For much of the last month, fans were thinking that the season eas going down to the wire and tomorrow’s visit to the plastic football team at the Franchise was going to be crucial. Instead, last Saturday’s results have left this game as a meaningless fixture for the Saddlers, in terms of League position, anyway. It isn’t for our opponents, of course, as they go into this fixture just two points ahead of Huddersfield, also at home tomorrow, against Yeovil. The results of these two games will decide which of the two will have home advantage in the second leg of the play off semi finals. That was the reason for Huddersfield resting three or four playes against us last week (including scoring sensation Jordan Rhodes) and it will be interesting to see whether Karl Robinson takes a similar view of the fixture against us.
Dean Smith has lost the services of probably his most influential player, since his arrival on loan, and the scorer of the goal last week, Florent Cuvelier, whose loan period has finished. Returning to the sqad will be Manny Smith, whose suspension is over, a fit again Adam Chambers and George Bowerman, also recovering from injury. That means a fully fit squad.
As for the Franchise, leading goalscorer Dean Bowditch, fellow striker Charlie MacDonald and midfielder Alan Smith are expected to return. They all started on the substitutes’ bench in last week’s win at Rochdale as Karl Robinson made wholesale changes.
Robinson, however, will be tempted to field his full-strength starting XI in a bid to secure the win that would guarantee a fourth-place finish and home advantage in the return leg of that play-off semi-final with Huddersfield.
Stephen Gleeson is expected to revert back to his more accustomed role alongside Darren Potter in midfield, with 16-year-old Brendan Galloway, handed his first start at Rochdale, making way. Midfielder Daniel Powell is hoping to return to the side following his one-game ban.
Despite some people playing for new contracts for the Saddlers, I think the opposition will want this more than we do, as they look forward to the play offs. Granted, we might well play better with the pressure off, but I really cant see us getting anything from this one.