Walsall Web Fans looks back at the month of December 1990 which saw The Saddlers win three of their four league games to continue their recent better form.
The month opened with a 3-1 home win against Halifax Town who were bottom of the table. Rod Mc Donald opened the scoring in the 18th minute thanks to a well-worked corner from Martin Singleton. Colin Methven rose above everyone to get there first, Mike Cecere headed across the goal where Mc Donald made no mistake powering the ball home. The in-form striker almost got a second just a minute later but shot too close to the keeper. Halifax got back into the game in the 21st minute with a goal out of the blue thanks to Steve Norris. Walsall regained the lead before half time when danger man Stuart Rimmer made the most of a great pass from John Kelly. Saddlers were denied good shouts for a penalty either side of the interval however that man Rimmer made the game safe in the 72nd minute. After the game manager Kenny Hibbitt was not fooled by the Walsall fans who had chanted “ Going up, going up.” Even though Walsall had jumped five places to 10th in the table a cautious manager warned the press, “There is still a lot of room for improvement yet.”
The following Saturday Walsall were away at Swansea City in the second round of the FA Cup. Heavy snow had fallen in the West Midlands which prevented the fleet of coaches leaving Bescot Stadium on the Saturday morning because of the blizzard conditions. South Wales was snow free however and the unofficial tally of Walsall fans who made it to the Vetch Field was just five! It was a bitter disappointment for Walsall ‘super fan’ Stan Blandford as it ended his remarkable run of 739 consecutive Saddlers first team games but he didn’t concede defeat easily. When his lift couldn’t make it he walked to Bescot Stadium to try and book up on the coaches only to be told at the ground that they had been cancelled. He walked the few yards to Bescot station and caught the train to Birmingham but his journey ended at New Street as the trains to South Wales had been cancelled. The bus he was travelling on his return journey came to a halt at Handsworth and he was left with the prospect of walking the 12 miles back to his house. It was the first game he had missed since May 1977.
As for the actual game, Walsall crashed out of the cup 2-1. The Saddlers pointed an accusing finger at referee Bob Hamer after a controversial penalty sunk Walsall in the 39th minute. Angry players surrounded the Bristol official after he awarded the spot kick on the strength of a linesman spotting a handling offence. Kenny Hibbitt fumed, “The penalty was a disgrace because there was an imprint of the ball on Martin Singleton’s chest showing where the ball had hit him. The referee did not give it.The linesman out wide signalled, but how he could make that decision from his position I don’t know.”
Jimmy Gilligan scored the penalty to regain the Swans lead after Terry Connor had given the home side the lead only for Chris Hutchings to level. There was no more goals in the game and this result along with the plight of the fans hardships had Hibbitt complaining to the Walsall Observer, “The TV coverage of the tie did not do justice to my lads. I was proud of them for the way they battled and they deserved a replay. The whole thing was a disaster with only five of our fans managing to reach the ground. It was like a morgue when we equalised in the first half. We expected about a thousand of our fans to be there and they would have made a big difference. There was no atmosphere and it was like playing a practice game.” Thankfully the team travelled overnight and the players had to dig their cars out on the car park at Bescot when they returned home at 11pm.
The following Tuesday saw the team make the trip to Lincoln in the leyland Daf Cup. Saddlers knew they only had to draw to progress and had to fight hard to get their 1-1 draw. They had Stuart Rimmer to thank who tucked away his 17th goal of the season. Next up was another trip to South Wales, this time to Ninian Park, Cardiff. Walsall’s Mike Cecere was out injured with a groin strain which opened the door for teenager Martin Goldsmith who was playing his first game since the start of September. The 19 year-old responded by giving his team the lead on 16 minutes when he raced in to head home Martin Singleton’s corner. Walsall doubled their lead on 52 minutes when Stuart Rimmer hit his 18th of the season from the penalty spot. Goldsmith was in the heart of the action throughout and looked very impressive.
Walsall’s next game was a Friday night encounter against Wrexham. They had Blues outcast Colin Gordon in attack who had joined the club on a month’s loan. The 27 year-old was unhappy at St Andrews and stated he would love to join Walsall full-time. He was drafted in due to injuries to both Goldsmith and Cecere and the striker got off to a great start to life at Bescot, scoring the only goal of the game in the 10th minute. This result stretched Walsall to just one defeat in eleven league games and pushed them into 9th spot. Walsall were somewhat disappointing on the night and their spark was missing. There were a host of scouts watching Stuart Rimmer who missed a hat trick.
The final game for this month was a 0-1 defeat at Gillingham. A game which was played in atrocious weather conditions of high winds and torrential rain, Walsall deserved at least a share of the points. John Kelly was out injured so Tony Grealish returned however he only lasted 30 minutes which added to Hibbitt’s frustration. The only goal of the game came from Stuart Lovell 11 minutes before time which was hard lines for Ron Green who had made some super saves during the game. So Walsall finished the month of December in 9th position on 29 points, a vast improvement from the first couple of the months of the season.