The time for anti nail biting kits is now well and truly with us, as what should have turned out to be a relaxing early spring weekend trip to a classic British seaside resort has become an out and out relegation six pointer. Never will have the prospect of a trip to Blackpool and Bloomfield Road seemed more daunting, as defeat would leave the Saddlers needing something like ten or twelve points to reach safety with just seven games left. It might yet be brown underwear time.
After (crucially) missing out the Bradford game with an ankle injury, Oakes should be back in goal for the game. That should, in itself, give the defence more confidence than Rene Gilmartin managed to give them last week. I would expect the rest of the defence to come from Pead, Westwood, Roper, Gerrard and Fox, the question being whether Pead gets a recall or not. I think itâ€™s likely to be not, and a place on the bench.
In midfield, back should come key duo, Simon Osborn and Pablo Mills. Mills, I would think, is likely to be picked in midfield, rather than defence. As for the rest, James is likely to be out for at least another week and Smith and Standing have tests on the injuries that have kept them out (groin and thigh, respectively). With Demontagnac serving the second game of his two match suspension, I have a feeling we might see a five man midfield of Wright, Osborn, Mills, Keates and Devlin, (and Timm somewhere in the equation too), with debut boy (sic) Steve Claridge ploughing a lone furrow up front.
Having said all of that, Broadhurst does have options in midfield, especially if Smith and Standing are fit, as Leary also comes into the reckoning and he also has Barrowman, Constable (scorer of both goals in the home fixture) and Fitzgerald to go up front.
For Blackpool, striker John Murphy will return to lead the line despite fears he would be out with a neck injury and will be partnered up front by the player whose antics make Didier Drogbaâ€™s look like a picture of sobriety, Keigan Parker.
On-loan Plymouth midfielder Keith Lasley (who can also play full back) has a foot problem and faces a fitness test, but another loanee midfielder Kevin Lee (Wigan) could make his Seasiders debut.
Whoever the Saddlers have at right back will also be facing an ex England International, in the shape of Jason Wilcox, although his pace went a while ago!
Predictions? Well, Blackpool have had a remarkably similar season to us, in some ways. They started out with an inexperienced former International footballer at the helm, in the shape of Colin Hendry, but a string of poor results led to his dismissal in November. They went for the inexperienced option again, however, in the shape of player manager Simon Grayson, and, although they have done better under him, they are still only in 19th place, a single point ahead of us.
Their home record, in terms of wins and draws, is identical to ours, but they have been on a decent run of form lately at Bloomfield Road, having won 3 and drawn 2 of the last six games there. Walsallâ€™s current away record is, of course, just as impressive, with the win at Tranmere and draws at Swansea, Colchester and Southend, so this is a difficult one to call. I never like depending on the performance of one individual, but Claridgeâ€™s ability to hold the ball up could be crucial tomorrow and, if he performs, I expect a point as a minimum from this one. On the other hand, let’s make it three, for Oli.
Supporters are reminded that the away end at Bloomfield Road is uncovered, so you are advised to take along waterproof clothing to protect you from the lashing rain and gale force winds that are normally associated with the â€œWindy Cityâ€!