Yesterday, Walsall were knocked out of the Carabao Cup first round, after a defeat on penalties. Although much was left to be desired at the penalties that were taken, during the match, Walsall played well, and looked solid against a Championship team. So what did we learn? And what can we expect from the next match against Bristol Rovers?
Firstly, I thought we looked compact. Our defence worked well together, which was very pleasing to say. There were times last season that we looked leaky, and that our defence were always prone to an error. Yesterday however, we looked far from that. We were tight, well organised and drilled. Two standout performers were Norman and Jules. Both looked solid, and dealt well with very tricky wide-men, that Wednesday were playing with. With the Owls playing wide, our full-backs were always going to be tested, and they delivered the goods.
In midfield, Bates and Kinsella were up against it against a midfield three. Although neither played badly, they didn’t have the best of games either, which is to be expected, being a man down in the middle of the park makes it tough for any midfielders to be at their best. Attacking midfield, Holden, McDonald and Gordon, played well, however they were very limited by the defence of Wednesday, who stood firm all game. There were moments where I felt we had good opportunities to get shots away, but I think that this will come with more game time.
Up top, Lavery worked hard, and ran around a lot, but to no effect. He failed to threaten the goal, which is ultimately what he is judged on as a striker. He did face a back three, however there were moments that I felt he was a bit slow to maybe pick out a pass, or even take a shot. Again, I feel this sharpness with grow as the season goes on.
Now to look to the Bristol Rovers game. I would expect to see quite a changed line-up. The newer signings could be getting a look in, and I would expect to see all three, even if it is off the bench. Formation wise, I think 4-2-3-1 is the system Clarke is out for playing, so I would once again expect to see that. I thought Adebayo and Nurse looked good when they came on, so they will be out for a start to really make their mark. I want to see a team that are fighting for the shirt come the start of the league on Saturday. We played well, and I think that the players will feel they did well in the match, I want them to be confident ahead of Tuesday, as a win, or a good result away at Rovers, would set us up nicely for the visit of Grimsby.