Date: 15th August 2019 at 5:30pm
Written by:

Saturday afternoon sees Crewe Alexandra return to league action after the heroics of Tuesday night’s trip to Middlesbrough with recently relegated Walsall arriving at the Alexandra Stadium. So far this season, they beat Northampton Town on the opening day before a home draw against Forest Green last week in the league and a 3-2 home defeat to Crawley Town in the EFL Cup on Tuesday.

Over the summer, the Saddlers have signed 15 players over the summer, 12 on permanent deals and 3 on season-long loans, while they have let 15 leave the club including our former defender Jon Guthrie who joined Livingston earlier this week. Those arrivals are goalkeeper Jack Rose (loan), defenders James Clarke, Shay Facey, Mat Sadler, Zak Jules and Cameron Pring (loan), midfielders James Hardy, Jack Kiersey, Stuart Sinclair, Danny Guthrie and Gary Liddle and forwards Elijah Adebayo, Wes McDonald, Caolan Lavery and Rory Holden (loan).

Looking back in the archives, the two teams have met 72 times over the years with Walsall winning 31 games to 22 with 19 draws. The Alex’s biggest victory came in May 1993 in the play-offs with the Alex winning 5-1 at the Alexandra Stadium (ended 9-2 on agg.) whilst Walsall’s biggest win came at previous home Fellows Park in October 1958 with the hosts winning 6-0. The teams last met in the 2015/16 season with both games finishing 1-1, the scoreline occurring in 4 of the last 5 meetings.

Who are the officials for the game?

The officials for this game see Alan Young as the man in the middle with Hristo Karaivanov and Richard Woodward his assistants and Wade Smith as the fourth official. The following Crewe game has been refereed by Young in the last 5 years:

  • Crewe Alexandra 6-0 Morecambe (4th August 2018) – Kirk, Nicholls (2), Jones (2), Porter

I asked Walsall supporters site Bescot Banter for their thoughts going into the game.

How would you describe your transfer activity this summer?

Fantastic. For a team which suffered relegation last season to have 99% of its squad rebuilt and embedded before the campaign has really got underway is nothing short of a triumph. After allowing most of last season’s group to leave the manager added fifteen players to the squad over the summer.

Some could argue that this season’s team is stronger than the last. From options at the back to a strong midfield, finishing with power in attack, the team has all the makings of a promotion-chasing one, we just need to see it on the field.

Which position is the one that you should improve the most from the squad you currently have?

If Twitter is anything to go by, many of our fellow fans would probably like to see a new goalkeeper added to the team, however, our first few games of the season have shown that we’re in desperate need of a striker with that ‘killer-instinct’ in front of goal. We’re creating the chances, but not putting them away, something which will no doubt bite us in the backside if it isn’t sorted soon.

What do you think the team will be for the game?

Despite having a reputation for tinkering, manager Darrell Clarke only made one enforced change for our two previous league outings – the injured Danny Guthrie making way for Gary Liddle – and we expect the gaffer will likely field a team similar to the one which snatched a late point from Forest Green Rovers last weekend, although he could rotate the strikers following Caolan Lavery’s midweek brace in the Carabao Cup.

L.Roberts; Clarke, Scarr, Sadler; Norman, Kinsella, Liddle, Sinclair, Pring; Lavery, Gordon/Adebayo

Subs: Rose; Jules, Cockerill-Mollett; Hardy, Bates; Holden Gordon/Adebayo

How would you set-up to nullify your team?

We’re currently playing a 3-5-2 formation with our two wide defenders looking to get forward and join in with the attack. Any formation like this is going to be at the mercy of a well-drilled counter-attack, and, despite our recent penchant for conceding first, you’d expect the opposition to have a better chance of breaking us down in the latter stages of games when legs are a little loose.

Who is the dangerman for this game?

It really depends on who starts up-front. Our opening strike partnership of Elijah Adebayo and Josh Gordon is in its infancy, they’re still getting to know each other and learning how the other plays. So you’d probably be better looking towards our midfield.

Liam Kinsella is something of a silent assassin, going about his business with very little fanfare, quietly nullifying attacking moves and sending the ball back towards the opposition goal. The academy product is our ‘One to Watch’ this season and could well be the key to any dreams of promotion.

What do you think is a realistic aim for Walsall this season?

Coming out of last season, we’d have been happy to have seen the team secure survival at the end of the long League Two campaign. However, following a summer which has seen major change both on and off the pitch, including a new chairman, new squad, and a new-found optimism, we hope to see the team comfortable in the top half of the table with an outside chance of tickling the Play-Off places when we reach the business end of the campaign.