After a spirited run of 7 points from an available 9 against Bradford, Burton and Fleetwood, Walsall fall to Portsmouth and Sunderland in back to back defeats, leaving us the wrong side of the dreaded dotted line separating the bottom four from the rest.
Until now, the threat of relegation did not seem quite so tangible to me as it did to other fans. Maybe it was naivety, born from our extended stay in League One that made the idea of facing the drop almost novel. Maybe it was the fact that despite we’d only won 5 games between the start of October and end of February yet our league position was pretty consistent. Or perhaps it was just sheer dumb optimism. Whatever it was, the feeling of safety swiftly evaporated when we went on that three-game spree of picking up points, only to steadily drop down the table…
The good news is that only three points separate us from 12th, and if we’re being honest with ourselves, we probably expected to lose the last two games. The bad news is that it is starting to feel like our luck has run out. By all accounts, Saturday was a performance worthy of a point at least. Tuesday night was equally frustrating with individual errors costing the Saddlers on a night I thought we matched Pompey in most departments. They say the sign of a good team is one that can play badly and win – I’m not sure what to make of a team that can play well yet walk away empty handed.
Usually after a Walsall defeat, if the players have battled, performed and shown their desire to compete I am not too deflated. But we are now at the business end of the season, and the need for us to pick up the points when we deserve them are more crucial than ever. We’ve now got to face back to back top 6 teams again, and we really need to win at least one of these to make sure we don’t fall off the pace of those around us.
It was the reverse fixture of Saturday’s visitors Barnsley earlier in the season where we truly did get the points we deserved against a better side. A late equaliser from The Cookie Monster after a really solid defensive display against the Tykes. That day, we saw very little of the ball, but tactically and structurally the Saddlers really dug in and got what was a deserved draw. You don’t always get what you deserve in football, and whilst we may not have deserved to lose the last two games, for the way we have played the last 4 months, we really do deserve to be in this position.
With Martin O’Connor back in the fold, there does seem to have been a few more consistent performances and a determination from the players not to fold quite so easily as we have done at times this season. With the Sky Cameras Upon us, and a 12:00 Kick-off on Saturday we may just be able to make something happen- but anything short of three points and I don’t see our league position heading in the right direction. COYR.