It’s one of the strange things about the team at the moment, that we seem to keep our best performances for the away days, when some good home games might do something to attract some of the missing crowds back. (We know that only the departure of you-know-who will bring a large contingent back). A trip down the motorway to visit the Franchise normally means a difficult time (although we have had some very good results there in recent years), but a point or three would be very welcome to show that there is some sign of the improvement we’d all like to see. What worries me is all of the statements from the club this week about being “in a false position”. We aren’t, unless you think that the indicator of the way we have been performing means there is an argument to say we are too high!
The Saddlers have been boosted by the return to full fitness of Manny Smith and Peter Till.
Manny, one of the biggest successes this season so far, was an unused substitute against Carlisle last weekend having missed three matches with a knee injury, and he is now ready to return to action, giving Hutchings his biggest selection headache, which two of three very good centre backs will play. He has today extended Clayton McDonald’s loan from Manchester City by another month, so he will, more than likely start, as his parent club won’t be happy if he doesn’t.
Till has recovered from a hamstring injury and is set to return to the squad, giving the manager the next headache. Till or Nicholls or Jones? Richards or Jones?
Taundry is still a week away from full fitness following his hamstring injury despite returning to training, so the centre of the midfield will be likely to stay the same, unless he moves Richards there to accommodate Jones.
Meanwhile Richard Davies has been hit with a hamstring injury and is out of the game while Will Grigg is away with Northern Ireland under-19s.
Dongles manager Paul Ince will welcome back winger Jason Puncheon for the game.
Puncheon has missed three games through suspension after his sending-off against Leeds but will come straight back into the side.
Luke Chadwick remains sidelined with a thigh injury, while Stephen Gleeson is away on international duty with the Republic of Ireland Under-21 side.
Mark Carrington – who scored against Southend in the midweek Johnstone’s Paint Trophy win – or Luke Howell are likely to deputise for Gleeson alongside Peter Leven in midfield, while forward Sam Baldock is back in the squad after his foray abroad with the England Under-20 World Cup squad.
Defenders Danny Woodards (ankle), Jude Stirling (groin) and Sean O’Hanlon (knee) remain sidelined.
Most Walsall fans will be interested to see if Jabo Ibehre gets a start against us. Bought in by the previous Manager, he’s only started three times in the League since moving.
Jermaine Easter. 5 in 7 League games so far this season. Say no more.
One thing that gives me some hope is that I still haven’t seen much evidence of Paul Ince making a great manager yet and their home record this season is Played 5, won 2, drawn 1, lost 2, scored 6, conceded 6, which isn’t the greatest. (Their position in the Division is down to an excellent away record). That might be because they have difficulty breaking down defences when teams go there to shut up shop, of course, but I can’t see us doing that with our midfield. Defeat for me in this one.