What a depressing week and a half that was to be a Saddler. The two unexpected League defeats after what has been a promising start to the season, were followed up by a home defeat in the Paint Pot Trophy to the old enemy of Port Fail, in one of the worst penalty shootouts in history, judging by the number missed. Still, all that, of course, can be more than put right in front of the Sky cameras on Sunday against the traditional enemy, Shrewsbury Town.
Funny place, Shrewsbury. It was, of course, the birthplace of Charles Darwin, who first published his work on evolution in the nineteenth century, totally ignoring the wealth of evidence to counteract his theory in the shape of the inhabitants of nearby Wolverhampton. However, I have always been willing to forgive most of its strangeness, thanks to its wonderful educational establishments. Britain’s greatest war poet, Wilfred Owen, went to the nearby Wakeman School and Shrewsbury Public School was responsible for the education of Willy Rushton, Python Michael Palin and “Uncle” John (Peel). That just about makes up for well know professional Potter Nick Hancock, another ex Shrewsbury Public School pupil, despite his apparent working class demeanour!
Walsall’s main problem at the moment does seem to be that the tactics have been sussed. In the two recent League games, certainly, the midfield was given no space at all and our main asset, Florent Cuvelier, became more of a liability, as he was “sat on”, stopping him from fulfilling his normal role of the creative outlet. There may well have to be a change of tactics, however, this week, with a return to 4 2 3 1 being likely, in the absence, on International duty, of Will Grigg and that should give the creative midfielders more possession where it hurts the opposition.
The Saddlers will also welcome back Dean Holden, rested for the Fail game and may also have Adam Chambers back, something which would make a 4 2 3 1 even more likely.
As for the Sloppies, Goalkeeper Chris Weale will return, while Asa Hall is also pushing for a starting berth.
Weale made way for Joe Anyon to make his Town debut in Tuesday’s Johnstone’s Paint Trophy clash against Crewe, but the summer signing was forced off after just 20 minutes nursing a slight hamstring strain and will be assessed ahead of the weekend Weale duly took over but was unable to prevent a 2-1 defeat, which leaves Shrews winless in five games.
Midfielder Hall came off the bench in that game and needed just three minutes to net Town’s consolation, before again finding the net for the club’s reserves less than 24 hours later, pressing his claims for a starting berth against the Saddlers.
Tom Bradshaw also scored for the second string and will compete with Ryan Doble for a place alongside Marvin Morgan in attack, with strikers Terry Gornell (knee) and Sam Winnall (hamstring) continuing to miss out along with left-back Joe Jacobson (ankle).
Depends on their tactics and which Walsall turns up. At our best, we have proven already this season we are well capable of winning just about anywhere. I’d expect a point at least and a boost to the squad’s confidence.