A trip down to West Midlands it was for the first round of the Carling Cup, against league 1 side Walsall and it had to be settled on the night. I entered The Banks’s Stadium, the away fans were situated in the side stand. The Boro players were training just in front of us with the ground being close to the pitch. The sun was blazing down on our stand while I watched the team train a guy from Walsall came round with a team sheet.
Tony McMahon was going to be captain for the evening, which was a nice honour for the passionate heart of a lion player. To wear the captain’s armband and to lead the team out meant one of his ambitions was going to be fulfilled. Hines was making his first start since the awful facial injuries he received at Ipswich. Martin was making his first start for Boro. Coyne was making his 500th career appearance. Time for kick off, as the game got under way it was discovered we were playing a 3-5-2 formation. Not only was Tony McMahon captain he was playing a different position, centre back along side McManus and Hines. Joe Bennett and Justin Hoyte were used as wing backs getting forward down the flanks. Bailey, Smallwood and Martin in the middle of park with Zemmama and Emnes up front.
Walsall had a freekick early on which came to nothing. Zemmama was first to have a shot from around 20 yards which was deflected. The Saddlers didn’t help their chances early on when their No7 Chambers lunged in with a two footed tackle on Smallwood. Luckily Richie jumped out of the challenge. Chambers stayed rolling on the ground, he must have known that the red card was coming. The referee had got it right, he got his marching orders and Walsall were down to 10 men. It was stupid as Smallwood wasn’t going anywhere, it happened in the middle of the pitch and right down in front of us Boro fans.
The Boro used the wing backs to great effect, Hoyte and Bennett bombing down the flanks showing they pace. Hoyte crossed it in to the box Martin didn’t connect properly and it scuffed to Emnes to drill in to the bottom right hand corner; 1-0 to Boro. Shortly after we had opened the scoring we had to take off Zemmama who was struggling and time for Lee Miller to get a good 70 minutes on the pitch.
Joe Bennett used his trickery, taking players on and hit a shot which was inches away. Bailey was spraying the passes out wide, Smallwood making runs forward and Martin looked very comfortable on the ball. Boro were keeping possession well and it wasn’t long before we increased our lead. Hoyte flew down the right hand side and fired in a fine cross. What a finish though from Emnes, he connected with the ball and acrobatically volleyed low into the net from 10 yards out. 2-0 up at break.
Out came the Boro team for the second half attacking the goal which was nearest to us. Smallwood played a one two with Miller which saw him burst in to the box only to be clipped by one of the Walsall players for a pen. Time for Boro to make it 3-0 and wrap up the game. No question who was taking it, man of the moment, Marvin Emnes had the chance to get his hatrick and there was no doubt about the result as he drilled it in to the bottom right hand corner. The new No.9 has made a great start to the seaso, four goals in two games, long may it continue.
Being 3-0 up and with that extra man advantage, enabled us to make changes, resting our Dutch star Marvin Emnes for the big clash with Leeds at the weekend and also Nicky Bailey. Luke Williams and Cameron Park came on for their first action in the first team this season. The game was comfortable for us; we were keeping possession well and causing a few more threats for Walsall. Park had a good chance but was just unable to curl the ball in to the net. Coyne had little to do on his 500th career appearance. His handling was immaculate and showed real bravery near the end when gathering the ball and getting kicked off one of the Walsall players.
All in all it was a good cup win with valuable minutes on the pitch for Martin, Smallwood, Hines, Miller, L Williams and Park. You could clearly see some of the work in training paying off on the pitch in our first two games. It was great to see this. On to Leeds now and it will be good to see our new No9 Marvin Emnes get on the score sheet again, his confidence must be sky high. What a week, getting one on Saturday and his first hatrick in English football. So to sum up, it was a professional team display with plenty of entertainment and Boro go into the next round. Now back to League football..