Tonight, the Saddlers prepare for life after Darrell Clarke, with a visit from high flying Cheltenham Town. To get the inside track on the Robins, friend of Vital, Owen, has given us some insight on their success this season.
Cheltenham seem to be flying once again this season. How do you rate things so far?
It’s great to see us bouncing back from the play off semi final loss and continuing the good work from last year. The league is incredibly inconsistent and we can be included in that. It doesn’t feel like one club is ready to run away with it yet. We’ve been good value but have dropped some silly points along the way. We’ve missed the quality of those who moved on last season and have just got through a spell of missing Hussey and Sercombe.
Can you see the side gaining promotion at the second time of asking?
There’s some quiet optimism and there’s no reason why we couldn’t. Hit the form in the right places and automatics isn’t an unrealistic ask. However the way the league has been going this season and the inconsistencies up top I feel that it may be another dreaded play off campaign that looms. Add the normal twists and turns in and the countless games in hand to come along due to the pandemic and weather it could be a long while yet before we see the shocks which see a team or two sneak into the play off places late on.
What are you biggest strengths?
It’s got to be our set pieces. It’s been widely commented on about the long throws of Tozer, with the tall players we have we always seem likely to fashion a goal scoring opportunity from corners, free-kicks and throw ins. It’s been that way for the last few seasons and it’s definitely a string to our bow. Will Boyle could pass as a striker this season. He’s filled the Jacob Greaves hole left very well after a shaky start and is a component of a solid set up.
What are your biggest weaknesses?
It’s hard to pinpoint one big one as what we do play is good football that is nice to watch. Like every team in this league we aren’t fantastic and if we have to turn to hoof-ball we will. Our strikers haven’t been as prolific as perhaps they should be this season hence emphasis on goals from set pieces and everyone having to do their bit in the goal scoring department. We’ve also dropped some silly points this season, either turning wins into draws, or draws to losses and this can come late on. We do have that potential lapse in concentration, or late mistake which I think comes with the league. People will look at our clean sheets and goals conceded column and think what a solid outfit we are, however compared to last season it’s not been as good as we’ve seen it. Josh Griffiths for the most part has been a good loan signing between the sticks, but his inexperience does show at times and he’s not been short of the odd howler this season.
The side seem to be tight at the back, what system do you play to keep things so solid?
We have stuck with 3-5-2. The addition of Matty Blair at RWB has been one of the best signings this season. He’s an absolute workhorse and can be a real threat. A player that’s been there and done it, making us a threat on both wings. We have sometimes tried to shake it up to a 4-3-3 which is a good option to move to. Sometimes we are lacking that creator we had in Ryan Broom last season in CAM. Fin Azaz is a good player but at times lacks that bit of quality to make that killer move to create a goal. Hopefully the loan signing of Leicester U-23 captain Callum Wright will offer healthy competition in that role!
Who is your key man?
I think I said the same last season that it’s a team where you could pick many key players that make this team tick. Sercombe has been a brilliant addition and he’s faultless most of the time. But Chris Hussey is easily the best LB in this league and has shown it for many seasons now. The creativity he offers consistently in this team makes him such a key player. You’re guaranteed a 7/8 out of 10 every week from him and not many teams come up against us know how to handle the danger he holds.
What do you know about the Saddlers? Were you as surprised about Darrell Clarke leaving as we were?
Walsall was easily one of my favourite away days I’ve been on since supporting Cheltenham. It seems like they have been happy to be quietly going about their business this season and gradually moving into the direction we’ve seen of Darrell Clarke’s teams before. I was also aware of the deadline day madness of losing Adebayo, who we had on loan a few seasons back and Jules. I remember Gordon and McDonald being a threat last season so I’m hoping for an exciting game. It’s in our nature this season to steal those one goal victories and just edge our opponents. However seeing how much you love a draw I’m going to go with 1-1. Let’s hope it’s a good one, good luck for the rest of the season after this game.
I think Clarke leaving will be a surprise to the whole of the league. Misty because it appears a sidewards step at current play. I think this one could be weirder than Coughlan leaving for Bristol Rovers for Mansfield as there location issues for him. All that can be suggested is he’s gone for the project and recent new ownership over what he’s currently doing. I do find it strange however, coasting along nicely at Walsall, hopefully this surprise move benefits Cheltenham on the pitch tonight!
However seeing how much you love a draw I’m going to go with 1-1. Let’s hope it’s a good one, good luck for the rest of the season after this game.