Walsall 0 Colchester United 2
Paul Merson must be given some of the cash windfall that arrived through their transfer window to recruit a couple of decent strikers if Walsall hope for anything more than a struggle for League One survival.
Lack of a cutting edge after the departure of top-scorers Matty Fryatt and Jorge Leit?o marred what was otherwise a fairly promising display against a high-flying Col-chester who ended the Saddlers' 11-match unbeaten home run.
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Supporters have seen reports indicating the club have received £350,000 from Leicester City so far for Fryatt and £100,000 from Nottingham Forest for Julian Bennett, as well as £60,000 compensation from the Irish Football Association, who have taken Steve Staunton as their new manager.
The loss of those players, who had scored 23 goals between them, is bound to be felt until replacements come in and Watford's former Birmingham City striker, Paul Devlin, could be the first to sign up today.
Manager Merson is also considering Sheffield Wednesday's Lee Peacock and he could do with both in time for next Saturday's tough away game at Chesterfield.
The Saddlers had four loan men making their home debuts against Colchester - winger Kevin James and midfielders Mads Timm, Michael Leary and Grant Smith - and they all look capable of improving the side for the remainder of the season.
Smith will not be available for tomorrow night's FA Cup third-round replay with Barnsley at Bescot, nor will on-loan goalkeeper Joe Murphy who, however, said he hopes to sign a permanent deal soon if his current club, Sunderland, find a replacement.
Merson, as ever, remained optimistic after Colchester scored twice from set-pieces in the last 14 minutes to continue their impressive climb towards the Championship.
He said: "I don't think anyone in their right mind, even supporters of the other team, could walk out of this ground saying we deserved to lose, but we got caught by a sucker punch. We worked on some-thing yesterday and I said to the lads 'the only way they are going to hurt you is by a set-piece' . . . and it happened twice.
"I am disappointed but not disheartened. We played a team bang in form who have been flying and made them look pretty average for most of the game, but they have ground out a result. Fair play to them."
In the 76th minute, U's skipper Kevin Watson delivered a corner to the near post, Greg Halford flicked a header across the face of goal and Neil Danns stroked the ball over the line. Simple.
So simple, in fact, that Colchester did it again with two minutes left. Again Watson whipped over the perfect corner, again Halford glanced it on and, this time, big Chris Iwelumo rose to head into the roof of the net.
Apart from his goal, Iwelumo's ability to climb high to head the ball through for other players caused the Saddlers problems in the second half.
James Constable, the £4,000 striker signed from Chippenham Town and still learning the professional game, certainly couldn't do it for Walsall and he failed to connect with a great chance to head the home side in front from Mark Wright's superb cross in the 37th minute.
Wright had also missed a scoring opportunity in the first half and the Saddlers have now failed to score in four of their last five league matches. Enough said.
Merson must be hoping his goal-shy attack can somehow do enough to get past Barnsley in tomorrow's Cup replay, because, even if Devlin signs today, he can't play until Saturday's visit to Chesterfield.
Goalkeeper Murphy, who will be watching the tie from a seat in the stands, got it right when he said: "We need to score goals, but I think we did okay and the new lads fitted in well."
Defeat left the Saddlers nine points adrift of the playoff places and only six above the relegation zone after only one win in the last five league matches.