The Saddlers have an immediate chance to put right Tuesday night’s result, with a home game against Carlisle United. We might well expect set backs with a young team trying to play the style of football we are attempting, but the measure of a team is always how you bounce back.
The Orient game was a disappointment in the firat half, as we struggled to come to terms with Orient’s defence in depth tactics. The second half performance, as Slade’s men tired, became a very different affair, with the Walsall desperately unlucky not to get at least a point, as Grigg was clearly bought down in the area late on and no one, least of all the players, can probably understand how the ball didn’t go into the net in the “great goalmouth scramble”.
Any way, on to the visitors from the wild northlands.
Carlisle is a strange place, in may ways, being so isolated from the rest of the country, at least before the coming of the M6, with easier connections to Newcastle than the Lancastrian industrial towns, in those days. The football team did, however, despite a relatively late introduction to the professional game in 1928, have one golden period, finally spending just one season in the top flight in 1974/75, leading to the usual condescending comments by TV commentators about being able to watch the sheep in the distance from the commentary position. Their most glorious moment, according to the TV again, will be goalkeeper Jimmy Glass’s equaliser in injury time to keep them in the League in 1998/99 season. What “they” never say, of course, is that the incident just put off the inevitable and they went down to the Conference in 2004, before former Saddler Paul Simpson got them back up at the first time of asking.
As for famous sons and daughters, there are very few, with Helen Skelton of Blue Peter being one and one of my all time favourite authors, George MacDonald Fraser, of the “Flashman” series, another.
Dean Smith has no fresh injury worries, although his team selection quandries may increase, with Walker, Adam Chambers and James Chambers all nearing fitness and possibly available for the game. Even if they are, its difficult to see the starting eleven changing, however, so they may have to make do with a place on the bench. (If it all stays that way, by the way, when did we last have a bench strong enough that it could contain the likes of Brandy, Hemmings, James and Adam Chambers?).
Carlisle, however, could make some changes. Striker Kallum Higginbotham, on loan from Huddersfield, could make his first league start for them, after their scheduled game at Bury on Tuesday night was postponed due to a waterlogged pitch.
Manager Abbott, who wants a positive response following last week’s home defeat to Crawley, has no new injury or suspension problems, but could also recall summer signing Mike Edwards to the heart of his defence. Midfielder Liam Noble is pushing for a return to the starting line-up, while he is likely to name teenagers Mark Beck and David Symington on the bench.
Goalkeeper Mark Gillespie is expected to keep Adam Collin among the substitutes following his fine form in recent weeks.
Carlisle arrive bang in the middle of the table, with 12 points from 9 games. Their away record, with them having won two and drawn one, is actually better than their home record, where they have won one and drawn two. I’d still take us to put Tuesday behind us with a win, however.