Posted by: Bescot Banter


In the first of his weekly offerings, new Bescot Banter columnist Scott Brotherton takes a look at Walsall's current goal scoring woes.
In the first of his weekly offerings, new Bescot Banter columnist Scott Brotherton takes a look at Walsall's current goal scoring woes;

Last Saturday’s win against Shrewsbury Town was much needed. The Saddlers were stuck in a rut after four games without a win and they were slowly slipping away from the play-off places. But whilst the victory is the most important thing, it masks a much larger problem: the inability to score goals.

The narrow 1-0 scoreline flattered Shrewsbury. Walsall dominated the game and had lots of opportunities to get a second.goal. Tom Eaves somehow missed a three-yard sitter for the hosts in the second-half and if he had converted we would be rueing missed chances yet again, but as it was the Saddlers got away with that one. Shrewsbury had a sniff of an equaliser in the latter stages too, and the game should have been well beyond them at this point.

This has been the problem all season. Dean Smith’s men have netted only nine times in as many home games: the joint lowest in League One. The away form is a little better but at 21, Walsall have by far the fewest total goals of any of the top-half teams.

The defence have bailed out the attackers so far this season with some great displays. Whether saving draws or preserving slender leads, the backline can boast a number of goals conceded that can only be bettered by the top two. They can’t be relied on forever though, we need goals.

Craig Westcarr has been the only reliable goalscorer in the team. He has had his critics among the fans, myself included, but it is a fact that without his goal tally (nine goals in all competitions) Walsall would be in deep, deep trouble.

There are two main problems in my opinion: the finishing and the service.

The Walsall strikers cover various attributes between them but I wouldn’t call any of them a ‘poacher’ or a ‘natural finisher’. Westcarr and Romaine Sawyers in particular seem to receive the ball with their backs to goal all too often. This prompts them to tee up the likes of Sam Mantom for a long range attempt rather than going for it themselves. In the squad Deano has an abundance of pace, strength, energy and skill, but no one who can consistently put the ball in the back of the net.

It’s not all their fault though; the rest of the team need to help the forwards out. The final ball has been lacking a lot of the time with the strikers in great positions. Take the Shrewsbury game. At one point Sam Mantom stole down the right flank and had three Saddlers waiting for him to drop the cross on their head. Instead the ball flew straight into the arms of a grateful Chris Weale and a great chance went begging.

The team have showed they can score a few; November’s 3-0 FA Cup win over the Shrews proved that. But even then Walsall were wasteful against a side described by their own manager as ‘inept’.

There will inevitably be a point in the season where the defence goes through a sticky patch and if the goalscoring remains in its current state we will struggle. One of the strikers has to step up and transform themselves into a clinical finisher, a bit like Will Grigg did last season, for Walsall to become serious play-off chasers. Otherwise they will slide down into mid-table mediocrity, a fate that the fans are all too familiar with.

By: Scott Brotherton
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