"Clean from her forehead all that wealth of hair
Which made a silken mat-work for her feet"
(Alfred Lord Tennyson - “The Holy Grail”)
Uncharted territory (well, rarely charted) for some - the 2nd round of a Cup competition. The EFL Cup, currently known as the Carabao Cup, may seem to be the poor relation of the F.A. Cup, but it still holds out the temptation of a place in the UEFA Europa League to the competition’s winners.
So we welcome the Silkmen of Macclesfield Town who find themselves back in the Football League after a six years’ absence in the National League. It’s a bit galling to refer to the BBC website page on the Silkmen to find various highlight match extracts including their win 0-1 two years ago at Fortress Bescot. Their manager at that time was John Askey, a man with a Walsall connection in that his father Colin was a regular member of Bill Moore’s double promotion winning Walsall side of 1958/61. John has now moved on to higher things (well, Shrewsbury Town), and Macclesfield Town are not enjoying the best start to their season as they are currently bottom but one in League 2. Their results so far:-
Aug 4th Swindon Town (A) Lost 3-2
Aug 11th Grimsby Town (H) Lost 0-2
Aug 14th Bradford City (H - EFL Cup) Drew 1-1, and won 4-2 on penalties
Aug 18th Oldham Athletic (A) Lost 3-1
Aug 21st Cheltenham Town (H) Drew 1-1
Aug 25th Mansfield Town (H) Drew 1-1 (Mansfield’s goal scored by Mal Benning)
Our start to the season has surely been better than even our most optimistic supporters could have predicted (or hoped). Six competitive games played, undefeated, joint 2nd in the League One table and 10 points clear of the relegation zone we were confidently forecast to occupy, even at this early stage. And yet … and yet … this is Walsall we are talking about, and this outrageous bubble has to burst soon,… hasn’t it? (The voice of a supporter with over 60 years’ experience talking!!)
Dean Keates may be forced into making some changes to his starting line-up for this one - Morgan Ferrier didn’t last 90 minutes at Rochdale, although his withdrawal may have been precautionary rather than a bad knock. Isaiah Osbourne finished the game but needed the “magic sponge”, as did Nicky Devlin, and also Luke Leahy (after only a minute!).
Unlike another competition where squad rotation is almost compulsory (no names, no pack-drill), this tournament should be taken seriously with the prospect of the “biggest clubs” making their appearance in the draw for the 3rd round. Added to which, we do have something of a score to settle with the Silkmen - just go to the BBC website to see Neil Etheridge conceding against a non-league side (shudder).
Prediction time, and I have to go for a home win even if Dean Keates does have to draw on a coupe of fringe players. Let’s say 2-0, with Andy Cook and George Dobson on the scoresheet.