I didn’t get a match preview done for the game against Stevenage, so, to make amends, here’s a match review, since I went along with other hardy souls to Broadhall Way yesterday and have got the start of a chesty cough as a result: I knew I should have worn my other, warmer scarf…
For those who have never been, or never will, go to Stevenage, you’re not really missing out. It’s a 1950s/60s overspill new town that resembles every other one that was produced after the war.
But I must say the people were pleasant. I bought a paper from the WH Smith on my search for the ground and the woman who served me was pleasant – to a certain extent a marked change from Lichfield and/or London, where I spend most of my time at the moment. Then, at the ground, at the turnstile I was greeted by a nice lady and, in a move that I’ve never seen ever at a football ground before, a steward was posted on the gate specifically to say goodbye to Walsall fans after the match. At least that’s what it seemed. Although I wasn’t that amazed by the place itself – I walked past, I think, three substantial retail parks on the walk to the ground from the train station – the people made it better. It was actually quite nice to go to a ground where the fans weren’t all treated – albeit totally, since I think some people behind me were a bit peeved why stewards were telling them to sit down – like cattle.
That said, the quality of the Stevenage programme left a lot to be desired. For three quid, I was told that Walsall play in ‘navy and sky blue’ and read some pretty naff writing on the train back to Kings Cross. And when the writing wasn’t simply poor, it seemed the editor had gone deliberately into the pieces and changed some grammar to make it wrong. A shame, because the idea and the layout of it were ok.
Anyway: the football. The match was so dull, perhaps that’s why that’s so much padding above. It became obvious after only a few minutes that Stevenage were only going to score by chipping a ball over Lancashire and Smith for a pacey striker to run onto. One such chance was inexplicably missed mid-way through the second half and should really have put Stevenage ahead.
Yet, all in all, I was surprised that they’ve done so well this season. Although their on loan Arsenal players Chuks Aneke and Luke Freeman looked promising – Freeman went over very easily under a Lee Beevers challenge in the first half looking for a penalty – they seemed to lack a real cutting edge.
The only clear cut chance for Walsall was missed by Will Grigg after Jon Macken had laid on a perfect opportunity about half way through the second half. Although feted by Dean Smith and hardworking, for every opportunity he takes, it seems Grigg misses a lot. Read: potential equaliser versus Exeter a few weeks ago in the last minute; yesterday. Grigg’s place must surely be under threat by George Bowerman now – Bowerman looked sharp(er than Grigg) when he came on. Ryan Jarvis eventually was brought on, but the possibility of Jarvis starting ahead of Macken, Grigg and Bowerman is thin at best. He got a minute or two yesterday. His most telling contribution, overall, was having the ball at the match’s end and doing kick-ups with it after the referee had blown for full time.
The midfield worked hard, but still there wasn’t much invention. Mark Wilson makes it significantly better; Adam Chambers tries but doesn’t offer anything in an attacking capacity, often sitting alarmingly deep; Richard Taundry works hard as always but not really with much end product; and Alex Nicholls, now lumped back on the wing, perhaps harshly, the same.
So perhaps a promising performance and now an epic two matches unbeaten – but if we don’t beat Dagenham and Redbridge on another side of London next Saturday to seal a place in the Third Round of the FA Cup, that’ll be far more disappointing than any defeat in the league. Having seen Dagenham and Redbridge already and, although made of the same squad as last season, I know they’re poor. If I can get work off and other things fall into place, I’ll be there, hopefully to see a goal or two or three. Or four.
They’d better win, either way. On a personal note, having been absent against Exeter last Wednesday, and against Preston – I was in Dagenham, my attentions having been turned to League Two for a weekend – I haven’t seen Walsall win since late August, when Jarvis scored that wonder goal against Shrewsbury, Walsall played excellently for a half and then fell to pieces in the second. Hopefully that’s not an omen.