Preview: Hartlepool United Vs Walsall
We make the trip up north looking to build on a perfect start to our league campaign. 3 points and a clean sheet at home was just what Dean Smith would have been praying for last weekend and he takes his Walsall team to Hartlepool full of confidence, despite the loss of influential midfielder Adam Chambers through suspension. For a full rant about why it is a travesty Chambers is missing for the next 3 games please see my previous argument for some harsh but fair words on a memorable refereeing performance. Whether we like it or not, Chambers is missing and this is a chance for Anton Peterlin to put his personal stamp on the centre of our midfield.
Hartlepool is a team that most teams in our division will underestimate and I hope we do not showcase such naivety. I think they have as much chance of making the play-offs as ourselves, Leyton Orient and other teams of a similar standing and to write them off as mid-table strugglers would be setting ourselves up for a big fall. They took the lead twice at MK Dons last week and were unlucky to only draw. The Dons can be an intimidating and, for many teams, baron hunting ground and to take a point away from there was a very impressive result for United. They are never shy of a goal and the familiar faces of James Brown and Adam Boyd have been joined by Colin Nish and James Poole, from Hibs and Man City respectively. There is now a healthy competition for places up front and with the likes of Nathan Luscombe, Nobby Solano and Andy Monkhouse providing the service, goals should not be hard to come by.
If there is one comfort in going to Hartlepool it`s that they are not exactly known for an impervious defence. They conceded the lead twice in their 2-2 draw with MK Dons and it may be the first good chance the likes of Jon Macken and Will Grigg will get to open their accounts for the season. It may also be a chance for Claude Gnakpa to show the travelling faithful what he`s about up the wing. Evan Horwood is, arguably, Hartlepool`s best player but he is also very attack minded and, at home, that could work against him. The left-back is a big threat and Gnakpa may be required to drop back and help young Darryl Westlake defend against him and Andy Monkhouse but the gaps will open on the break. The left-back is liable to abandon his defensive duties and I`m sure Deano will have briefed the lads on where and when to throw caution to the wind.
By rights, if we defend well and stick to the game-plan then a win is well within our grasp but nothing in football is ever that easy. Hartlepool will come at us and try and keep us camped in our own half and their danger men cannot be under-estimated. At home you would fancy them to score a goal or two and we can`t rely on the fact we might keep another clean sheet. If we`re going to win, we need two or three goals and to hope that our defence lives up to its growing reputation. On that basis, my prediction is 2-1 Walsall with a few world-class saves from Super Jim thrown in for good measure and a first goal of the season for Jon Macken.
Come on you Reds!!