Dean Smith is facing a challenge that not many Walsall managers have ever had to, in that he will have to try and beat the “Manager of the Month” curse against Notts County. Despite Yeovil just topping us on the form charts, the fact that we gained more points over the course of the month, not to mention the quality of some of the sides we put away, seems to have swung the verdict in his favour. Deservedly, to my mind.
The fact that this is such a young and relatively inexperienced team was shown by the fact that we could go on a massive run without a win in the same season as Smith got the award, having won 8 out of 10, but that’s the kind of inconsistency you might expect from a team in this position. Even if we don’t make the play offs this season, it should, given the intention to sign so many of players on longer term contracts, bode well for the next campaign.
That leaves us, of course, with a game to win tomorrow, against a team whose inability to get into the top spots or the play off positions cost another third tier manager his job in the last week, in the shape of Keith Curle.
Smith will have, it seems, just two injury worries, with Purkiss struggling with a hamstring strain he picked up in the win at Doncaster. @Taundz is also likely to be still out injured, so, presumably, James Chambers is likely to deputise if the former Hereford man fails his fitness test.
His other selection dilemma will be who gets the free role, Baxendale or Westcarr, after his impressive contribution from the bench last week and, of course, against his old club.
Ian Mcloughlin will be playing his last game in goal, unless his loan is extended. Smith has said that he already approached MK Dongles to do just that.
Caretaker County Manager Chris Kiwomya will have captain Neal Bishop back in contention. Bishop has completed his three-match suspension for the red card he received during the 2-0 win at Portsmouth on January 29 and Kiwomya must decide whether the skipper goes straight back into his starting line-up.
Another selection issue facing Kiwomya comes between the posts. First-choice goalkeeper Bartosz Bialkowski has resumed training, three weeks after suffering a head injury during the 2-1 defeat at Leyton Orient. Teenager Fabian Spiess has, however, impressed in the Pole’s absence, leaving Kiwomya and goalkeeping coach Kevin Pilkington with a dilemma.
Leicester striker Jacob Blyth could be added to the squad after joining the Magpies on a month-long loan deal this week.
Home win and beat the curse!