It was a strange mix of emotions coming away from the Banks’s Stadium, knowing that we could, and should, have achieved better. It was no real surprise that a team just above the relegation zone should lose away to a team on the edge of the play-off zone, but it indicated the difference in outlook of the team and the supporters since Nigel Clough came along.
A couple of months ago we’d have gone there knowing we would lose, our only hope being that we might score a rare goal. But now, if not exactly brimming with confidence of a win, we know we at least have a chance.
And so it proved, as United were on top for the first 20 minutes and scored a good goal. From then on everything changed. From being in a position of command United dropped further and further back, as if they expected to be able to defend the lead for 70 minutes. Whether that was a subconscious move or one instructed by the manager I cannot say, but all it did was hand the initiative to Walsall.
That they should score twice early in the second half was the most likely outcome of sitting back against a decent team. Then, lo and behold, Cloughie made two positive substitutions and United began to get on top again, forcing Walsall back and in the end, an argument could be made that they were unlucky not to get a draw. The performance highlighted a couple of things – United are not yet good enough to defend a lead for 70 minutes against good opponents, and when they decide to attack those same good opponents they cause them trouble.
The moral is that if we happen to take an early lead in a forthcoming away match we try to carry on playing the same positive way to get a second goal, not wait until we have surrendered the lead before going on the front foot again.