It’s a chance for many fans to cross another ground off the list of away venues tomorrow, with the Saddler’s first ever visit to the St Mary’s. The question has to be, however, which Walsall team will turn up?
It didn’t take long for the euphoria surrounding the Leeds win to evaporate. There was, first of all, the welcome three points, but poor show, at home to Brentford, immediately followed by the terrible performance against Yeovil and yet another home defeat. The nature of the football has been poor and the crowds disappearing fast. It does have to be said, however, that we are doing better away from the Banks’s, where Hutchings’ seeming inability to play anything other than two strict banks of four and the general lack of creativity doesn’t matter so much, as we are not having to try and break teams down. Against that, the away trip is to the home of the best footballing side I have seen this season so far, one which gave us a proper lesson at home. I don’t think we can afford to give possession away as often and as cheaply as we did in either the Yeovil or Brentford games.
On top of all that, Hutchings will have some choices to make. Ince’s booboo on Tuesday hasn’t been the first recently and Gilmartin will be eager to get a chance. Of the injuries, Weston and Westlake have returned to training and Vincent should be over his ankle knock from Tuesday. That means that, for the first time for a while, Hutchings will have all of his first choice defenders and their standins available. It’s going to be a difficult balancing act deciding what action to take, if any.
In the middle of the park, Mattis and Till are still missing and we will be hoping for a return for Jones, although there was no sign of him on Tuesday. Nicholls will, in the absence of Till and Jones, continue on the wing, unless Hutchings decides to go for a wingless approach (or unless Jones returns), in order to use his pace up front, but I think that’s unlikely. He will also be pondering whether to recall Bradley after O’Keefe’s ineffective outing against Yeovil.
Up front, Parkin is still out, so there’s likely to be no change, unless Nicholls moves up there.
As for Southampton, they will welcome back impressive French midfielder Morgan Schneiderlin from a knee injury. Defender Dan Seaborne (knee) is also back in contention, but Lloyd James and David Connolly (both ankle) are still a fortnight away from a return, so we will only be facing one of their potent usual strikeforce, in the not inconsiderable shape of Lambert.
Southampton go into this game five points behind us, but with two games in hand. Manager Alan Pardew is refusing to write off their play off chances, despite starting the season with that points deduction. Their home record is won 7, drawn 4 and lost 2, scoring 25 and conceding 13 in the process. A daunting prospect, then, despite our more than reasonable away record. I think I’ll have to go for a home win.