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MATCH PREVIEW: Town head to Walsall

Swindon braced for third meeting of the season with Saddlers…

20 January 2023

Swindon Town head to the Poundland Bescot Stadium tomorrow as they prepare to take on Walsall for the third time this term.

After defeats to The Saddlers in the Carabao Cup and at the County Ground in League Two earlier this season, Interim First-Team Head coaches Gavin Gunning and Steve Mildenhall take their side to the West Midlands for another showdown with Mike Flynn’s charges this weekend.

Here’s some background information on our opponents ahead of Saturday’s clash.

The lowdown…

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…

Walsall currently occupy eleventh place in the league table but are just three points outside of the play-off places with a game in hand over most of the teams around them.

The Saddlers have had a very split first half of the season with indifferent form.

After recovering from a slow start that included a 12-game run without a win in all competitions, they’ve turned things around in style, having lost just three times in their 17 matches since, winning 11 of them.

A great run in the FA Cup has also helped restore confidence among Walsall fans with their journey into the fourth round earning them a home tie against Premier League side, Leicester City.

Top Scorer, Danny Johnson, has scored 12 league goals so far this term, more than the sides next four top scorers combined, but returned to Mansfield earlier this month after his loan expired, although there are talks of a potential return on a permanent basis.

Previous meetings…

It’s Walsall that have bragging rights this season when it comes to the two games we’ve played against them this term.

The Saddlers defeated a much-changed Town side 2-0 to win the Carabao Cup First Round clash at The Bescot back in August.

Then, just last month, Mike Flynn’s side emerged with all three points from SN1, as they came from behind to win 2-1 in the first of our League Two double-header.

Prior to this, the form guide was very much in Swindon’s favour, winning four of the previous five meetings.

Three wins for The Robins came last season 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…

Isaac Hutchinson has the most assists for Walsall with five in the league and has scored twice on top of that.

He will be relied upon heavily to create attacking moves and create opportunities in an attempt to reduce the impact of Danny Johnson’s departure as The Saddlers look to find a new source of goals.

New signing Jamille Matt is a player Walsall will be hoping can fill the void left by Johnson, with the forward expected to make his debut on Saturday.

The January capture joined from Forest Green Rovers where he won League Two last season and finished the divisions third highest goal scorer.

He and Walsall alike will be hoping he can rediscover his goalscoring form in a more familiar league.

Meanwhile, Donervon Daniels has been an ever-present fixture in the centre of Walsall’s defence, and with Emmanuel Monthe suspended after a red card in their last game against Tranmere, Daniels will be needed to keep order in the league’s third best defence, with only Leyton Orient and Stevenage conceding less.

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