Date: 3rd August 2006 at 5:32pm
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First game of the new season always sends a nervous tingling sensation over my body. All other clubs will share our level of expectation, can we challenge to get out of the division, can we start well, when will we win at home again, what if it all goes Pete tonge !!!
Well at 4-50pm we might just start to get some answers, however in truth tomorrow will answer nothing, last season we got off to a flyer and topped the league but ended up bottom, Reading for example lost at home and then went unbeaten for god knows how long. The old saying it is a marathon not a sprit is actually true.
It will be interesting to see how many saddlers actually turn up at Rochdale, expectations are high (bit like last season) there is hope from the new signings, just as the run in to the season before last gave us hope. Last year 1100 Saddlers witnessed our last minute victory at Rotherham, will there be that many, I doubt it.

Vital Quotes:

Rochdale manager Steve Parkin has been quoted saying that this campaign will be the biggest of his managerial career, and the team will be sure to be fired up for the game on saturday. Steve Parkin who came under fire from some sections of the Spotland faithful is under pressure to perform despite a reduced budget.
From Bescot everything is positive, the public face of the saddlers from chairman to manager to players is promotion, promotion, promotion. Howver nobody is under any illusion that it will be easy and we could just find out how hard this division will be on saturday.

Rochdale Team News:

Rochdale, like Walsall are still trying to brin players in. They have had injury concerns pre season. Goalkeeper Matthew Gilks had a dead leg and Nathan Stanton and Gary Brown both missed training on Monday but have recovered enough to feature on saturday.However Gary Jones seems to have suffered from knee ligament problems and will most likely miss the match.
Rochdale have been playing a 4-4-2 but the signing of Lee Crooks (if fit) would also give them the opportunity to play 3-5-2.
They might just line up as
Ramsden Stanton Jackson Goodall
Brown Doolan Cooksey Rundle
Lambert Christie
but a lot will depend on Lee Crooks fitness levels

Player to watch: Rickie Lambert

One of the most sort after strikers in the lower leagues, and with our suspension hit defence could give us a lot of problems.
Having played for Stockport, Blackpool and Macclesfield the 6ft 2′ striker made his name at Rochdale and his partnership with Gary Holt was the most feared in league two. He now is partnered by a slimmed down Iyseden Christie (remember last years pre season game v Kiddy!!)
Stockport paid Blackpool 300k for his services later releasing him for free, how they must wish they had kept him.

Walsall Team News:

Perhaps it is a good time to play us, Ian Roper and Chris Westwood are both suspended following sending offs last season. This leaves a rather inexperienced centre half pairing Of new boy Alan Picken and Anthony Gerrard, they only met this week!! Full backs which is a concern anyway will be right back Craig Pead and either Kris Taylor or Daniel Fox at left back the other most likely to left midfield unless Dickie springs a surprise with the Demon. Mark Wright will be given yet another chance on the right with Tony Bedeau out with an ankle injury. Centre midfield will be out of Dean Keates, Mark Kinsella and Michael Dobson if a light weight cast to protect his injured had arrives in time.
Upfront Hector Sam and Martin Butler will get another chance to develope there new partnership.
However unless things change Friday we lack a creative midfield player.

Player to watch: Clayton Ince

The Trinadad and Tobago international spent the summer in Germany,and Richard Money brought him in to solve our goalkeeping crisis. We have never really replaced James Walker and last seasons custodian looked like a scarred rabbit when the pressure was on. He has departed to Swansea and new boy Clayton hasn’t settled the nerves round bescot let. He is talk talkative and commands his box something we have missed, however there is a but the defence just are not use to him coming for everything, pre season this has caused mix ups which have cost goals. We hope these are out of our system, but some saddlers fans only remember poor performances from Clayton whilst he was at Crewe.

Match Facts & Stats

A mixed bag really, our recent record is poor thanks to Paul Merson although opening day victories in the last three seasons have brought poor seasons.So perhaps a draw or lose wouldn’t be a bad thing.
Rochdale have been slow starters but have a strange fact of losing at home to teams which end up in the play offs so heres hoping.

Ref Watch:

Not a lot to say really, todays man in the middle has spent most of the time in the Conference. I hope I am wrong but I think the standard of refs is going to be worse than last season.

Match Prediction:

The main point is have we lost that losing habbit, if we go one up we will have a nervous end to the game, if we go one down will we fold.
I don’t know heart says win head would settle for a draw.

Next Fixtures:

Tuesday night football at the Bescot
Stockport County 8/8/06 7:45 Ko


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