It would be impossible for Blackpool and Walsall to be in more different situations than they are right now.
Heading into Saturday’s game, Walsall, whose fans were travelling up to Blackpool in their numbers on a sunny bank holiday weekend, had won their last five in all competitions, and sat one place behind table-topping Gillingham on just goal difference.
Blackpool Taken Apart As Walsall Go Top
As for Blackpool, they were enduring one of the worse spells in their club’s history; there could not be less confidence for the season ahead among their fans and players.
A second successive relegation looks a real possibility, even at this early stage of the season, and a four-nil walloping at the hands of Dean Smith’s clinical Saddlers did nothing to suggest otherwise.
There was one dim, flickering light of hope though from kick-off, as Blackpool surprisingly started the better side; they were first to every ball, and Saddlers’ fans would have been forgiven for wondering if it was going to be one of those games. But, even that didn’t last more than the first 20 minutes and once Walsall settled, they began to dominate and once they took control of the game, they kept control for the next seventy.
The first goal was crucial, coming just as Blackpool’s good early start began to slow down and Walsall were looking calmer, more settled and more like the home side than the away side. After all, this was the first time in a while that this season’s early surprise package were expected to turn up and take the three points without much resistance from the hosts, so the early nerves can be excused – especially when you go onto dominate.
The goal once more showed what a tidy footballing side the West Midlands outfit are. The ball was played through by Jason Demetriou after a little spell of one touch football, to Romaine Sawyers who slotted it calmly under the Blackpool goalkeeper 25 minutes in, the little bit of fight in the Blackpool players seemed to be sucked from them instantly and heads had already dropped.
The Saddlers dominated from then on. Sam Mantom has an eye for goal at the moment and his efforts from range shows the centre-midfielder’s confidence. Twice coming close soon after Sawyers’ goal.
Even at one-nil, at the break it seemed that there would be no way back for League One’s bottom side Blackpool. There is no confidence at the club, and it’s clear that there are motivational issues. When you consider everything going on at the club then it is understandable, and Neil McDonald has a real task to pick up any points this season if they continue to perform as they did on Saturday.
The second goal was the killer and Rico Henry’s cross supplied that goal. The low cross was somehow turned into the Blackpool net by one of their own players, Aldred, as he attempted to cut out a ball that is becoming a trademark in Walsall attacks, and proving very difficult to deal with.
It was attack after attack for the in-form Saddlers and Demetriou was supplier for the second time in the game as Walsall scored a third thanks to the ever-improving Sam Mantom heading home the Cypriot’s cross from close range, proving just why the Saddlers struggled last season as the midfielder spent the first half of last season injured.
“We want four” rang around the away stands as Walsall could smell a real thumping and an improvement to a goal-difference which was the only thing stopping them being at the very top of the league up to this point.
The Saddlers’ fans wishes were Sawyers’ command and he scored a screamer from distance into the top left just a few minutes after Mantom had made it three. It was a fine goal to top off a superb day for Walsall as the fans went home, or to the local entertainment that Blackpool had to offer, happy with three points and League One’s top spot, clear by a point.
As for Blackpool, they look devoid of any small amount of confidence that may have built after the opening day draw to Colchester, as their season has been all downhill since then. They have lost game after game since then, and suffered a humiliating defeat to a League Two side, Northampton Town, in the process.
It can only be hoped that things improve soon at Blackpool; no fan deserves to see the club that they love run in the way that Karl Oyston runs Blackpool. Fans will hope that Neil McDonald gets a good chance at the club, as the mess isn’t his fault, although it is difficult to see where Blackpool will get wins from. They need some backing, otherwise it’ll certainly be a long, hard and ultimately disappointing season for The Tangerines.
This is a complete contrast to Walsall though, who have now won six on the bounce in all competitions and are now just one win from equalling a club best of seven straight wins.
This latest win sees Dean Smith and his boys go top of League One, ahead of Sheffield United by a point, with Morecambe up next in the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy. This provides them with a real chance to equal that club record and get into another second round, this time in a competition in which they went all the way to Wembley, for the first ever time, last season.
The question is just how long they can remain unbeaten and occupy that top spot whilst keeping the division’s overwhelming favourites, Sheffield United, at bay.