The Football Lab | Port Vale v Walsall: the Importance of Goalkeepers×
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The Football Lab | Port Vale v Walsall: the Importance of Goalkeepers
 
The Football Lab | Port Vale v Walsall: the Importance of Goalkeepers
The Football Lab | Port Vale v Walsall: the Importance of Goalkeepers
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The Football Lab | Port Vale v Walsall: the Importance of Goalkeepers

11:01 am Saturday, 24 December 2016
As Walsall and Port Vale prepare to do battle on Boxing Day, Gabriel Sutton of 'The Football Lab' joins us to preview the match, where he looks back to last season's final day clash at Vale Park and discusses the importance of having a good goalkeeper between the sticks.
As Walsall and Port Vale prepare to do battle on Boxing Day, Gabriel Sutton of 'The Football Lab' joins us to preview the match, where he looks back to last season's final day clash at Vale Park and discusses the importance of having a good goalkeeper between the sticks.

A good goalkeeper is hugely important, as proved in this fixture on the final day of last season. After Neil Etheridge had kept Walsall level when on the back foot in the first 20 minutes, they took control and put five past their Burslem hosts.

Neither Etheridge’s early work nor the team’s eventually dominant performance were enough to secure automatic promotion, due to Burton’s 0-0 draw at Doncaster. All four of Walsall’s goalscorers that day, following a play-off defeat to Barnsley, sought bigger wages elsewhere, leaving the club with a big re-building job.

Port Vale also had a summer exodus for similar reasons. They lost key leaders in the summer, including Robert Page and replaced them with a lot of players and a manager from abroad. They have not done as badly as some expected, but are on a bad run and performances do not inspire great confidence. Their recent wins against Stevenage in the FA Cup and Fleetwood have been fortuitous. Draws have come against strugglers Shrewsbury and Oldham while five of their seven defeats since September have come by a margin of more than one goal.

According to Experimental 361, in their last six games their expected goals total is 5.1, worse than that of every other team in League One bar Walsall at 4.6. Both teams are in danger of losing the strengths they showed over Autumn, when Vale looked defensively unified and the Saddlers had goals in them.

In the first 10 weeks of the season, we saw some excellent football from diminutive playmaker Erhun Oztumer, who makes up for his physical disadvantages with a creative brain.

However, a combination of perhaps fatigue, increased opposition attention and rapidly changing tactics has seen both Oztumer and Walsall lose their attacking touch. That means they are now hugely reliant on star performer Neil Etheridge. The goalkeeper was imperious in wins over Bolton and Sheffield United and helped preserve a point against Bradford last time out.

It has been a similar story for Port Vale’s Jak Alnwick who, perversely, played well in the 4-0 loss at AFC Wimbledon, particularly in the goalless first half. Just two Valiants in the starting eleven that were over 23 and given the injuries to the more experienced players, Alnwick has plenty of work still to do. Should either side win on Boxing Day, they may have a goalkeeping masterclass to thank.

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


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