Being a traditionalist, I was quite pleased when Accrington Stanley got back into the League. You know, founder members of the Football League, going out of business in somewhat shady circumstances, thanks to the Chairman of nearby rivals Burnley, then having to suffer the humiliation of that damned Milk Marketing Board advert. Of course, that was before we won at their place and the Chairman likened us to a pub team of cloggers and the Manager started spouting off about how he didn’t know how we’d won, that they were as good a side as we were and the team would have nothing to fear fromthe Division if we were the standard it was measured by. Several months later, we’re second, they’re 19th, just three points above the trap door and I think he might have discovered he was wrong. I wouldn’t be disappointed if we lost them from the League now – this time with nothing to complain about.
Richard Money does, of course, have his problems for this game, especially in defence. Ian Roper was already out for the rest of the season and has now been joined by his fellow Player of the Season contender, Scott Dann, with a broken fifth metatarsal (now, he is in good company!). Money has also said that he won’t risk Allan Picken, even though he is now back in full training, as he thinks we threw him in at the deep end too early afeter his knee operation and that is the cause of his troubles since. Geordie Lyall and Craig Pead are the main candidates to come in, but the praise heaped this week on Manny Smith means that he might be in the running for the bench. A move for Michael Dobson to centre back and Mark Bradley, Darren Wrack or Kris Taylor’s inclusion are also possibilities.
Up front and in midfield, it’s difficult to see many changes unless Dobson moves to defence, which will mean a home debut for Trevor Benjamin, who made a decent first start last week at the National Hockey Stadium, having a perfectly good goal chalked off for offside.
As for Stanley, they have suffered a real blow with the suspension of David Brown, scorer last week against Hereford. He was sent off for violent conduct in that game anbd lost his appeal this week. They will also be without former Everton trainee Jay Harris and defender Leam Richardson who have both reached ten yellows for the season
Defender Phil Edwards, however, returns from a two-game ban (that’s another with 10 yellows – do I detect a pattern here?), while midfielder Romuald Boco may well return from injury. They’ll also be hoping for at least some of injury victims Ian Dunbavin (goalkeeper), Leighton McGivern (forward), Andy Tretton (defender) and Danny Ventre (defender) to be ready for some part in the action.
Two Liverpool youngsters, David Martin and Godwin Antwi have recently joined the club on loan to aid their survival bid. Martin is a highly-rated goalkeeper who has represented England at Under-19 and 20 levels, whilst 18 year-old Antwi hails from Ghana and was snapped by by The Reds from Spanish side, Real Zaragoza. Martin is also, of course, the son of former West Ham United and England defender, Alvin Martin.
Their dangerman is Paul Mullin, who has been around the non league scene for a while, with 13 goals this season.
Stanley have just had two back to back wins, their first for months, to help ease their relegation worries, but have lost their last three away games. Their away record this season is:
Won 3, Drawn 5, Lost 11, with 39 goals conceeded at a rate of over two a game.
This game is all about Walsall keeping their nerve. The signs of mental strength shown in coming back from a goal down at the Franchise last week seems to suggest that we haven’t lost focus and, even with the injuries at the back, I see this as one more win on the road to promotion.