Date: 4th August 2011 at 10:17pm
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This weekend, we humble Saddlers welcome Leyton Orient to the Banks`s Stadium for what is, possibly, the most anticipated opening day in our recent history. Dean Smith has got us all drooling at the mouth with his grounded, yet ambitious, approach to the new season and there is a sense of hope and belief that has been lacking in Walsall these last few years.

Although Orient may not be the crowd-pulling, marquee first game that the club`s treasurer may have hoped for, it may be the perfect one. Who better to help us kick off our “play-off campaign” than a team that Deano knows like the back of his hand? Add to that the fact we managed to procure Adam Chambers from the heart of their midfield this summer and I think you`re looking at a game which is very slightly stacked in Walsall`s favour.

All that being said, we do have to show Orient the respect they deserve. With Russell Slade at the helm they are incredibly well drilled and equally well organised. They have a game plan built out of 17 years of football league managerial experience and they are not to be under-estimated. Their only defeat in pre-season came to a Tottenham team consisting of Peter Crouch, Robbie Keane and Niko Krancjar, to name but a few, and they have always been prepared to do what needs to be done to maintain their league one status. This year they will be taking a very realistic look at the play-offs and their impressive strength in depth makes me think they have a very good chance of making the top 6. Under just 2 years of Slade`s leadership, they have gone on the longest unbeaten run in the club`s history, made the 5th round of the FA cup; gaining a highly respectable 1-1 draw at Arsenal before losing the replay, and they finished last season just 1 point outside the play-off places: not to be under-estimated at all.

For all Orient`s strong points, I just can`t shake the feeling we might nick this one. Although, the O`s have made signings to accommodate the loss of Chambers, he was the dynamic, all-action engine room of their team and I can see them struggling to contain him and Taundry with, club captain, Stephen Dawson out injured. For that reason, I think we`ll dominate the midfield and take the 3 points with a 2-1 win. I`ll even stick my neck out and back Gnakpa and Macken to get our goals. Whatever happens this Saturday at least we can all be thankful that our patience has been rewarded and that football, ladies and gentlemen, is finally back.

Likely line-ups:
Walsall: Walker, Beevers, Butler, Lancashire, Sadler, Gnakpa, Taundry, Chambers, Hurst, Grigg, Macken

Orient: Butcher, Omozusi, Cuthbert, Chorley, Daniels, Smith, Laird, McSweeney, Cox, Revell, Cureton

Up The Saddlers!

 

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