Walsall Web Fans looks back at a Division Two game at Home Park on Saturday January 21st, 1989. The Saddlers were having a torrid time, bottom of the second tier of the Football League (now The Championship) following 13 successive league defeats. This was the first game in charge for John Barnwell, who had moved into the Fellows Park hot seat the Tuesday leading up to the game, after seeing off Ray Graydon and caretaker manager Ray Train who were shortlisted. In total Walsall had not won in 20 league and cup games so were hoping for a change of fortunes under ‘Barney’.
Mark Rees was recalled for his first game of the season for The Saddlers whilst the Pilgrims including ex-Saddler Kevin Summerfield in their line up. A violent hailstorm in the morning coupled with heavy overnight rain had caused some doubt as to if the game would go ahead and just about passed a noon inspection by match referee Keith Cooper. It was Summerfield who got in the first shot of the game which visiting keeper Fred Barber easily saved. Walsall’s first real attack came on 13 minutes when Phil Hawker won a tackle who exchanged passes with Keith Bertschin who laid on a good chance for Dale Banton but the striker’s shot failed to test Plymouth’s on loan Arsenal keeper Alan Miller.
Walsall had a fierce wind behind them in that first half and this assisted Mark Goodwin’s corner that Miller did well to hold onto as Graeme Forbes came steaming in. Veteran Bertschin was having a great game, causing all sorts of problems for the home defence. On 36 minutes Rees marked his comeback with a yellow card following a rash challenge on Mark Stuart. Argyle’s best chance came seconds before half time when Stuart floated over the ball which Tommy Tynan just failed to connect with.
Early in the second period Saddlers were finding it hard to get the ball out of their own half such was the power of the wind which had increased from the start of the game. Walsall held out until the 55th minute when Tynan stooped low to head home a Kenin Hodges cross but looked well offside. Despite strong protests the goal stood. Just when Walsall finally got going this half they fell further behind in the 77th minute. Nicky Marker squeezed a shot past Barber to inflict another defeat for Walsall. Miller had kept his side in the lead with two fine saves from Bertschin who was enjoying his best game in Walsall’s colours since his transfer from Sunderland. First he saved a shot from just under the bar then saved a certain goal with his legs. 11,505 braved the elements.
The starting line ups that afternoon were…
PLYMOUTH ARGYLE – Miller, Rowbotham, Uzzell, Burrows, Marker, Smith, Summerfield, Hodges, Tynan, Mc Carthey,Stuart.
WALSALL – Barber, Dornan, Mower, Shakespeare, Forbes, Hart, Rees, Goodwin, Banton, Bertschin, Hawker.