Backs Against The Wal

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PREVIEW – Walsall v Stevenage (23 Nov 2019): Backs Against The Wal

Back on the bottom, out of the cup, injuries galore and now the caretaker gaffer up on an FA fizzer – it’s fair to say we’ve had better weeks. So, can we make it a bit more palatable? Well, starting out on the road to (some form of) redemption in the West Midlands ain’t really what we had in mind. But them the breaks, huh? Our backs are right against the wall this weekend and it looks like we’re seeking salvation in sight of the old M6. Poetic? Or just depressing?

 

Walsall v Stevenage: The Preview…

Walsall – who are they?

Until this season, the Saddlers had been part of the League One furniture for more than 10 years. But, losing their battle for survival in 2018-9, down came the Midlands side with the hope of repeating what happened last time they were relegated. By that, we mean win the title and go straight back up. It doesn’t look like that’s gonna happen this time, however. As things stand, our record is on the level. But we’ve lost our last two at the Bescot, so…

Our Record vs Walsall: P 6 — W 2 — D 2 — L 2 — F 8 — A 7 — Pts 8
Last time out: Stevenage 3-2 Walsall, 26 April 2014

How are Walsall doing so far this season?

“Not great” is the quick answer, but then “better than us” is the next bit. As it is for everyone in this feckin’ league. Our hopes would’ve been much brighter before last week’s charades in League Two. Too. Er. To? In beating those useless saps from Cambridge, the Saddlers halted a run of defeats stretching back five games. And it also lifted them off the bottom of the form table over the last eight too. So, we go into this five points behind them instead of two.

Had it also not been for that 2-1 win over Cambridge, we’d go into this fixture as piss-poor attacking equals. We’ve scored 12 this season and they’ve (now) scored 14. That said, they do have a worse defensive record than us. The Saddlers haven’t kept a clean sheet for some time and don’t find it easy to keep teams at bay indoors either. More than half of the visitors to the Bescot have gone home with all three points so far this season. Will we? Erm, well…

Tell us something we don’t know about Walsall

The Saddlers can claim one of the most famous cupsets in English football history – if not the most. Back in the 1930s, Woolwich Arsenal were very much the side to beat. Their first-ever league title in 1930-1 started it all, though next year saw them finish runners-up to Everton. In 1932-3, the Gooners were on the way to a second league crown and talk of a Double was genuine, with Herbert Chapman’s men expected to push hard for the FA Cup.

But Walsall had other ideas; Alsop and Sheppard scoring the goals to secure a famous Third Round win. Some say it remains the club’s best ever win. You’ll have to ask them that.

Can you dig it?

Only if it’s a hole. Or a trench. Or a ditch. Loads of things, actually. Who knew?

What are the bookies’ odds for this game?

We thought this might be a close one to call – and we were wrong. The bookies feel more comfortable calling this as a home win, with Walsall at 11/10 (Coral). If you think our away hoodoo is gonna come to an end, 16/5 (Bet365) gets you a lovely little earner. If it comes in. And how sure are you of that? Elsewhere, the Both Teams To Score offer is a bit pants for a game involving two goal-shy attacks; 21/20 (RedZone Sports) is the best we’ve seen.

Which Walsall player should we watch out for?

This might sound odd, but our Walsall man to watch is Elijah Adebayo. His loan spell with us at the back end of last season was a total non-event. A waste of time, if you will. If you missed it (and you may have done), he racked up more red cards than starts. Oh, and don’t even ask about his goal tally. Still, new starts and fresh chances. He’s now with the Saddlers after Fulham let him go and he’s already scored twice. That’s not bad in a side struggling for goals.

Who is our ref for this match?

Lee Swabey. The stats here might be a bit borked after Mr Swabey oversaw our heaviest-ever defeat at the hands of Charlton last season. But you can’t hide from the fact that our luck doesn’t tend to be in when he’s on duty. You have to go back to February 2017 for the last time we won on his watch. He has reffed 15 games in total this season – with his card count standing at 42 yellow and three red. And two of them came in the same match

Our Record: P 7 — W 2 — D 1 — L 4 — F 6 — A 19
Last time out: Leyton Orient 0-0 Stevenage, 17 August 2019

And, finally, what do you reckon?

For whatever reason, the goals just ain’t coming for us this season. As soon as Posh got that first goal in midweek, you must’ve got the feeling we weren’t going to turn the game around. It’s hard enough to win when get the first goal – let alone when someone else beats us to it. Yet, we’re in this strange position of believing that League Two’s two worst attacks will both score in this one. We can’t see us winning, however. Not away from home, anyways.

Walsall v Stevenage scorecast: 1-1

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