Date: 26th November 2016 at 8:47pm
Written by: @adamguestwfc

The Saddlers responded to their midweek mauling away at Rochdale by earning a point and a clean sheet at home to free scoring Southend. The visitors, who went into the game 5 points ahead of us and having scored 12 goals in their last 5 league games, were limited to a handful of opportunities against a Walsall side who admittedly rode their luck at times.

We weren`t without opportunities ourselves, with Andreas Makris, recalled in place of Simeon Jackson, hitting the outside of the post with a flick from an Erhun Oztumer cross, and also seeing a snap shot on the turn well saved by the Southend keeper.

The visitors were fielding Nile Ranger in attack (our No Knobhead policy clearly isn`t allowed to extend to the opposition team), and he spent the first half dominating the recalled James O`Connor and the struggling Kevin Toner. He had the visitors best attempts, first a header that Neil Etheridge turned away, and then when he danced past O`Connor and was upended in the area by Toner. The ref put the whistle to his lips for what would surely have been a penalty and a red card, however he then inexplicably changed his mind. It certainly evened out the penalty we should have got against Gillingham last week that was turned down.

Back down the other end, the Saddlers were hitting the post again, this time when Laird hit an effort off the same section of the woodwork Makris had hit earlier. The boos and disgruntlement that greeted the half time were whistle were highly unjustified.

After the break Oztumer, who had been partnering Makris up front whilst Josh Ginnelly had been playing at the tip of a midfield diamond, wasted an opportunity, firing wide from the edge of the box when Makris was arguably a better position.

The atmosphere was about to take a turn as a section of the crowd, who had spent the game criticising Makris and calling for Bakayoko to be brought on, treated the substitution of Makris for Bakayoko by booing it and chanting “You don`t know what you`re doing” at boss Jon Whitney. This, apparently, was as a result of the supporters being unhappy with one up front and wanting us to play 442 (see the previous paragraph, we were playing 442 with a diamond). The Saddlers were being forced to defend deeper, with Morris and Ginnelly being forced wider. Simeon Jackson was introduced to replace Oztumer as Whitney switched to an orthodox 442, which was greeted with more boos and negative chants (remember, this is what was being called for). Apparently this time it was because we`d withdrew Oztumer (who doesn`t easily fit into an orthodox 442) instead of Joe Edwards (who`d had a really good game). The mind really does boggle sometimes.

The game was stretched and their were final chances at either end. Mistakes by Chambers and O`Connor saw Stephen McLaughlin go through one-on-one, only to squander when he really should have scored, whilst for Walsall Morris forced a good stop from the visiting keeper, while Bakayoko then just failed to get on the end of a Jackson cross.

All in all a draw was probably a fair result. Four of our five remaining league games are away from home, with support like today that`s probably a blessing.