Saddlers’ Super Start Stopped by The Shrimps

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There has been much discussion regarding Walsall’s unbeaten start to the season, which has seen the club climb to the top of League One and set themselves up for a glamour tie against the Champions of England, Chelsea, in the Cup.

In addition, midfield maestro, Sam Mantom, is nominated for ‘Player of the Month’ and Saddlers boss, Dean Smith, looks a shoo-in for the ‘Manager of the Month’ award thanks to a string of impressive wins against the likes of Coventry City, and a 4-0 demolition of Blackpool in their previous game.

So, Saddlers fans were right to expect a win against League Two side, Morecambe, weren’t they? Not if you’re a Morecambe player…

Due to international call-ups, this was the first of two games that Dean Smith was without Jason Demetriou and goalkeeper, Neil Etheridge. The latter meant that it was a first appearance of the season for second choice ‘keeper, Craig MacGillivray.

Despite the forced changes, Walsall started brightly and, once again, the passing on show was excellent. This was vastly encouraging, as were the chances that the Saddlers began to create as the first half progressed.

However, even though Dean Smith’s men crafted these chances, the sides went in level at the break, but the only side who looked likely to score were Walsall.

You can only win if you take your chances, though; Walsall learnt so last season. 12 minutes after half-time, we were all reminded of last campaign’s annoyances as Morecambe took the lead thanks to Jamie Devitt.

A patient bit of build-up play at the back from Morecambe started the goal before Devitt chested it at the edge of the box, which unleashed an excellent effort into MacGillivray’s far corner.

Morecambe’s second goal was from Walsall’s own wrongdoing. Firstly, the Saddlers’ own throw-in fell straight to their opposition, who then capitalised on Adam Chambers’ slip in midfield, sending a good through ball to Tom Barkhuizen, who then ran, unchallenged, from half-way to the Saddlers’ box before slotting it low to the Walsall goalkeeper’s far post. Despite the best efforts from James O’Connor sliding in to block the shot, it was too late.

With 72 minutes gone, and Walsall 2-0 down, it looked all over; the Saddlers, who reached the final of this competition last season, were to be bowing out at the first stage.

However, on another day, it could have been totally different. Walsall remained technically ahead in every statistic, whilst Morecambe had just three shots on target compared to Walsall’s eight.

So, even though Walsall have gone out of the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy to lower league opposition, there are certainly positives that Dean Smith can take forth and seek to build upon. He’d probably be more worried had his side created nothing and been outplayed by the home team.

Morecambe now enter the hat for the second round draw set to take place on Saturday 5th September, the same day that they take on recently relegated, Yeovil Town.

As for Walsall, they must dust this defeat off and focus on Bury at home this weekend, as they look to get back to winning ways and keep hold of the top spot in the league.

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