Date: 3rd January 2017 at 9:34am
Written by: @adamguestwfc

The Saddlers kicked off the New Year in forgettable style, as they turned in an abject performance at home to Rochdale.

For various reasons, this was the first time I`d seen the Saddlers play since the home draw with Southend on the 26th November, which was played on the back of our previous mauling by Rochdale just four days earlier. I`d commented at the end of that match report that we`d probably benefit from playing four of our next five games away from home, and so it had proven with us taking 7 points from those fixtures, as well as a creditable draw at home to Bradford in between. With only one defeat in the league since that Rochdale game I was relatively confident we`d get a result of some sort. However, we didn`t; we didn`t even turn up.

It may have been a different story had we taken the lead on 14 minutes. Clever work on the left hand side between Simeon Jackson and Flo Cuvelier saw the Saddlers slice through Rochdale and, instead of shooting, Cuvelier squared the ball to Amadou Bakayoko to tap home into an empty net from 10 yards. However, the young striker had what can only be described as a Ronnie Rosenthal moment (possibly a bit harsh on Rosenthal, at least he hit the bar) by lofting it high into the stands. He could have taken a touch first to make sure; hell, he had so much time he could have trapped it, got down on his hands and knees and headed it in with all the time he had. Still, the chance was gone and it set the tone for what was a dreadful afternoon for both Bakayoko and the team in general.

Inevitably Rochdale made us pay, taking the lead midway through the first half. Neil Etheridge flapped at a deep left wing cross, Joe Rafferty fired the ball back across goal and Ian Henderson turned the ball in at the back post where there wasn`t a Walsall player within four yards of him.

We had an opportunity to equalise shortly afterwards, Bakayoko winning the ball from a Rochdale defender to set up Cuvelier who had his effort smartly stopped by Conrad Logan. A couple of free kicks around the edge of the box just before half time should have seen us at least threaten an equaliser, but in truth the visitors were looking more dangerous from our set plays than we were.

Rochdale thought they`d doubled their lead early in the second half when Henderson turned the ball in with his hand. Our appeals for handball looked like falling on deaf ears, until a flag that was so late we`d almost kicked off again signalled the infringement and Henderson was booked for his Maradona impersonation.

The visitors did double their lead with 15 minutes to go, when Harrison McGahey, who had only been on the pitch a few minutes, worked an opening down the Saddlers right. His low cross got caught under the feet of young Saddlers defender Kory Roberts, and Joe Thompson tapped in from close range.

It summed up a dreadful day which left us with many more questions than answers. We lacked any energy in midfield, we had no threat up front, and we desperately need a new centre half. I don`t like blaming fatigue as Rochdale have played just as many games recently as we have, but the fact we have a weekend off now couldn`t really be coming at a better time.

Truly, a day to forget.

 

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