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BLOG: ROCHDALE REALITY CHECK

In the latest of his regular offerings, Bescot Banter columnist Scott Brotherton takes a look back at Walsall's last two games, and considers what is next for the Saddlers as they look ahead to this weekend's trip to Gillingham.
In the latest of his regular offerings, Bescot Banter columnist Scott Brotherton takes a look back at Walsall's last two games, and considers what is next for the Saddlers as they look ahead to this weekend's trip to Gillingham.

The way some fans were talking after the Preston result, you would think it had been a stress-free start to the season.

I heard some supporters merrily chatting away about about promotion and us being four points off the play-offs, rather than the two we were from the relegation zone. What a difference a win makes.

But a 4-0 drubbing at Spotland has slammed home the truth - we are not firing on all cylinders yet, not even close.

A convincing scoreline such as the one on Saturday often doesn't tell the whole story. On the bright side we were solid defensively, Anthony Forde and Mal Benning gave us the width I had been screaming for, and we displayed some surprisingly clinical finishing for the three goals.

But we were arguably quite fortunate. Preston dominated the first half and had plenty of chances to go ahead. As far as I can remember, the goal was the Saddlers' only shot on target.

It was also certainly an off-day for the Lilywhites, which boss Simon Grayson alluded to in his post-match interviews. If his side had brought their A-game then I'm sure it would have been a much sterner test, however I'm not knocking the team. You can only beat what's in front of you and it was great to get a win.

As for the embarrassment in Manchester, I sensed the absence of Tom Bradshaw and Adam Chambers might be two injuries too far. But I was more concerned about the lack of firepower than our defensive frailties.

Yes, we didn't score on Tuesday night, but it was the schoolboy defending that is more worrying. And that from the only third of the pitch where the side remained unchanged: O'Connor, Downing, Butler, Taylor.

It was so easy for Rochdale and there's nothing worse than the sinking feeling I got when checking the scores after 40 minutes to find we were already being trounced.

Often when a manager cancels a day off, as Dean Smith has done, it is by way of punishment for a poor display in the last game.

In this case though it's surely to address the woeful defending. Our next opponents Gillingham beat Peterborough while we were busy getting annihilated, so it has to be fixed right now if we want avoid a repeat result.

By: Scott Brotherton.
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