Dan's Preview: Walsall Vs Middlesbrough
Tomorrow night, we play host to Championship Middlesbrough in the first round of this season`s Carling Cup.
After such a successful start to the season I really can`t wait to see how we fare against a different standard of opposition. Orient are a very good side but we played well and didn`t allow them to showcase the best of their ability which ultimately led to them under-performing and us taking away an impressive, hard-earned 3 points. Boro, however, should face no such problems getting out of the blocks and you`d think the divisional difference will tell over 90 minutes. On paper, they are a class above ourselves and it would be a hugely satisfying, yet unexpected, scalp if we can knock them out of the competition.
Although they didn`t get off to the best of starts, Middlesbrough will be big favourites coming into the game tomorrow. Their squad possesses a vast amount of quality and, in Tony Mowbray; they have a manager who knows how to get a team playing good football at the highest level. While looking through their squad, I decided to try and highlight a few lads who could potentially pose us a danger but, worryingly, I suffered a severe case of finger cramp on about the 4th player poached from the SPL. To add to the well-known, household names, providing your house is in Scotland, I also noted the presence of a player we might be more familiar with. Nicky Bailey, formerly of Southend and Charlton, stood out during his time in the lower leagues and his experience of clubs like the mighty Saddlers may prove crucial to Boro`s gameplan.
Like most "big" clubs in the Championship, Boro will probably put out a weaker side than the one who took a point off Portsmouth and that may be their undoing. Dean Smith will not be taking this game lightly and, although he will not be too disheartened if we do lose tomorrow night, he will have been gearing the lads up for this game since the draw was made. We have a real chance of making an impression and beating our Northern counterparts and t`carling cup will not be high on their list of priorities. With the likes of Taundry and Chambers playing in the middle, we will not be short of bite and passion and they will be the men charged with the task of keeping Boro`s impressive midfield quiet. Unfortunately, it is hard to predict what kind of a side either team will put out and we may see the likes of Anton Peterlin, Alex Nicholls and Manny Smith given the nod in order to rest a few players before Hartlepool on Saturday. Boro will not want to risk losing their star men to a tough-tackling Walsall side but they will be equally wary of the supposed embarrassment that accompanies a defeat to lower league opposition.
The result of this will most likely come down to team selection and hunger. If Boro want to do something in this competition then we will be hard-pressed to stop them but if there is one mistake they can make, it would be to under-estimate us. We look solid all over the pitch with a certain slickness and flair that has been hard to find around Bescot Crescent these past few years and there is no harm in believing we`ve got a chance of beating a team who were UEFA cup runners-up just 5 years ago.
For me, realism has got to kick in and I can`t help but feel we might have to put our Carling Cup ambitions on hold for another season. I`ll go Middlesbrough to win 2-0 but it may not be the walkover the bookies are predicting and a shock could very well be on the cards. Watch this space.