"Caesar ad sum iam forte,
Granted it’s still at the whispering stage but this season is beginning to evolve into one of the Saddlers’ great escapes, and it could even be achieved without having to rely on substantial points deductions imposed on other clubs. Such is the tight grouping of teams in the lower reaches of League One that not only did 3 points last weekend propel us up to 16th place, but another 3 points against Portsmouth could see us in the top half of the table!!
When we played at Fratton Park in November Portsmouth were riding high at the top of the League One table, but a dip in form coupled with success from the likes of Luton Town now sees Pompey holding what looks like a safe play-off place. They also have another item on their plate in the shape of the EFL Trophy final at the end of this month, against Sunderland. We will naturally welcome ex-Saddler Craig MacGillivray in the hope that he and his colleagues will head South empty-handed after the game. Two other connections between the clubs concern Portsmouth’s “Hall of Fame”, which includes Steve Claridge and Paul Merson among its nominated members. Current League One form for Portsmouth:-
9 Feb Plymouth Argyle (A) Drew 1-1
16 Feb Southend United (A) Drew 3-3
19 Feb Bristol Rovers (H) Drew 1-1
23 Feb Barnsley (H) Drew 0-0
2 Mar Bradford City (H) Won 5-1
9 Mar Charlton Athletic (A) Lost 2-1
Andy Cook will be an interested spectator as he psyches himself up for possible selection for the Sunderland trip on Saturday (and you can bet he will be up for that!). Having said that, the performances we’ve seen from Walsall since his early bath at home to Bradford City don’t necessarily guarantee him a starting place, top scorer or not. Much of the credit for the turnaround in Saddlers’ form should surely be attributed to the arrival of Martin O’Connor, with special mention of the briefings behind closed doors at half-time!!
With back-to-back clean sheets and on an unbeaten run of 3 League One games, it’s tempting to forecast “more of the same”, but Portsmouth do represent a serious challenge and manager Kenny Jackett is under no illusions as to what’s expected of him by the club’s American owners. There is also the traditional Walsall mindset that just waits for the current bubble to burst…after all, we’ve been here before, haven’t we?
Prediction? More than happy with a 1-1 draw, thank you very much. Joe Edwards with the kind of screamer that would have probably snapped the crossbar had it been a couple of inches lower.