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MATCH PREVIEW: Swindon Town vs Walsall

Saddlers head to County Ground for Boxing Day showpiece…

23 December 2022

Club News

MATCH PREVIEW: Swindon Town vs Walsall

Saddlers head to County Ground for Boxing Day showpiece…

23 December 2022

Swindon Town will be looking to build on a morale-boosting victory over fellow promotion-chasing Barrow last weekend as they welcome Walsall to The County Ground on Boxing Day.

The win in Cumbria saw Scott Lindsey’s charges move up to fourth in the table, albeit with a game or two in hand over those around them.

Walsall will head to Wiltshire on Monday 26 December in buoyant mood though, having recorded four league wins in their last five games.

Here’s the inside scoop on our next opponents…

The lowdown…

The Saddlers celebrated Christmas sitting narrowly outside the play-off positions in eleventh place.

They’re currently on an impressive unbeaten run of seven games in all competitions, winning four of their last five League Two matches.

With form like that, Michael Flynn’s side are well primed for a push towards the top half of the table as we approach the second half of the season.

The club was established in 1888 as Walsall Town Swifts, and eight years later, they changed their name to Walsall FC.

In 1896, The Saddlers finished sixth in the Second Division, which is their highest ever league finish to date.

Since joining the Third Division North in 1921, they’ve remained an ever present in the EFL, and the year 1960 brought Walsall their first league title in 72 years.

They won promotion out of the Fourth Division in 1979/80, but suffered successive relegations after going up to the second tier at the end of 1987/88.

Promoted in 1994/95 and again in 1998/99, they went on to spend four of the next five seasons in the Second Division, punctuated by a successful third tier promotion campaign in 2000/01.

However, two demotions in three years left Walsall back in the fourth tier in 2006, but they bounced back immediately as 2006/07 League Two champions.

Their first Wembley appearance came in the 2015 Football League Trophy Final, which they unfortunately lost to Bristol City.

In 2016, they narrowly missed out on promotion to the Championship by a single point, and lost the resulting play-off semi-final to Barnsley.

The Saddlers then ended an eleven year stay in League One with relegation in 2019.

DID YOU KNOW?: Walsall hold the distinction of being founding members of both the second, third, and fourth tiers.

The manager: Michael Flynn…

The 42-year-old Welshman began his playing career with Newport County, turning professional with Barry Town before breaking out with Championship side Gillingham.

He went on to appear more than ninety times for Bradford City before returning to Newport and playing while obtaining his UEFA Pro Licence.

On the managerial front, he became caretaker boss at Newport in 2017 while the club were embroiled in a relegation battle.

After the clubs ‘Great Escape’, The Exiles won some memorable FA Cup fixtures against Leeds, Leicester and Middlesbrough.

Flynn’s success wasn’t over just yet though, as he led the Welsh side to the 2019 EFL League Two Play-off Final against Tranmere Rovers, followed by further cup adventures against the likes of Spurs, Manchester City and West Ham.

In February this year, Flynn was appointed Walsall boss, signing a contract until 2024 and taking over when the club were eighteenth in the table last term, recording a sixteenth place finish in the end.

This season has seen improvements on the last, with Flynn awarded League Two Manager of the Month Award for October.

Walsall’s season so far…

Just a single point separates Walsall from the top ten as it stands, with an impressive run of current form seeing The Saddlers march their way up the table after a difficult start.

Thanks to four league wins in their last five, Flynn’s side are now just four points off the play-off places.

They head into today’s game off the back of a 2-0 away victory at Doncaster Rovers and a 2-1 win at home to Crawley, with an FA Cup triumph over Carlisle sandwiched in between.

A key element of their recent success has been down to a firm defence, with just three goals conceded in their last seven.

The latest run is a stark contrast to the twelve game winless run they suffered between mid-August and the beginning of October, which came off the back of their 2-0 win over Town in the Carabao Cup at the beginning of the season.

Our previous five meetings…

Walsall will want to ignore the form books heading into this game if the last five are anything to go by.

Swindon have won four of the last five meetings, which include three in the league, one in the League Cup and another in the FA Cup.

The last meeting came earlier this season, with The Saddlers defeating a much-changed Town side to win the Carabao Cup First Round clash at The Bescot.

Three wins for The Robins followed the season before as the pair squared up twice in the league and once in the FA Cup.

The cup tie at The Bescot finished 2-1 to Town, thanks to goals from loanees Tyreece Simpson and Kaine Kessler-Hayden.

Then came one of Swindon’s biggest results of the 2021/22 campaign as they hit Walsall for five without reply in the first league meeting of that season back in February.

Jonny Williams rounded off the scoring on that day after Louie Barry and Ricky Aguiar had helped themselves to braces.

Town were in a similar unforgiving mood in the away tie which took place in May that campaign.

Harry McKirdy scored an early goal to settle any nerves, which was followed up by a further two from Jack Payne to rack up an impressive aggregate score line.

Before that, the pair met just once in 2019/2020 as COVID disrupted the season.

Town won on that day too in November 2019, with Eoin Doyle and Diallang Jaiyesimi getting on the scoresheet, with Rory Gaffney’s consolation resulting in a 2-1 win for The Robins.

Players to watch…

1. Owen Evans (GK)

Goalkeeper Owen Evans joined the Saddlers on a two-year contract in June 2022.

He began his professional career at Wigan Athletic. During his time at the DW Stadium he spent time on loan with Witton Albion, Rhyl, North Ferriby United and Sutton United.

His first loan in the EFL came in the 2019-20 season with Macclesfield Town where he played 27 times and impressed in the first half of the season.

He spent the second half of that season on loan at Cheltenham Town and helped the Robins reach the play-offs.

Evans returned to Wigan for the 2020-21 campaign and played five times before returning to Cheltenham on a permanent basis in the summer of 2021.

The 25-year-old featured 32 times in Sky Bet League One in the 2021-22 campaign as the Gloucestershire side finished 15th in their first season back in the third tier.

2. Hayden White

Hayden White joined Walsall in the summer of 2020.

He played 30 times in his first season at the Banks's Stadium and was rewarded with a new contract in the summer of 2021 and was a regular in the side during the 2021/22 season. 

White began his career in the Championship with Bolton Wanderers. 

He's also represented Carlisle United, Bury, Notts County, Blackpool, Peterborough United and Mansfield Town. 

He helped the Stags reach the League Two play-offs in 2018-19. 

5. Donervon Daniels (captain)

The 29-year-old joined Walsall in January 2022 and had a real positive impact in the heart of the defence.

He spent 18 months at League One side Crewe Alexandra and made 31 appearances for the Railwaymen.

Daniels began his career at West Bromwich Albion. He enjoyed loan spells Tranmere Rovers, Gillingham, Blackpool, Aberdeen.

He then moved to Wigan Athletic on a permanent contract in 2015 and was part of the team that won League One in 2015-16 season.

In 2018, he joined Blackpool where he spent a season before he joined Luton Town in the Championship a year later.

A loan spell at Doncaster Rovers followed before he made the switch to Crewe in the summer of 2020.

6. Emmanuel Monthe

The defender signed for the Saddlers in June 2021 on a two-year contract.

Monthe has plenty of promotion winning experience under his belt having helped Forest Green Rovers win promotion to the EFL in 2017 and securing back-to-back promotions with Tranmere Rovers in 2018 and 2019 as they climbed up to Sky Bet League One. 

He began his career at QPR but left Loftus Road in 2014.

He had spells at non-league clubs Whitehawk, Tonbridge Angels, Heybridge Swifts, Hayes & Yeading, Havant & Waterlooville and Bath City. 

23. Isaac Hutchinson

The creative midfielder joined the Saddlers from Derby County in June 2022.

The 22-year-old spent eight years in Brighton & Hove Albion’s youth system and attracted interest from Sparta Prague before he joined Southend United in 2018.

He made a dream start at Roots Hall, scoring on his debut in a 3-1 win over Cambridge United in the EFL Trophy.

Hutchinson played 40 times for the Shrimpers and caught the eye of Derby who signed him in October 2020 and he made his Rams debut in the FA Cup against Chorley in January 2021.

Later that month, he signed for Forest Green Rovers on loan and helped them qualify for the play-offs.

He returned to Pride Park in the summer of 2021 and scored his first goal for Derby in a Carabao Cup tie against Salford City in August.

Hutchinson was on the move again in January 2022 as he joined Crawley Town on loan and scored twice in 19 appearances, including a cracking strike against the Saddlers back in April.

14. Brandon Comley

Robust midfielder Brandon Comley joined the Saddlers in June 2022 on a two-year contract.

Comley began his career at Queens Park Rangers and made his professional debut in the Premier League in May 2015 as a substitute against Leicester City.

He enjoyed loan spells in Sky Bet League Two with Carlisle United, Grimsby Town and Colchester United.

In January 2018, he joined the U’s on a permanent basis and went on to make 88 appearances before signing for Bolton Wanderers in July 2020.

In February 2022, he signed for Dagenham & Redbridge and featured 17 times as they narrowly missed out on the play-offs by a point. He left the Chigwell Construction Stadium in the summer.

10. Tom Knowles

The versatile attacker became Walsall's 16th signing of the summer in 2022, joining from National League side Yeovil Town on a two-year deal.

Knowles finished as Yeovil’s top scorer in the 2021/22 campaign with nine league goals and 10 in all competitions.

The 23-year-old began his career at Cambridge United and made his first team debut in May 2018 in a 5-0 victory over Port Vale.

During his time at the Abbey Stadium, he enjoyed a number of successful loan spells at non-league level.

He left Cambridge in November 2020 having scored twice in 12 appearances for the U’s and subsequently joined the Glovers.

21. Taylor Allen

Versatile Taylor Allen joined the Saddlers from 2021/22 League Two champions Forest Green Rovers in June 2022.

The 21-year-old, who was born in Walsall, began his career at Romulus before joining Nuneaton Borough in January 2019.

His impressive displays at Liberty Way caught the eye of Forest Green who snapped him up in April 2019 ahead of the 2019/20 campaign.

During his time at Forest Green, he played as a forward before making the switch to a midfield role.

He also enjoyed loan spells at National League North sides Hereford, Gloucester City and Leamington.

11. Andy Williams

Andy Williams joined the Saddlers from Cheltenham Town in June 2022.

He began his professional career at Hereford where he made his debut in the Conference against Northwich as an 82nd minute substitute in a 4-0 win.

Over the course of his career to date, he has amassed over 680 appearances in all competitions, scoring a total of 156 goals in four separate divisions.

Williams went on to play for Yeovil Town after time at Hereford, with spells at Swindon and Doncaster Rovers in the next eight seasons, all of which would be played in League One and the Championship.

His best goal scoring season came whilst with Swindon in the 2014/15 campaign where he helped them get to the play-off semi-finals after netting 22 times during that year.

In May 2018, he made the move to League Two side Northampton Town and stayed with the Cobblers for two years, making 85 appearances and scoring 21 goals.

Upon the expiry of his contract with Northampton, he made the move to Cheltenham where he scored 14 goals during his two years and played a key role in helping Michael Duff’s side win the Sky Bet League Two title in 2021. 

39. Danny Johnson

Forward Danny Johnson joined the Saddlers on loan from Mansfield Town in July 2022.

The 29-year-old was prolific in the 2020/21 season as he bagged 20 goals for Leyton Orient in Sky Bet League Two.

Johnson started his career in League Two, making his professional league debut back in October 2014 for Tranmere Rovers in a 0-0 draw against Mansfield.

During his debut season in the Football League, where he spent some time with Stevenage on loan, Johnson made nine appearances in all competitions scoring one goal which came in the then named Johnstone’s Paint Trophy.

After just one season with Tranmere, Johnson moved to Gateshead where he would spend three seasons.

In the summer of 2018, Johnson moved to Scotland, firstly with Motherwell. During his only season with them, he scored eight times in 28 league and cup matches, including goals against Celtic and Rangers.

His time with Motherwell came to an end at the close of the season as he moved to Dundee where he would spend the first six months of the season, scoring seven goals in 22 games before completing a move to League Two side Leyton Orient.

The forward finished the 2019/20 season with two goals in two appearances for Orient and continued his fine form in front of goal in the 2020/21 season, netting eight goals in the opening 10 games of the campaign, eventually going on to score 20 goals that season.

 


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