Walsall (A) Match Preview

The phrase “we’ll take a point” was probably never uttered quite so much amongst United fans as it was on Saturday afternoon. After that 1-1 draw against Bolton, the U’s on the whole were probably delighted to come away with a share of the spoils after a tough afternoon where one of the pre-season promotion favourites put on the sort of performance that justified that billing.

It wasn’t so much that United played badly, it was more that we didn’t quite create enough clear-cut chances to have a real hope of winning the game. Mullin was isolated for the first sixty minutes until a smart change from Bonner brought Ironside on for Idris El Mizouni, leading to our most dominant spell in the game and our goal. Conditions were extremely tough and it wasn’t the prettiest game ever, but even despite conceding so late, it was definitely a case of a point gained rather than a point dropped.

But in this chaotic fixture schedule, it doesn’t stop there. It’s put behind us and in a matter of days we’re already looking forward to our next fixture – another really tough one away to Walsall. A few of the UTAS regulars picked Walsall as outside shouts for contenders this season. Despite lying 12th in the league, they are the only remaining unbeaten team in League 2 – amazingly, out of 8 fixtures currently played, they have drawn 6. I know where my money’s going…

Expected U’s line-up: Mitov; Knoyle, Taylor, Darling, Iredale; Hannant, Digby, Boateng, Dunk; Ironside, Mullin

On the assumption that Wes won’t be fit to start, for UTAS it makes a bit more sense to go with the two up top that led to our strongest spell against Bolton. It’s not that Idris is a bad player at all – in fact, I’m sure he will grow into that creative role behind Mullin as he gets more minutes under his belt – but the physicality and presence of Ironside and Mullin allows us to play a different style, one that can be incredibly dangerous. The ball just sticks, and it feels like that’s going to play a big part on Tuesday night.

Who’s their player to watch? Elijah Adebayo

Both of Walsall’s forwards can prove a real threat, with ex-Sheffield United man Caolan Lavery starting alongside the UTAS player to watch, Elijah Adebayo. The 6-foot-4 centre forward has scored 3 so far this season, after signing permanently from Fulham following his previous loan spell at the Saddlers, where he scored around 1 in 3. The 22 year old looks very dangerous.

Who’s in the dugout? Darrell Clarke

Clarke is another manager that at various points would’ve probably been a manager welcomed with open arms at The Abbey. He’s the man responsible for returning Bristol Rovers to the football league at the first time of asking, and then the next year fly them straight up into League 1. After 246 games in charge, he left Rovers in December 2018 as the fourth longest serving manager in the EFL. He’s been at Walsall since their relegation from League 1 in May 2019, and while last season only managed to take them to a 12th place finish, it could be just the bedding in he needed.

What’s their recent form like? Last 5: Won 1, Drawn 4, Lost 0. Scored 6, Conceded 5. 

Any ex-United players?

In midfield, the Saddlers boast Emmanuel Osadebe, the epitome of a man who never quite made it work at United. I don’t think many people were surprised to see him released, but he’s always found himself another gig in League 2 ever since, at Newport, Macclesfield, and now Walsall. He’s played five times so far this year and scored none.

Last time out:

16th November 2019: Walsall 2-1 Cambridge United

This was a really bleak affair. 1-0 down in less than a minute, and 2 in less than 10. It was pitch black by 3pm, a thoroughly depressed away end, and then you remember you’re in the outskirts of Birmingham.

From the archives: 

28th August 1990: Walsall 4-2 Cambridge United (Dublin, Leadbitter)

3-0 down, brought it back to 3-2, and then a late goal to make it 4-2. Great kit, great shots of the away end, but none of this tomorrow night please.

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