The Saddlers will be hoping to sign off Novembers league duties with a win against fellow strugglers Stevenage.
Walsall and Stevenage will both be up for a tough, hard fought match when they lock horns later today. Both teams will see it as an opportunity to gain valuable points, something both teams have been struggling for so far this season. A win for the Saddlers could see them pull 8 points clear of Stevenage, who would remain bottom, making things look a lot better. However a loss, could see Walsall fall just two points ahead of Stevenage. Clarke has tried to lower the pressure on his team this week by stating that ‘Everyone is a big game, you can’t big up a game bigger than any other’.
Stevenage, unlike ourselves, have had a very quiet month on the pitch. After their league match against Oldham was postponed due to International call-ups, Stevenage have only played 3 games so far in November, 2 of which have been in the FA Cup, compared to Walsall’s 5 matches.
Off the field, however, it has been far from quiet. This week has seen current caretaker manager, and former England Women’s International manager, Mark Sampson charged by the FA for using racist language. This adds to a string of cases against Sampson that include his sacking from the England job after a case of inappropriate behaviour with a female player in a previous job role he had. Stevenage fans may have been surprised to still have seen Sampson, who has been in charge ever since Dino Maamria was sacked on 9th September, take charge for today’s game. Without a doubt Sampson will be looking for a win to end what has been a tough week.
Stevenage also come into the game after playing a match midweek. They played in their FA Cup 1st Round Replay against Peterborough. The game ended in a 2-0 win to Peterborough, thus sending Stevenage crashing out at the cup at the 1st hurdle.
Despite missing out on the 2nd round of the FA Cup, Stevenage will be joining Walsall in the next round of the Leasing.com trophy after finishing 2nd in their group.
For Walsall, Clarke has only Cameron Pring and Stuart Sinclair unavailable as both continue to be side-lined by injury. I would expect a similar line-up to that of the last couple of matches, with the likes of Cockerill-Mollett, Lavery and Gordon all having good games midweek, and Sadler and Clarke, who seem to be forming a solid partnership, continuing to start in defence. For me, the only changes I would expect are to bring Shay Facey and Alfie Bates back into the team, in place of Norman and Gary Liddle.