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Town Saddled by Lack of Fitness
By: Rob Sedgwick
TOWN started the season with a 1-0 defeat at Walsall in a game in which they were second best for long periods. Some good saves by James McKeown kept the scoreline down though and Town could have nicked it at the death, despite their obvious lack of fitness.
Seven Town players made their league debut in contrast to the home side who fielded a starting XI entirely drawn from last season's squad.
The match starting slowly with both sides feeling their way into the game in the absence of the normal passionate atmosphere of the season opener. Town occasionally threatened with Edwards getting a lot of the ball and Adebayo had a good chance at the end of the half for Walsall but generally both sides were restricted to half chances as defences dominated.
After the break things picked up and Town enjoyed a purple patch for 10 minutes but could not make the most of the period (a Green effort which stung the keeper's palms being the closest they came) and, in fact, it was Walsall who ended that passage of the game with their goal.
First, a long ball from the defence fell to Elijah Adebayo which somehow pierced the Town defence but the Walsall striker failed to make the most of the clear run on goal and McKeown saved with his feet.
But Adebayo did not let the next chance pass him by, his third significant one of the match. Walsall crossed the ball in from the left and it was played back across goal for a simple tap-in for Adebayo.
Town were behind but at the same time, they were starting to tire. Holloway attempted to freshen things up with some changes. Gibson replaced Green and 15-year-old Boyd came on for Rose.
But it was Walsall who looked most likely to score the match's second goal and had McKeown to thank for keeping the score down.
The fact there was only one goal in it always gave Town hope and their third substitute almost realised it when a long throw fell to Tilley whose low shot sneaked past the 'keeper's hand and hit the base of the post.
Walsall were worthy winners but their failure to add a second gave Town something to build on. Unfortunately the fact that several players were struggling in the latter third of the game made the challenge all the greater.
Town have a week to work on their fitness and teamwork before their next challenge, which is likely to be a stronger one than any of the teams they have faced so far. Highly fancied Salford will be the first league game at a Blundell Park, sadly without the Town faithful to roar the Mariners on.
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