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Club News

Know your enemy: Walsall

21 July 2014

Club News

Know your enemy: Walsall

21 July 2014

A look at how the Saddlers are shaping up



There was a mid-table finish for the Saddlers who ended 13th. Things began well for Dean Smith's side who were undefeated in their opening three league matches with two wins and a draw. However, a lack of consistency hindered the club's play-off push and they failed to win during February and March.

Walsall struggled to replace Will Grigg, who top-scored the previous season, and winger Jamie Paterson, but the loan signing of Febian Brandy was a plus point. Highlights included doing the double over local rivals Shrewsbury Town and a win against Sheffield United.



A former Walsall player, Smith was appointed boss in 2011. The West-Bromwich-born centre back began his career with the Saddlers and appeared just over 150 times before moving to Hereford United in 1994. After three years at Edgar Street he joined Leyton Orient in 1997. He was a mainstay in the O's side and added goals to his game, netting 32 times in 239 matches in six years before moving onto Sheffield Wednesday in 2003. During a season with the Owls he was a regular in the side before ending his career at Port Vale in 2005.

Since taking over at Walsall, Smith has steadied the ship and has transformed the side from relegation contenders to a top half club.



You can see the Bescot Stadium from the M6. The stadium was opened in 1990 by footballing legend Sir Stanley Matthews and Walsall have been there ever since. Away fans tend to be housed at pitch-side or behind the goal depending on numbers.



The Saddlers will have to make do without skipper Andy Butler, who returned to his native Yorkshire after joining Sheffield United on a free transfer.

Also leaving were last season's top scorer Craig Westcarr, fellow striker Troy Hewitt, Nicky Featherstone and James McQuilkin and four youngsters.

Smith did manage to convince left back Andy Taylor, James Chambers and Ben Purkiss to pen new deals and strikers Tom Bradshaw and Jordan Cook have joined from Shrewsbury and Charlton respectively. The experienced James O'Connor has also arrived after his release by Derby County.



Former Crawley loan goalkeeper Rene Gilmartin spent five years with the Saddlers before moving onto Watford in 2010. He made 35 appearances and played a handful of times for Crawley on loan from the Hornets although we failed to win during Gilmartin’s time between the sticks.

Others to have represented both clubs include former Crawley captain Pablo Mills and Mat Sadler.



Since entering League One, Crawley have never lost to Walsall on four occasions. The first three matches were all draws but the last time the clubs met, at the Bescot Stadium in February, Crawley ran out 2-1 winner thanks to a Matt Tubbs brace.

The first meeting, back in the 2012-13 campaign, saw Jonathan Forte snatch a late equaliser in an entertaining 2-2 draw at the Stadium and it was the same score in the Midlands after goals from Jamie Proctor and Paul Hayes were cancelled out by two very late Walsall goals. Last season’s home fixture finished goalless.



Walsall are 10/1 with Sky Bet to win promotion from League One in 2014-15.

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