Rioch left bewildered

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The Independent Football

The tannoy at the Bescot Stadium before the match was regaling the crowd with an array of hits from the 1980s. All good stuff but you felt there was something missing and there was. They should have played "Perfect" by Fairground Attraction because that was Walsall's league record before kick-off and, despite having less of the ball, that was how it was after the final whistle.

The tannoy at the Bescot Stadium before the match was regaling the crowd with an array of hits from the 1980s. All good stuff but you felt there was something missing and there was. They should have played "Perfect" by Fairground Attraction because that was Walsall's league record before kick-off and, despite having less of the ball, that was how it was after the final whistle.

Five wins out of five, a maximum 15 points. The win was good enough, but would have been even better but for Wigan's goalkeeper, Derek Stillie, preventing a certain and embarrassing own-goal by his defender Scott Green after 70 minutes.

Football, like life, is not fair and that is exactly what Bruce Rioch would have been thinking at half-time. The Wigan manager saw his side dominate the first 45 minutes like they were the home team and not the visitors, yet Walsall took the lead with virtually the only two chances that came their way.

Not that Wigan didn't create anything but when you're facing the Division Two leaders, who had a perfect record from four games, you need to keep your wits about you. So, with 10 minutes gone, and the threat from Walsall seemingly non-existent, up popped Jorge Leitao.

A neat exchange of passes saw Brett Angell slip the ball to his fellow striker and the Portuguese chipped it past an onrushing Stillie without any problem for his fourth goal in four consecutive matches.

Five minutes later and Walsall caught Wigan - who came unbeaten into this match after three games - cold again. After picking up an Ian Brightwell throw-in, Angell drove in a low cross-shot that was turned in by Dean Keates and Wigan were in disarray.

That only served to push Wigan further on the attack and twice they came close to pull-ing at least one goal back, but Brightwell intervened. First the left-back blocked an Arjan De Zeeuw volley, and four minutes before the break he made an even more important headed clearance with Simon Haw-orth lurking at the far post.

Walsall's defence continued to prove as efficient as their attack as Wigan pressed on with their siege after the break. Yet despite all their possession, the visitors showed ever-greater signs of desperation and of less composure against the Saddlers' massed ranks at the back.

And the luck that Walsall enjoyed after 63 minutes would probably even have stretched the long-standing friendship between Rioch and the Walsall manager, Ray Graydon, that goes back to their days as Aston Villa players. With a rare space opening up in the Walsall defence Andy Liddell tried his luck from 20 yards and beat James Walker's despairing dive only for the ball to hit the post and loop away to safety.

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