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Tuesday, 24 December 2013

The Inside Line: Walsall (Boxing Day, 2013)

Merry Christmas Everyone!

Boxing Day sees an all-too-rare hosting of a football match at Ashton Gate. Yes, really!  It's an occurrence some fans have probably never seen, in fact, bearing in mind last year’s breaking of a run of away fixtures coincided with flash flooding and the postponement whilst many of us were in our seats waiting for kick-off.

As is usually the way with these games, it’s a nearish-but-not-quite-local derby as Walsall make the relatively short trip down the M5 in reasonable form and with Sean O’Drisoll’s former number two Richard O’Kelly helping Dean Smith to keep Walsall in the running for promotion, probably against the odds.

Lewis Hancock caught up with ‘Bescot Banter’ whose website features all the latest news and views on goings on in the Black Country http://www.bescotbanter.net/, to find out how they believe the Saddlers’ season has transpired thus far:

We’re almost half way through the League One campaign, how have Walsall fared so far?
A season of highs and lows so far, victories over Wolverhampton Wanderers and Shrewsbury Town interspersed with defeats to Port Vale, Coventry City and Crewe Alexandra have places us in an upper mid-table position, a severe lack of goals is costing us dear, forward Craig Westcarr has notched ten in all competitions but there is simply no-one else wading in. Can hardly complain, four points off the play-offs but can't shake the feeling it could be even better.

Walsall are currently just outside the play-offs, but have been up and down in form over the last 10 games or so. Is a top six push likely or are the side too inconsistent?
It will depend on what action, if any, the club takes during the January Transfer Window. If a proven goal-scorer is recruited then a play-off push is within our grasp, however if the club sticks with the status quo the we may end up much further down the table come the end of the season.

When Will Grigg moved to Brentford in the summer, it was said Walsall would struggle to score goals. Has anyone stepped up to the mark and into his boots?
Craig Westcarr has notched ten goals in-all-competitions, but is the only player to have really registered on the scoring charts, the club have yet to replace Grigg's goals, or the threat of Jamie Paterson and Febian Brandy who also departed at the end of last season.

Manager Dean Smith and first-team coach Richard O’Kelly (briefly Bristol City’s assistant to Sean O’Driscoll) have recently signed new deals at the club. How pleasing is it to fans to have some stability at the Bescot?
The new-found stability is fantastic, it has been many years since the club seemingly had a real, defined direction, under Smith and O'Kelly the club's board have finally nailed their colours to the mast of the pair who have brought almost immediate success, at least in terms of stability.

How does Smith set up his side to play?
Dean Smith and Richard O'Kelly have installed a patient, passing tactic, which sees the side frustrate their opponents through fluid so called 'sexy football', which, in-turn creates many goal scoring opportunities.

Dean doesn't tend to rotate his squad so expect the team to line up almost identically to Saturday's victory over Shrewsbury Town.

Who should City fans look out for on Boxing Day?
Milan Lalkovic is seen as the star player at the moment, the Chelsea loanee offers pace and flair on the wings and on his day can be a real threat to the opposition.

Finally, can I have a prediction for the match?
This will be the clubs first meeting in around seven years, the Saddlers have suffered defeat in the last two outings versus the Robins and are going through something of a dry spell in-front of goal.  However, with City's poor campaign so far, I'd expect Walsall to be victorious.

Prediction: 2-0 Saddlers

The Exiled Robin

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