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Analysis: Another loss adds to the malaise over Walsall

Another game and another loss for Walsall. It has been a painful run, and it is very difficult to see the light.

SPORT COPYRIGHT MNA MEDIA TIM THURSFIELD 22/01/22.WALSALL V EXETER.Tim Dieng scores..
SPORT COPYRIGHT MNA MEDIA TIM THURSFIELD 22/01/22.WALSALL V EXETER.Tim Dieng scores..

Three defeats in succession, four games without a win, just two victories in 13 matches across all competitions.

Any hopes of reaching the play-offs in League Two, surely, are dead and buried.

After all, the Saddlers are closer in points to second-bottom Scunthorpe United than seventh-placed Mansfield Town.

The primary concern is making sure they do not get sucked into a relegation dogfight, because if they did, you would not be all that confident in this group’s chances of winning that particular battle.

This 2-0 defeat against Exeter City added to the malaise.

Walsall failed to create a clear-cut opportunity at the Banks’s Stadium and were rightly booed off after the final whistle.

Rollin Menayese got sent off after receiving two bookings, so he will miss the clash with Bradford City tomorrow night.

Stephen Ward got injured as well, with Exeter capitalising on non-existent marking to score from two corners.

Had it not been for a series of sharp Carl Rushworth saves, the Saddlers could have been on the end of a thrashing.

Why have things gone so awry for Walsall as of late? There are various factors at play.

While stating the obvious, the failure to do defensive basics is never going to turn out well.

Having struggled from set pieces in the reverse fixture against the Grecians, the Saddlers fell into the same trap once more.

Another big issue is the team, week by week, is losing any sort of identity.

It is very hard to see what the plan is, which of course brings boss Matt Taylor to the forefront.

Are they a counter-attacking team? Are they a possession-based side? Are they old-school and direct? Again, nothing stands out.

Years of underachievement and mediocrity seem to be filtering down from the top, on to the pitch.

Supporters are rapidly approaching boiling point and have every reason to be.

A season which started with promise and the excitement of a new era has reverted to the same old story.

Of course, there is time to restore pride. Walsall have 21 games left but at this rate, where is the next triumph going to come from? Given Tom Leak – who made just his sixth career league start on Saturday – is the only fit and available centre-half, it will take a mammoth effort to win tomorrow night.

Hopefully, at least one signing will arrive ahead of it as, make no mistake, things have gone sour for the Saddlers and a shot in the arm is desperately required.

For this game, Walsall made two changes from the 2-0 loss at Mansfield

Fans’ favourite Liam Kinsella made a welcome return to midfield, with Emmanuel Osadebe dropped to the bench. George Miller was replaced by Conor Wilkinson up front.

The Saddlers showed vigour in the opening seconds as they moved the ball around quickly and won a corner down the right flank.

But with nothing coming from that, they soon had Rushworth to thank for a truly outstanding double-save.

Josh Key’s whipped delivery was met by the unmarked Offrande Zanzala, whose header from point-blank range forced an immense reaction stop from the Brighton loanee. Zanzala then had another go, and Rushworth astonishingly raced across his line to keep the ball out once more.

The Grecians were again flummoxed as Rushworth got down swiftly to deny Matt Jay.

An enforced change came just past the half-hour mark as Ward limped off, with Zak Mills taking his place. Then, on the stroke of half-time, having looked the more dangerous outfit going forward, Exeter took the lead.

Archie Collins swung a corner into the corridor of uncertainty between the goal-line and six-yard box, and indecision from both Rushworth and his backline was punished. Timothee Dieng rose highest to nod the ball into the net.

The second period got off to a nightmare start for the Saddlers.

More haphazard defending resulted in Menayese’s dismissal.

Rushworth got himself into bother after rushing off his line, presenting the ball to Jevani Brown. Menayese, having picked up a booking for a foul on the same player in the first half, chopped him down for a second yellow card.

Walsall, down to 10 men, then showed no signs of forging a fightback. The Grecians kept them at arm’s length before grabbing a second. Cheick Diabate beat Rushworth as he met another corner.

The Saddlers’ depressing form goes on.

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