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Latics' spot of bother

10 August 2013

We should have had two penalties - Lee Johnson


Latics endured a disappointing and frustrating afternoon as they were beaten 1-0 by Walsall in their opening Sky Bet League 1 home match of the campaign.

Lee Johnson admitted his side lacked a spark and also the modicum of luck required when things are not going well, but also explaining the players were aware they had fallen well short of the standards they have set.

Latics' manager pointed to the two failed appeals for penalties, the first of which came when the game was goalless.

He said: "It you get them, obviously it changes the game.

"Believe or not all the managers recently went on a course when it showed all the different situations with handball and that one was the absolute stonewall banker.

"When I asked the referee (Gary Sutton) afterwards he said may be and I thought thanks mate.

"It is not an easy job. We will get some (of those decisions) and not get some and without doubt that was handball."

Looking back on the afternoon’s 90 minutes, Johnson said: "I was disappointed with our first-half performance which lacked energy and that bit of fizz.

"Whether that is because we had two matches earlier in the week with pretty much the same group, I don’t know.

"In fairness, Walsall have had the same schedule as ourselves and they looked sharper than us.

"The effort wasn’t bad and we had a go in the second half, but it just didn’t quite fall for us and to draw a blank at home is disappointing."

It was puzzling for Johnson who explained his players were sharp in training yesterday and flying in the warm up.

"Sometimes I wish they were terrible the day before the game because it would get it out of their system and they would come in lively," he joked.

Johnson was also concerned about the lack of a cutting edge in his side.

"We are all saying we look as though we have goals in us, but today we didn’t. We weren’t potent and that is a bit worrying at the moment," he explained having fired blanks in the last two matches.

Charlie MacDonald replaced the injured Jonson Clarke-Harris, the one change from the side which kicked off against Derby in midweek. Korey Smith recovered from a knock picked up four days earlier to lead the side against the Saddlers.

Walsall had won both their opening games, but were lucky not to fall behind in the 18th minute when Latics had their first shout for a penalty.

A shot from Jonathan Grounds was blocked by keeper Richard O'Donnell and Cristian Montano's follow-up shot clearly struck an outstretched arm.

It was the slice of luck the Saddlers needed as they survived to take the lead five minutes later.

A cross from right-back James Chambers was not cleared and James Baxendale found the net with a drive low to the left of keeper Mark Oxley.

Adam Rooney and James Dayton blazed well over and Rooney forced a comfortable diving save from O’Donnell.

And to add to Latics' woes, David Mellor limped off in the opening period with a hamstring strain to be replaced by Cliff Byrne.

Sidney Schmeltz came on for Montano at the break, though that change was tactical.

Dayton and Jose Baxter both blazed over early in the second half before Latics had their best spell of the game between the 70th and 78th minutes. 

Centre-back James Tarkowski was Latics' most dangerous attacking threat going close twice in the same move.

First his goalbound shot was blocked by Adam Chambers and from a follow up his header was well saved by O'Donnell.

Substitute Anton Rodgers then forced a decent save from O’Donnell who also beat out a cross-cum-shot from Smith as an equaliser continued to elude Latics.

Latics (4-4-1-1): Oxley; Brown, Tarkowski, Mellor (Byrne 36), Grounds; Dayton (Rodgers 76), Smith, Baxter, Montano (Schmeltz 46); MacDonald; Rooney. Subs (not used): Wesolowski, Millar, Simpson, Truelove.

Walsall (4-4-1-1): O’Donnell; J Chambers, Butler, Downing, Benning; Baxendale, A Chambers, Mantom, Hemmings (Featherstone 83); Westcarr (Sawyers 72); Lalkovic (Hewitt 87). Subs (not used): Purkiss, Holden, Lewis, McQuilkin.

The goal: Baxendale (25) for Walsall.

Bookings: Mellor (3) for Latics. Hemmings (73) for Walsall.

Referee: Mr G Sutton.

Attendance: 4,538 (377 visitors). 

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