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Bescot Banter: New look Walsall are on the rise

We're back with our latest look at all-things Saddlers, and, following a disastrous start to the year, the team has finally begun to gain some positive momentum.

SPORT COPYRIGHT EXPRESS AND STAR STEVE LEATH 05/03/2022..Barrow V Walsall FC.  W: Michael Flynn..
SPORT COPYRIGHT EXPRESS AND STAR STEVE LEATH 05/03/2022..Barrow V Walsall FC. W: Michael Flynn..

After opening 2022 with a run of seven defeats in eight league games, the Reds have gone on to lose just one of their last six, and enjoy a nine-point advantage over 23rd-placed Oldham Athletic heading into this weekend's games.

Whilst the return to form began under then-interim Head Coach Neil McDonald, Matt Taylor's former assistant guiding the team to victory over Tranmere Rovers, new boss Michael Flynn has been able to build upon his success and has the team heading in the right direction going into the final weeks and months of the season.

Along with a general uptick in form, which puts the team amongst the best in the league over the last six games, the Saddlers' most recent outings have also gone a long way in showing the players might finally be learning from their mistakes.

Draws with Northampton Town and Barrow AFC saw the team mount point-taking comebacks after going a goal behind, a feat which they appeared to be incapable of just a few short weeks ago as they became the poster boys of shooting themselves in the foot.

In fact, both games had the makings of a return to the dreary days of defeat, as goal-scoring opportunities were squandered before the opposition attack was allowed to show how it's done at the other end.

However, the new-look Saddlers, with their welcome use of attack-minded width and hopefully improving defensive resilience, refused to back down and went on to seal two much-needed awayday points.

Whilst neither the Cobblers nor Bluebirds entered End of Season compilation-worthy displays of their own, the Walsall of old would have been far more likely to concede another goal rather than mount some sort of point-pinching comeback.

And for that, the praise has to go to both the manager and his players. Whilst the squad is still largely the same as the one he inherited, former Cardiff City man Lee Tomlin being the only new arrival under the recently-appointed gaffer, he has been able to turn the team into a much more cohesive unit in just a few short weeks.

With defensive errors slowly decreasing, and the recent switch in formation allowing some of the frustratingly quiet players to play a more active role - Tyrese Shade, Emmanuel Osadebe and Conor Wilkinson being just a few of the players to shine under their new boss - it's clear the team is finally on the up.

Whilst it's still very early days, and we'll no doubt suffer a few more slip ups between now and the end of the season, the recent run gives us confidence that he's the right man for the job and, with a summer of change ahead, could build a team capable of making positive strides towards the upper reaches of the table.

Clearly, with only nine points currently separating the team from the drop zone, and as goals continue to be few and far between, there is plenty of work to do this season let alone the next, but there has definitely been a momentum shift in WS1 since the club pulled the plug on the previous management regime, and we're tentatively excited as to where it may lead.

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