limited so far this season, and it's difficult to work out why.

If the team was performing on a consistent basis then there'd be little room

to argue that change is needed, but, as performances continue to resemble that of a particularly rough sea, we're surprised that the fringe players haven't been called into action a little more often.

Whilst the ongoing COVID crisis sees the club working to keep the first-team and youth team bubbles separate, many of the lesser selected players have been unable to find fitness in the reserves and will seemingly need a miracle in order to secure a place in the team.

As the manager recently insisted he wants to keep his players at the team, meaning Joe Foulkes and Joe Willis will likely be the only players allowed to go out on loan, we'd like to see the gaffer give more time to players on the edges of the matchday squad.

Though we agree the squad is already small enough without players being allowed to depart, they can't be allowed to simply waste away on the bench whilst their more popular colleagues continue to retain their starting berths, despite a less-than-consistent spell of performances.

With the schedule getting busier as the festive postponements continue to be added into the already full schedule, we feel the manager has to begin to make better use of the options at his disposal. Especially following dismal displays like the one we endured last weekend.

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