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THE FOOTBALL LAB | Saddlers Edge Derby Thriller

11:42 am Sunday, 16 October 2016
Following Saturday afternoon's Sky Bet League One clash between Walsall and near-rivals Shrewsbury Town, Gabriel Sutton of 'The Football Lab' joins us and shares his views as the Saddlers snatched a late victory in front of their home faithful.
Following Saturday afternoon's Sky Bet League One clash between Walsall and near-rivals Shrewsbury Town, Gabriel Sutton of 'The Football Lab' joins us and shares his views as the Saddlers snatched a late victory in front of their home faithful.

We saw the best and worst of the Saddlers, in our 3-2 win over rivals Shrewsbury. Erhun Oztumer was involved in all the attacking play and capped off his performance with a late winner – given his size, Oztumer was more likely to score from his own corner than in the box for one! Not everything he did worked – and there were times when he could have been put off by more physical opposing players around him – but he always wanted the ball and stayed positive, which is the mark of a good attacking player. He was perhaps a victim of strong attacking competition at Peterborough, but Jon Whitney has entrusted him with a consistent run of games, which has evidently helped his confidence.

For the opening goal, the diminutive forward played through Amadou Bakayoko to slot home. I recall in the summer of 2015 at a fans forum, Dean Smith saying somewhat diplomatically that Bakayoko was ‘not ready’ for the first team and he had spells in non-league the following season. On Saturday’s evidence, he has developed quickly and has a hunger to prove himself, pressing from the front and putting tackles in. His red card at the end seemed unnecessary but if the suspension is rescinded, his first goal may give him the confidence to put a goalscoring run together between now and Christmas.

The negatives were the way Walsall defended, particularly in the air. Kevin Toner and James O’Connor are both under six foot and had to contend with 6’5” striker George Waring, who caused problems for the duo in the air. Shrewsbury did not give him perfect service, but any simplistic high-ball would immediately make the whole defence nervy. We’ve struggled historically against target men and are perhaps missing somebody in the Andy Butler mould, capable of leading the defence and dominating a centre-forward. Shrewsbury bullied us physically in the air, there was even a 15 minute period after Ryan McGivern was sent off for them during which they remained on top.

We started to press home our advantage in the last 10 minutes or so and ex-Shrewsbury midfielder Josh Ginnelly made a difference when he came on. A few fans were critical of Whitney’s substitution, questioning why he didn’t bring on Andreas Makris, but to his credit it worked. Ginnelly added pace to the midfield and he stretched play on the right, creating more gaps in Shrewsbury’s midfield. Parent club Burnley are unlikely to turn to Ginnelly in their position and given that we do not have too much natural width in the team, he is a player we should look to hang onto.

A third win in five has seen us climb to 14th in the table. This was not the most convincing performance, but the signs of recovery are there

Visit theFootbalLab.co.uk where Gabriel Sutton aims to provide regular insight, opinion and in-depth analysis on every club in the top four leagues of English football.


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