Walsall only finished three points ahead of us last season, but they kicked on, we didn’t – a deficiency that was evident after the first month of this season when they beat us 1-0 at Glanford Park. Can we kick on now? The game at Walsall will be a big test of whether we can.
Currently fourth in the table, the midland side have been in the promotion mix for most of the season, first under Dean Smith before he moved to Brentford in December, and since then under former Donny manager Sean O’Driscoll.
Walsall have made a big commitment to gaining promotion, resisting the temptation to cash in on big-money offers for the likes of left-back Rico Henry, midfielder Romaine Sawyers and striker Tom Bradshaw in the last transfer window in order to give the team the best chance of going up.
However, as a result of a poor recent run, the team is under growing pressure to arrest the slump and prevent their hopes of automatic promotion slipping away.
Their defender Paul Downing says that as yet “nobody is panicking”, but he acknowledged that, “we need to address results because we need to pick up wins, and score more goals. Hopefully that is what we will do, starting with Scunthorpe. That is a massive game.”
Like Millwall the other week, Walsall are very vulnerable at home, last winning at their place at the end of December. Of their four home games since, they have lost three, two by big margins – 0-3 against Rochdale and Millwall. They have won only one of their last seven outings and Saturday saw their first clean sheet since the turn of the year. So if we can take more of the chances we create – unlike Saturday – then there’s a fair chance we can come away with a point at least.
So what have Walsall got to offer on the pitch? Well, you can take your choice. Before Saturday’s 0-0 draw at leaders Burton, the Albion winger Lucas Akins described the Saddlers as “a great footballing side. A lot of their team has been together for a length of time and they know what each other are good at. They have players that can hurt you so we will have to be on top of our game.”
Then, after a game of few chances against Burton, O’Driscoll described his team as “organised, disciplined and professional”. Overall, it sounds the complete package, though of late something is obviously not quite clicking, which hopefully we can capitalise on. Especially as the higher up the table our recent opponents have been, the better the results have tended to be.
Finally, as most people probably know, their ground is an identikit of ours. Except they have since built a big stand behind one goal. If our move to a new ground doesn’t come off, could this be how Glanford Park looks in a few years?