SMITH EXCITED BY STRIKE DUO
WALSALL boss Dean Smith struggled to hide his excitement at his new strike force as the Saddlers picked up where they left off last season by rolling over a Tranmere side labelled ‘gutless’ by their boss Ronnie Moore.
Walsall only just missed out on the League One play-offs last term after a 16-match unbeaten run at the start of 2013 but saw their attack torn apart this summer.
Jamie Paterson, top scorer Will Grigg and Febian Brandy – with 40 goals between them – all left but the returning Craig Westcarr and Chelsea loanee Milan Lalkovic showed they can fill the void.
Smith said: “I always believed the people that we’ve got in could score goals and Milan and Westy have done fantastic.
“When you throw two players together who know the game, you will always get that. It’s a bright performance from the forwards who I think can replace the ones we’ve lost. Milan will scare defenders with his pace.
“I wouldn’t have wanted to play against him. He’s frightening when he gets running at you and is a great talent.
“We came in at half-time having had 16 attempts on goal and if we took our chances we could have been out of sight. There’s some really good signs and it’s a good start but I think we can get better.”
Walsall absolutely flew out of the blocks and were ahead inside two minutes, Westcarr sweeping home James Chambers’ low cross from eight yards.
The Saddlers were rampant and skipper Andy Butler nodded inches wide while Rovers keeper Owain fon Williams made smart saves to foil long-range efforts from Sam Mantom and James Baxendale.
Rovers could only hold out so long though and Westcarr and Lalkovic combined well on 25 minutes for the latter to lash into the bottom corner from 18 yards.
However, Tranmere were back in the game out of nowhere five minutes from half-time as Andy Robinson curled a superb free-kick into the top corner from an unlikely angle.
Ryan Lowe forced Richard O’Donnell into a fine fingertip save as Rovers almost levelled but Walsall sealed the points 20 minutes from time as Lalkovic teed up Westcarr to poke home.
Returning Tranmere hero Jason Koumas hit the bar with a stoppage-time free-kick but angry Rovers boss Moore admitted his side deserved nothing.
He fumed: “We can’t come and play and defend like we did in the first 25 minutes.We were all over the place.
“These things can happen in the first game of the season but it’s worrying when we performed the way we did.
“That performance was unacceptable. I don’t think there’s been a performance like that from Tranmere for a number of years – it was gutless.
“It’s about big hearts – you’ve got to have commitment and desire, and we didn’t have
STUNNER: Andy Robinson, left, scores the first goal for Tranmere Rovers HIGH FIVE: Craig Westcarr (second right) celebrates after scoring the third goal for Walsall