Well, the undefeated December would look a lot better if it had been over more than one game! The truth of the matter is, of course, that we go into the first game of 2011 in nineteenth place, with fewer points than games played, 6 points shy of safety (thanks to our appalling goal difference). We are playing a team on that (currently) magic figure of 23 points, who must be considered to be relegation rivals. If ever there was a must win game, then this is it.
The Saddlers should be boosted by the return to fitness of two of their most potent strikers, Jon Macken and Reuben Reid, ahead of facing Notts County.
Both could start the game, but Hutchings could equally keep faith in Alex Nicholls and Will Grigg who did a decent job together when we beat Charlton Athletic at The Valley in the last game on December 12.
Slipper Darren Byfield is ruled out, however, with a knee injury, and Jimmy Walker is sidelined with a hamstring problem.
The squad he will have to choose from is, therefore: Brain, Westlake, Butler, Lancashire, Lescott, Jones, Richards, Taundry, Gray, Nicholls, Grigg, Paterson, Macken, Reid, Smith, Bevan, McDonald, McGivern, Marshall, Geddes.
My feeling is that we’ll see the same line up as at Charlton, but with Macken in place of Grigg and Reid in reserve.
Notts have only one player ruled out of the trip. Defender Liam Chilvers is sidelined with a medial knee ligament injury, but could soon return to training.
Well, they have parted company with one of their jailbirds, as well known bad boy Luke Rogers has just left them, but the other, Lee Hughes, is their top scorer this season. Former Saddler Karl Hawley will probably be on the bench, so let’s hope he doesn’t get on, as we all know what happens when strikers play against their former clubs.
Two teams with an undefeated December here. Trouble is, while ours was one game, theirs was three, with a home league win against the Franchise, an FA Cup home win against high flyers Bournemouth and an away draw at Plymouth (Lee Hughes scoring in all three games).
Mind you, in some ways it doesn’t matter what the form table says, this is a must win game and anything other than three points will be unacceptable.