"Underground, overground, wombling free,
The Wombles of Wimbledon Common are we"…
Mike Batt (popular song from long ago)
The Saddlers’ start to the new season has become “curioser and curioser” (apologies to Lewis Carroll, who gave those words to Alice (Alice in Wonderland) to describe her increasingly bizarre experiences). This Walsall side who were the bookies’ front-runners for relegation with some justification, now find themselves comfortably in the play-off zone of League One after 3 league games and looking at something called a “Cup run”. Four games unbeaten and a goal difference of 8-4. Curious indeed.
So we travel to Kingsmeadow, the home of the “real” Dons until their new stadium is built nearby, and although each successive game may be judged to be more difficult than its predecessor there is some justification for that state of mind for this one. The Wombles sit in 7th place in League One undefeated like ourselves, but more significantly they haven’t conceded a league goal in their 3 games. Mind you, with a goal difference of 1-0 they’re not scoring all that freely either!
There is a Walsall connection in their ranks, of course - defender Rod McDonald is the son of our own striker of the same name (149 games, 40 goals 1990-94), he was on the bench in their most recent game at Barnsley. Wombles’ results so far this season:-
Aug 4th Fleetwood Town (A) Won 0-1
Aug 11th Coventry City (H) Drew 0-0
Aug 14th Portsmouth (A) EFL Cup Won 1-2
Aug 18th Barnsley (A) Drew 0-0
What can we expect from Dean Keates’ squad for this one? I’m sure I’m not alone in having the uncomfortable sensation of waiting for the bubble to burst … that’s what many years of supporting Walsall does, regrettably! However, the team has thus far achieved its results by doing "exactly what it says on the tin", playing the kind of exciting and attacking football that some UTS contributors have compared to the golden days of Ray Graydon’s management, coupled with the wholehearted approach that characterised Keates’ own playing performances back in the day. Ferrier and Cook are developing a partnership that just keeps getting better, and the squad depth is illustrated by the fact that despite Zeli Ismail missing the Gillingham game through injury it made little difference on the field of play.
Bearing in mind the Wombles’ obvious strength in defence I would be happy with a point from this one, and the obvious score to go for would be 0-0. But I’d still like Andy Cook to add to his League One tally, preferably with a winner in the 95th minute …