Walsall 2-2 Crewe
I struggled to start this, as I wasn’t entirely sure what angle to take with it. On the one hand, we absolutely dominated a very poor Crewe side for the opening 65 minutes of this match, only to visibly tire in the final 25 minutes and throw away a certain three points to a team that barely deserved it.
The first half was full of the inventive, free-flowing passing football the Saddlers faithful are in danger of becoming used too, and were fully deserving of the 2-0 lead we took into the final two minutes of the first half. A delicious through ball from Cuvelier to Paterson who finished delightfully looked to be setting us on our way to a routine home win. And you could have easily been forgiven for thinking it was game over when Grigg crossed for Cuvelier to smash in from close range and double our lead after 25 minutes. However, this is Walsall, so it was never going to be that easy.
By 43 minutes we’d still scored more goals than we’d been given free kicks by a very one sided whistle happy man in…whatever ghastly shade of blue/green/grey that was. And it was from one of those many free kicks Crewe pulled their way back into the match with a goal that, if he hadn’t already done so, may have seen Dean Smith racing into the loan market for a new number one. You know the goals I’m talking about, free kick from out wide, evades everyone and goes all the way in. I have nothing against our on loan goalkeeper, he wasn’t to blame yesterday but he’s not really an improvement on Grof and is a waste of a loan signing. If we hadn’t signed him, all that may have happened is Port Vale would have beaten us earlier than they actually did. To be fair, it was going to take something like that to get Crewe on the scoreboard, as they’d threatened even less than Shrewsbury had the week before.
We still had the opportunities to put the game to bed in the second half, but we seemed to develop a mindset of ‘one more pass’ rather than actually having a pop, and we started to lack urgency in yet another reflection of the aforementioned Shrewsbury game. As we tired going into the final quarter our squad frailties were highlighted. Bowerman was brought on to freshen things up but we had to change shape to do it. The second change saw Brandy replace Grigg, meaning that in an attempt to see the game out we’d actually gone more attacking and brought two strikers on. Naivety on behalf of the manager? Or a blatant exposure of the weakness of our squad that there no defensive options he could justifiably use. This is surely where we absolutely have to strengthen.
Whether it was credit to Crewe, or just the blind paranoia that comes with being a Saddler, I’m not sure, but the equaliser was coming. The only surprise was it took so long, and in a strange way its a good job indeed as had it came five minutes earlier I seriously believe we’d have lost the game.
This raises some interesting questions. Last season the football was rubbish, and I mean truly rubbish, yet our defence was tighter than John Terry’s at a racism trial and it single handedly kept us in the division. This season, we’re a joy to watch, but it has come at the cost of a very weak underbelly. We’ve now conceded twice at home for four successive games, and have conceded twice or more in six home games out of nine this season. That is not a habit that can be allowed to continue, we don’t have the quality to need to score three goals every game to win, the fact we’ve only done that once this season justifies that.
I still believe this style of football will finish us higher up the league than we have the last two years, but we’ve gone from one extreme to the other and Deano probably needs to find a middle ground.