Date: 27th August 2016 at 6:46pm
Written by: @adamguestwfc

A second half defensive collapse saw a rampant Saddlers produce a masterclass in how not to defend a three goal lead on a quite strange afternoon at the Banks`s Stadium.

In my 23 years of following Walsall I don`t think I`ve ever felt quite so bewildered when the team sheets came out, with the Saddlers opting to line up without a recognised defence as both James O`Connor and Matt Preston were left out in favour of debutant Kevin Toner, whilst Liam Kinsella moved from central midfield to right back. Given both centre backs had put in dreadful performances last week then punishing them by leaving them out was, in theory at least, sound. However, the practicalities of such a bold move meant we lacked any form of defensive structure. That said, if the team line-up was bizarre, what followed from 3 o`clock onwards was truly wacky.

In the first half, Bury were comfortably the worst side I`d seen at the Banks`s Stadium in the last two seasons as the Saddlers raced into a three goal lead in little over half an hour. First, after just six minutes Isaiah Osbourne played a delightful through ball through to Andreas Makris, who`s pull back was thumped home by Kieron Morris to open the scoring. Then, just eight minutes later, the lead was doubled after Erhun Oztumer intercepted a painfully weak ball across the backline to run through and slot home an effort from outside the box that Shakers keeper Ben Williams really should have done better with.

Better was to come as the Saddlers sailed off into a seemingly unassailable three goal lead. Again Makris was the provider, latching onto a through ball from Toner and this time crossing for Simeon Jackson to slam home for 3-0. Sailing was almost required too as a horrendous downpour followed that left both teams struggling to play the ball along the ground, which had it kept up would have threatened to put the game at risk.

The conditions appeared to be playing into our hands though, with Jackson having chances to have had a hat trick before half time, first picking up another through ball from Oztumer, only for Williams to make a decent save, and then right on half time latching on to another misplaced Bury defensive pass to run through one on one, only to slam the ball into the goalkeepers` legs.

Had the match been called off because of the weather it would have been infuriating. However, it would have at least allowed us to leave the ground feeling hard done by, and convinced we`d got the game won. What actually happened was even worse.

A tactical switch by the visitors at half time saw Jacob Mellis come on for Hallam Hope, whilst we lost Osbourne to injury and replaced him with the truly hopeless George Dobson as we instantly overtook Bury to claim the title of “Worst side seen at the Banks`s in the last two seasons”. You felt if we could have weathered the storm at the start of the second half we`d have surely seen the game through. However, by the 50th minute Bury were already back to 3-2 as our decision not to play a defence backfired spectacularly.
Firstly the Saddlers failed to deal with a corner that resulted in Leon Barnett smashing the ball home from close range to give the visitors a sniff, and then moments later Barnett turned provider, setting up James Vaughan to reduce the deficit to one.

From this point on every Saddler in the ground knew we weren`t going to win the game, and so it proved Danny Mayor completed the comeback with a right footed effort with still a quarter of the game still remaining.

The only shock from then on was that was the end of the scoring, as both sides made desperate attempts to lose the game. We allowed Bury to shoot on sight, whilst they remained wide open at the back waiting for us to actually put a counter attack together. Having realised we weren`t going to manage it they decided instead to needlessly hack down substitute Maz Kouhyar, allowing Morris to hit a free kick that forced an impressive camera save from Williams.

In truth a draw was probably a fair result over the balance of the 90 minutes, although it certainly doesn`t feel that way currently. If Whitney keeps with his mantra of dropping players who play poorly then his next line up could be very interesting.

Onwards and upwards!


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