Walsall suffered their third defeat of the season against an inform Northampton Town but as with most games this season there were more questions than answers.
Jon Whitney made more changes to the starting XI which saw Scott Laird, Liam Kinsella, Isaiah Osbourne, Maz Kouhyar and Amadou Bakayoko starting. Many fans even before kick off were questioning the selection and felt we were on a hiding to nothing.
Whitney said earlier in the week that he had a full strength side to choose from – on Friday we found out O’Connor was still missing with a slight hamstring injury and on Saturday it was apparent that Cuvelier and Osbourne were still missing with niggling injuries – a sign that our decision to sign injury prone players is starting to take its toll on an inexperienced side which is beginning to reflect in our inconsistent performances.
The decision to start Kouhyar, Bakayoko and Kinsella against an inform side away from home was bizarre and a big risk but as Whitney said it doesnt matter how old you are, he will give them a chance.
It was the Saddlers that started the game brightly. Bakayoko was showing signs of a much improved lone striker and he flicked an header past Diamond, controlled it superbly and fired at goal – a finger tip save by Adam Smith stopped a goal of the season candidate.
Northampton then started to get the upper hand on the game as their game plan was executed perfectly with balls into the channel and then cross after cross would find Revell or the impressive Matty Taylor.
It was the latter who opened the scoring in the twenty fourth minute. Jason McCarthy – who looks more like a full back come centre back, lost possession in the middle of the park, the ball was played out to Harry Beautyman and his pinpoint cross found the head of Matty Taylor who flicked it past the stranded Neil Etheridge.
The Saddlers struggled to have any impact on the game apart from wayward shots which ended up going over or wide – story of our season so far.
Northampton continued to bombard the Walsall goal and if it wasnt for Neil Etheridge then the scoreline could have been four or five, so Whitney was correct saying the scoreline was unfair in his post match comments.
Northampton were given a penalty with around twelve minutes to go as James McCarthy handled a harmless ball which was going out for a goal kick and Revell slotted the penalty away.
Following Northampton’s second, anger started to meet the away end and chants of ‘Youre even worse than O’Driscoll’ started to ring out.
The Saddlers were condemned to their third defeat of the season and have now failed to score in any of our away games so far this season – a result which saw the Saddlers drop to just one spot above the drop zone and a defeat for the Saddlers against Bristol Rovers on Tuesday will see us drop into the relegation zone for the first time in five years.
Jon Whitney has now been in charge for twenty three games. In those twenty three games he has shown promise and passion but no tactical nous. The Bradford and Barnsley debacles last season were a stark warning to us all that he needs an experienced head alongside him. You could argue John Ward is that man but he is mainly focused on the youth side. In contrast Robert Page in the Northampton dug out, has had less time at his club and with his players but he was able to execute a game plan and a strategy of how he wanted his team to play. This is something we are badly lacking.
Then we look at his signings – on paper they looked good, in reality some are injury prone (Osbourne,Cuvelier), some are too young and out of their depth (Dobson,McCarthy) and some just havent been given a chance (Ginnelly).
Whitney is a great bloke, a loyal and respected figure within the Saddlers set up but football is a cruel game and despite his time here, the natives are starting to get restless and rightly so.
We are yet to face anyone that will be in the top six at the end of the season and that is a worrying factor given our one victory so far,we now face Bristol Rovers, Bolton, Millwall, Peterborough, Scunthorpe and Sheffield United in our next six games.
The next six games are going to make or break this side.