Following Walsall's narrow defeat to Sheffield United, Bescot Banter columnist Sam Wright shares his Match Report;Walsall went into this one without a win in 5 games in all competitions, and were in need of something against what promised to be a strong united team. The Saddler were unchanged from the team that drew 2-2 against Crewe on Saturday.
Before I begin, I would just like to say to the staff at Sheffield United, your food is terrible, especially the pies. Now I’ve got that off my chest...
Walsall made a slow start compared to recent weeks, and Sheffield dominated the possession and territorial side of the game in the opening 10 minutes. Cuvelier managed our only shot in this period but it sailed over from outside the box. However, we did then begin to start to look to pass the ball around, which would ultimately prove to be our downfall. On the 12 minute mark Jamie Paterson turned to attempt to roll the ball back to one of his centre halves, of whom it went between and into the path of Dave Kitson who was through on goal. Holden had no choice but to bundle him down and concede the penalty, and was dismissed for his efforts. Nick Blackman stepped up to slot the ball past Darlow, who complained about something to the referee, but regardless, we were in trouble.
GOAL: Sheffield United 1 (Blackman PEN 14') Walsall 0
At this point, the fear around me in the away end was that we were about to be on the end of a drubbing, after all, we were a goal and a man down to third in the league after 12 minutes. But to our surprise we then improved on our performance with the full 11, Baxendale made way for Downing in order to keep our 4 at the back and we began to keep the ball a lot better. We advance forward on few occasions, usually resulting in a poor cross, and much of the time theses crosses were coming from Taundry.
However, we did manage to get into a great position in what would turn out to be the most talked about moment of the first half, Grigg latched onto a weak back pass, and seemingly got to the ball before the United ‘keeper lunged in double footed to smash the ball away, leaving Grigg injured on the floor and the travelling fans, who were yards from the incident, bemused that the referee had not made in 1 penalty and one red card a piece.
We did have one more great chance before half time, Cuvelier crosses for Grigg on 37 minutes who met it at the front post and sent it toward the corner. The away fans were already up before to our astonishment the ’keeper flew across and bundled it out and away. A great chance foiled by a fantastic save. And it would prove to be the last chance of the half
HT: Sheffield United 1 Walsall 0
The second half, unfortunately, saw our attack turn a little flat and nonthreatening. Cuvelier broke through early on and took a shot from outside the area which went wide of the goalkeeper’s right hand post. After this though, even when having long spells of possession, we just couldn’t conjure up enough to really scare the Sheffield United Defence.
As the half progressed, Sheffield United began to keep the ball away from our understandably tiring midfield, who were giving it everything the possibly could, but to no real avail. Paterson wanted to get on the ball but his ideas were limited and he couldn’t provide anything noteworthy, besides his unfortunate back pass for the goal, and was replaced by Hemmings after the hour mark.
Even with our lack of chances we managed to quell United’s attacks with a reasonable amount of ease. Only really conceding a few corners from which the delivery’s were extremely poor, much to the displeasure of the home fans who started to get on the leading teams back towards the end.
In an attempt to salvage something from a game in which both teams were no out of ideas, Smith replaced Grigg up top with Bowerman with 15 minutes to go. Despite his enthusiasm to get on, George couldn’t influence the game more than anybody else, and was limited to very few touches in his quarter of an hour spell, and never really had a chance to get at the defence or to have a strike at goal. This was clearly our last option and when it did not work we seemed to then give up, and allowed the Blades to stroll out with the points.
FT: Sheffield United 1 (Blackman Pen 14') Walsall 0
My MOTM: Andy Taylor
REF: Geoff Eltrigham
Overall it wasn’t a bad performance, and we did well to stay in the game and produce a few chances against a decent team with an extra man. Although their fans didn’t like it, they played very cleverly, just making sure our 10 would tire and not be able to hit back, instead of going for the bag full of goals the fans wanted.
By: Sam Wright