2013: A YEAR IN REVIEW 2013: A YEAR IN REVIEW

2013: A YEAR IN REVIEW

Bescot Banter columnist Scott Brotherton takes a look back at what was an eventful 2013 for Walsall Football Club.
Bescot Banter columnist Scott Brotherton takes a look back at what was an eventful 2013 for Walsall Football Club;

January - Walsall began 2013 in good spirits after ending their 16-match winless run in late December, and they carried on the turn around in fortunes with Jamie Paterson’s late winning goal against Stevenage on New Year’s Day. Febian Brandy was then the star as the Saddlers completed a comfortable 2-0 victory over strugglers Portsmouth in front of Sky Sports cameras. They achieved brilliant back-to-back 3-1 wins in the next two games, first against Preston at Deepdale and they followed it up with the same score at home when facing the eventually promoted Bournemouth. The only blip in January was the 2-0 loss at Colchester on the 26th, with former Saddler Jabo Ibehre grabbing one of the goals. Despite this loss, Dean Smith was named League One Manager of the Month after an impressive four wins in five games.

February - The momentum continued though as Paterson scored twice in the 3-1 win over Oldham at the Banks’s. They then pulled off a great performance to beat Doncaster on their own patch, especially considering Donny would go on to become league champions. Two draws against Notts County and high-flying Brentford followed and an unbeaten month was finished in style with a convinving 3-0 win at Carlisle, which included Will Grigg’s first senior hat-trick.

March - Grigg scored twice more in the 3-1 home win over local rivals Shrewsbury, and yet another penalty in a hard-fought two-all draw at Swindon. Grigg scored again from the spot in a 2-0 win over Tranmere at the Bescot. The Saddlers then somehow scored twice late on to snatch a home draw against Crawley and keep their unbeaten run going. Grigg netted one of those last-gasp goals to make it eight in five games for the striker. The David Grof saga came to an end when he left the club by mutual consent, after Deano had axed him from the fray and relied on a number of loan keepers including Karl Darlow, Aaron McCarey and Ian McLoughlin. The latest loaned keeper, Sam Johnstone from Manchester United, had a good start as Walsall ended March with two 0-0 draws at Hartlepool and Yeovil.

April - Coventry were the April fools on the 1st  as Walsall proved they could live without the injured Grigg by thrashing the Sky Blues 4-0 at home; Craig Westcarr and Jamie Paterson both got a brace. The play-off push was ended though by three 1-1 draws against Sheffield United, Scunthorpe and Bury. The 16-match unbeaten run which had put the Saddlers in such a promising position was eventually ended at Crewe on the last day of the 2012/13 season. Perhaps it was a side effect of coming so close, only to fall away over the last few games.

The Summer - The 26th June to the 2nd July was a week to forget for Dean Smith as he lost three big hitters in the space of seven days. Febian Brandy, Will Grigg and Jamie Paterson left for pastures new at Sheffield United, Brentford and Nottingham Forest respectively. A number of players were also released and Deano was forced to rebuild. He did so by signing previously on-loan Romaine Sawyers, as well as Troy Hewitt from QPR and Milan Lalkovic on-loan from Chelsea to bolster the attack. Richard O’Donnell came in as number one with Shane Lewis as backup to avoid a repeat of last season’s goalkeeper crisis. Ex-Hereford player James McQuilkin also joined to complete the squad for the upcoming season.

August - Lalkovic became an instant hit by scoring Walsall’s first goal of the new season. Craig Westcarr also bagged a brace as the Saddlers beat Tranmere 3-1 at home. They then went on to win 2-1 at Port Vale in the League Cup and edge out Oldham at Boundary Park. A home draw against Notts County followed but August took a turn for the worse with a loss to a Will Grigg-less Brentford, and they were then dumped out of the Capital One Cup, losing 3-1 at Premier League Stoke City. The month ended on a real low as the Saddlers; 16-match unbeaten run at the Banks’s Stadium was finished in comprehensive fashion. Preston hammered them 3-0 on what was a definite off-day for Walsall.

September - A heart-wrenching defeat to Wolves, 4-2 on penalties in the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy, started the month but Deano’s men responded well to win 3-0 at Crewe and they then served up some revenge that will live long in fans’ memories. They won 1-0 at Wolves through an Andy Butler header and were the first side to take points from the Molineux this season. They finished September with two 1-1 draws against Rotherham and Leyton Orient, albeit the latter ended Orient’s 100% start to the season. They did it with ten-men too, owing to a Butler red card which was later rescinded. Julian Gray also returned to Walsall after three years away at the end of the month on a short-term contract.

October - This was a topsy-turvy month for Walsall which they began with a disappointing 2-0 home loss to Bradford, before Andy Taylor’s 97th minute goal snatched a point at Colchester. They then totally outplayed Stevenage but only won 2-1 and did likewise at Swindon, this time winning 3-1 in an excellent performance where Ashley Hemmings scored twice. They were brought back to earth with a bump in their next home game though, going down 1-0 at home to Coventry.

November - MK Dons handed the Saddlers a bad start to November by beating them 1-0 at the Stadium:MK but things got better from there. They crushed a poor Shrewsbury side 3-0 in the FA Cup first round before once again thriving in front of the live TV cameras, producing a great performance to grab a 2-0 home win against high-flying Peterborough. Back-to-back away draws at Crawley and Sheffield United followed and another month ended on a low when they were beaten at home by a physical Port Vale side.

December - With Movember moustaches gone for another year Walsall faced the highest-ranked side left in the FA Cup, Leyton Orient, and bowed out with a 1-0 second round defeat at Brisbane Road. They did however edge out Shrewsbury 1-0 at the Greenhous Meadow and got another clean sheet as they scored two to beat Carlisle. However they then slipped up, losing at relegation-threatened Bristol City. Julian Gray scored the final goal of 2013 with what appeared to be a last-gasp winner at Gillingham, only for it to cancelled out in stoppage time.

Saddlers 2013 Record (Competitive)

Played: 49
Won: 21
Drawn: 16
Lost: 12
Win Percentage: 43%
Goals For: 67
Goals Against: 45
2013 Goal Difference: +22

By: Scott Brotherton
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