Yawn. Another game, another win. I thought this division was going to be exciting? This was about as comfortable a home win as we are likely to have, a disallowed effort and one off the inside of the post aside. And with this being the fourth (for some the fifth) game in quick succession nobody could blame the players for taking it easy towards the end. Having been away for Wycombe and Hartlepool, and after Orient provided determined but limited opposition, Walsall must surely be one of the weakest teams in this league, lacking pace, imagination, or any alternative game plan (they didn’t rely on the long ball, but might have well have done). Seeing the admirable Bailey do their full-back for pace perhaps summed it up. Undoubtedly sterner tests are to come, but we won this one at a canter; and this time we are indeed top of the league.
The victory was if anything based around an excellent display by Semedo, who protected the defence and won countless tussles in midfield. With Llera and Dailly only occasionally troubled, that provided the secure platform. In truth, we showed the sort of strolling arrogance at The Valley not seen since ... well, not since we started off back in The Championship. The difference then was that after seeming a class apart the opposition decided to put a spoke in the works by scoring (usually more than once). This time around the quality of opposition, so far at least, has ensured no repeats.
No surprises that it was the same starting XI, so if anything the interest was in who was on the bench, especially given the departure of Gray for Barnsley (no tears there; of course its not been entirely his fault, but he goes down as one of our worst signings of recent years – the new Melrose my fannie adams). McLeod, Fleetwood, Wagstaff and Tuna – but no sign of Dickson. And perhaps surprisingly no Basey (injured?).
From the off we dominated possession and knocked the ball with ease. The surprise was that 30 minutes had passed and, while comfortable, we weren’t creating many chances and the game was still scoreless. A rasping drive from Richardson, an excellent crossfield pass found Sam who darted well into the box but finished weakly, Bailey headed over, but not much else. However, just when thoughts were turning to Walsall coming more into the game we did make the breakthrough. A good cross in from the left found somebody’s head from within a group and after some doubt the linesman signalled that it had crossed the line. It was credited to Llera. Another before the break would surely have put the game beyond doubt, but Shelvey’s curling shot was turned around.
Walsall did up it a little from the start of the second half, having made a change, and at 1-0 there’s always doubt. We were getting a little sloppy and the worry level did rise as a cross from the left was bundled into the net, but the linesman’s flag was up. Sam, who looked threatening at times but also a little tired, was replaced by Wagstaff and it was the youngster who put the game to bed. After a Walsall attack the ball was worked down the left and suddenly there were acres of space on the right side. The ball was duly played through and Wagstaff found himself with a one-on-one. He didn’t bottle it, instead planting the ball low across the keeper.
Walsall did have one more moment, with a glancing header (not dissimilar to Orient’s goal on Tuesday) coming back off the inside of the post, while one or two shots went wide. But by that time it was clear that they wouldn’t score. Bailey might have scored with another header, but the final minutes saw Charlton keep possession and run the clock down. No complaints about that.
With no game now for a full week, attention has to turn back to the takeover as the transfer deadline nears. It’s not getting ahead of ourselves to say that the midfield we have – which should be good enough to compete in The Championship – will be too strong for most teams in this league. But are they all staying? Holland and Fortune are still waiting in the wings, no question we need cover in central defence, but the forwards are still a mixed bag. Burton clearly stays and has started well, but the impression is that any one (maybe two) of Dickson, Fleetwood or McLeod would be sold if there is a suitable offer. We brought in each of them as natural goalscorers making a step up, but with Parkinson talking of another being a priority it would seem clear that they are not impressing him. Perhaps it all comes down to Shelvey; if he stays and plays 4-5-1 would seem to be the order of the day; if he goes we reshape and then either one of the forwards we have steps up or we would indeed need another.
That’s tomorrow’s worry. I think we would all have settled for the start we have made and if today’s game was periodically soporific two goals and a clean sheet will do fine. And if someone deserves a pat on the back tonight surely it’s Parkinson. He has kept his counsel about his position through the summer and has ensured that the team we have has started the season in very good shape. May all our opposition be Walsall.
Elliott: 7/10. Little to do, but has taken on well the task of the Chris Powell celebration.
Richardson: 7/10. No complaints here either, solid performance, got forward more than against Orient.
Youga: 7/10. No defensive howlers and provided good support in attack.
Llera: 8/10. Already looking an excellent signing, commanding in the air and solid enough on the deck. The crossfield passes go like bullets, just a matter of getting the range right sometimes.
Dailly: 7/10. If the worst you can remember is one moment of uncertainty resulting in him heading behind for a corner and one poor header in the second half that’s fine by me.
Bailey: 7/10. Good performance, more involved than at Orient, sound defensive work as usual, and could have scored a couple of times.
Semedo: 9/10. My man of the match. That Walsall offered very little was due in no small measure to him.
Racon: 7/10. Not every trick works, but effective enough and always involved.
Sam: 7/10. Dangerous through the game but must have been galling for him to see Wagstaff come on and do what he has singularly failed to do of late (score).
Shelvey: 7/10. One excellent shot shortly before the break, intelligent passing.
Burton: 8/10. Doing the lone forward’s job well, might have scored for the third game running with a lob over the keeper (only this one was rather tall).