Date: 1st February 2017 at 7:35am
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Walsall FC January 2017 review


January 2017 was certainly not dull, we saw the end of the diamond, the return of wing-backs and 10 goals in four games. Rochdale, Sheffield United and Bristol Rovers all visited the Banks`s, whilst we made the solitary trip to Gigg Lane to face Bury.



Walsall 0-2 Rochdale – 2nd January 2017


Following on from an encouraging Christmas period, the Saddlers faced a Rochdale side riding high in League One and the ever-impressive Keith Hill.


In a game that had disturbing similarities to the corresponding fixture between the two sides in January 2016, Rochdale dominated the game – an Amadou Bakayoko open goal miss apart – and ran out comfortable 2-0 winners. The frankly pathetic effort by Franck Moussa to prevent the Dale`s second goal summed up the performance and the fans made their feelings clear to Jon Whitney at the final whistle.



Walsall line-up: Etheridge, McCarthy, O`Connor, K. Roberts, Laird, Edwards, Chambers, Cuvelier, Morris (Moussa), Bakayoko, Jackson (Oztumer).

SIGNING!


Walsall sign Celtic defender Eoghan O`Connell on loan for rest of the season. The talented youngster joins the Saddlers after interest from SPL side Kilmarnock and will provide much needed competition in defence.


Walsall 4 – 1 Sheffield United – 14th January 2017


Diamonds are forever, actually they`re not.


Jon Whitney ditched the rigid 4-4-2 and opted for a more expansive 3-5-1-1 formation that not only saw the return of Erhun Oztumer to the starting line-up, but also accommodated new signing Eogan O`Connell in a three man defence.


Writing this now, it`s still quite unbelievable that we managed to hit four, yes four, past the Blades, who coming into the game must have been confident about stretching their lead at the summit of League one. As it turned out, United were sunk by three second half goals shared between the marauding wing-backs McCarthy and Edwards and the magician Oztumer. Those crazy 18 second half minutes followed what had been an even contest in the first period with a Jack O`Connell header cancelling out Bakayoko`s crisply struck opener.


Was it a fluke? Or the start of an unlikely play-off push? Only time will tell.


Walsall line-up: Etheridge, McCarthy, O`Connell, O`Connor, Preston, Edwards, Cuvelier, Osbourne, Chambers, Oztumer, Bakayoko.




Walsall 3-1 Bristol Rovers – 21 Jan 2017


Another week and another win for the Saddlers as another team in promotion hunt, Daryll Clarke`s Bristol Rovers, were dispatched 3-1 by an increasingly confident Walsall side.


The first half was a cagey affair, with Rovers probably shading it after forcing Etheridge into two decent saves. However, it was the Saddlers who broke the deadlock in first half stoppage time as O`Connell pounced on a mix-up in the Rovers defence to strike a perfect left-footed volley past debutant Joe Lumley.


The second-half was much more one-sided with goals from Edwards – again – and Simeon Jackson`s first since October meaning that the three points would once again be staying at the Banks`s.


Walsall line-up: Etheridge, McCarthy, O`Connell, O`Connor, Preston, Edwards, Cuvelier, Osbourne, Chambers, Oztumer, Bakayoko.



Bury 3-3 Walsall – 28 Jan 2017


Walsall`s previous two games against Bury finished 3-3 and 2-3, so it`s no surprise that there were once again plenty of goals as the teams met at Gigg Lane.


Bury, led by the impressive James Vaughan, went into half-time 2-0 up following Vaughan`s opener and Reece Brown`s over-hit free kick (think Ronaldinho v Seaman). This was the first real test for the new look Saddlers and after 68 minutes it looked like the Shakers would remain unmoved. However seven magnificent minutes saw three Walsall goals, including a brace from McCarthy, and wild celebrations from the 448 travelling supporters. Unfortunately, Walsall couldn`t hold on for a third successive win as Tom Soares poked in another cross from Brown to ensure it finished Bury 3-3 Walsall for the second time this season.


Walsall line-up: Etheridge, McCarthy, O`Connell, O`Connor, Preston, Edwards, Cuvelier, Osbourne, Chambers, Oztumer, Bakayoko.


SIGNING!


The signing of Wolves` highly rated winger, Will Randall, was the only business done by Jon Whitney on deadline day as main target Danny Rowe moved to Championship side Ipswich.


The Saddlers visit Millwall for the first fixture of February, hoping to build on three impressive performances.

Highlights of all the games from January are available via the Official Walsall FC YouTube channel

How do you think we will get on?