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Club News

Since we last met: Walsall

9 April 2024

Club News

Since we last met: Walsall

9 April 2024

Tonight pits Rovers against the only side to have beaten them in the last 13 games as play-off chasing Walsall visit the Eco-Power Stadium.

The Saddlers endured inconsistent form following the 3-1 win over Rovers at the Poundland Bescot Stadium in early March, with just two points picked up from the next 12 available.

But they have collected back-to-back wins over Salford City and Tranmere Rovers before their visit to DN4, leaving them three points off seventh spot in Sky Bet League Two.

THE LAST MEETING

Rovers saw a five-game unbeaten run brought to an end with a 3-1 defeat at Walsall.

Kyle Hurst had deservedly drawn Rovers level after Josh Gordon gave the hosts the lead only for Jack Earing and Mo Faal to take the game away.

Rovers dominated possession for large swathes of the game and had built up good attacking momentum by the time Hurst volleyed them level.

But Earing’s goal proved timely for Walsall, as they went on to claim a fifth straight victory and further boost their play-off aspirations.

WALSALL'S RECENT FORM

Walsall have won seven of their last 11 matches to fire their push for a top seven finish in the division.

It began with a five game winning run only for them to drop out of the play-off places during a sequence of four matches without victory.

But they have won their last two to revive their hopes.

LAST TIME OUT

Tranmere Rovers 1 Walsall 3

Sky Bet League Two, Saturday, April 6, 2024

Line-up: Smith, Allen, Adegboyega, Okagbue, Foulkes, Comley, Stirk, Hutchinson, L Gordon, Matt (Faal 66), J Gordon (James-Taylor 77). Subs not used: Evans, Daniels, Farquharson, Tierney, Johnson.

THE MANAGER

Looking to guide Walsall into the play-offs in his first season in charge is Mat Sadler, who was appointed head coach last May.

The 39-year-old spent three seasons as part of the coaching staff with the Saddlers before stepping up following Michael Flynn’s departure.

The West Midlands native had two spells with the club as a defender after coming through the ranks to first team level with Birmingham City. 

Sadler also had stints with Watford, Crawley Town and Shrewsbury Town before ending his playing career at the Bescot.

THE KEY MEN

Goalkeeper – Jackson Smith

The 22-year-old joined the Saddlers on a permanent spell from nearby Wolverhampton Wanderers last summer, following a loan spell in the second half of last season. He progressed through the Wolves Academy from the age of eight and was a regular for both the U18 and U23 sides at Molineux, while also enjoying a loan stint at Kettering Town.

Defender – Liam Gordon

The left back arrived at Walsall in the summer of 2022 from Bolton Wanderers, with an injury delaying his start to life at the club. The 24-year-old has made 80 appearances for the Saddlers since. He started his senior career with Carshalton Athletic before a switch to Dagenham and Redbridge, with a 2020 move to Bolton, for whom he made 36 appearances.

Midfielder – Isaac Hutchinson

Hutchinson has netted 13 goals in 48 appearances so far this season for the Saddlers, contributing ten assists in the process. The 23-year-old creative midfielder has been with Walsall since the summer of 2022 when he switched from Derby County and recently passed the 100 game mark for the club. He came through at Brighton before joining Southend United.

Striker – Josh Gordon

The 29-year-old arrived back at Walsall in January on loan from Burton Albion, who he joined at the start of the season. A three-year stint between 2018 and 2021 brought 27 goals in 123 appearances before two years with Barrow. His only goal of the campaign to date came in the reverse fixture with Rovers. Gordon joined Leicester City after starting his career in non-league.

HEAD-TO-HEAD

Former in 1888, the club was initially called Walsall Town Swifts. Though they met Rovers in the Midland League in 1895/96, the first Football League game between the two came in the 1923/24 campaign, with Rovers winning 3-0 at Belle Vue with a Tom Keetley brace and a Sam Cowan strike. A week later, Walsall won the return fixture 5-2.

Overall, the clubs have met 67 times in the Football League with Rovers taking 23 wins to Walsall’s 35 - which included last month’s meeting at the Poundland Bescot Stadium which the Saddlers won 3-1.

Last season’s clashes both went in favour of Walsall - including the final game of the campaign in the West Midlands which they won 2-1.

TURNED OUT FOR BOTH

Brian Caswell had a lengthy career at Walsall. The right-back made his debut in April 1973 and he went on to make 459 appearances, scoring 19 goals. In August 1985 he joined Rovers, then managed by Billy Bremner.

Caswell enjoyed a brief career at Belle Vue: after 18 games and two goals he followed Bremner to Leeds United. However, his excellent full-back play is remembered by all who saw him.

Contributors: John Coyle and Gavin Hepworth

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