Match Preview: Notts County Vs Walsall
For those who were there in 2007, Meadow Lane offers very fond memories of recent glories gone by. On the 14th April 2007 we went to County as a League Two club and came home with our League One status firmly secured. To the best of my knowledge, there are only 2 survivors (Manny Smith and County`s Mike Edwards) from the 32 men who made up that wonderful day and that is, perhaps, a sign of both teams progression into the new generation as we both now look to establish ourselves in the 3rd tier of English football. Both clubs battle relegation last season and, at times, both sides were written off by the "experts", however we all happily survived and can now address this season with fresh enthusiasm with a new squad and new ideas on the drawing board.
"Mad Dog" Martin Allen has built a Notts County team that has the potential to pull up a few trees in the division. For Walsall fans, it may be the first chance to see Ishy Demontagnac return to Fortress Bescot and I can`t wait to see the tricky little nutter again. His undoubted skill has seen him play at all levels of the English game, as well as turning out for the national Under 18`s and 19`s, but his temper and sheer lack of any sign of common sense have also seen the winger develop a reputation for being a character beyond taming and it will be interesting to see how the young man copes with having a mentalist like Martin Allen telling him what to do. He has got the talent to turn us, and every other team outside the Premier League, inside out and then back inside again but whether his temperament allows him is another matter altogether. One saving grace for Darryl Westlake may be that the ex-Walsall man might "pull an Ishmel" and not turn up to the game again. On the other end of the spectrum, he could do to us what he did to Southend 3 years ago and make himself unplayable; goal from the corner flag anyone? The unfortunate reality is that Ish will probably only make the bench for County but it would still be nice to see him get on alongside Karl Hawley for half an hour, even if he does rip us to pieces or go in studs up on a low flying pigeon.
On the Walsall front, we face two tricky questions. The first is a multiple choice question that every fan will have an answer to. The question is Nicholls, Macken, Jarvis or Grigg? For me, Nicho looked dynamic and hungry against Shrewsbury but the end product just isn`t there. He`s frustratingly good and, unfortunately, that is not enough to keep players like Macken and Grigg out the side. Jarvis should be in the side, if Deano`s basing his team on merit and goal return, so that just leaves him with the partner dilemma. It will probably be Macken but Grigg should not be over-looked either. The Northern Ireland hitman has the potential to lead the line at Walsall for a very long time if he wants to. It will probably be Jarvis and Macken and no one can really argue with that but Grigg will be pushing them both for a starting place. I fear for Alex Nicholls because he may have missed the best chance of this season to cement his place in the first team. The other question is Grof or Walker? David Grof has excelled beyond the call of duty in Wacka`s absence but Jimmy Walker is Jimmy Walker and could any of us really drop him? Grof is the first back-up keeper, for a long time, who has come in and made a big enough impact to make us consider a life without Walker. Wacka can`t go on forever and now we have Grof, he doesn`t have to. How he is still going is beyond me but Grof has done enough to make Walker and Walsall fans know that the old man can finally retire in confidence, knowing the 2 goals he has so lovingly tended to at Bescot Stadium will be protected for years to come.
After going to Juventus and gaining a hugely respectable draw in a carnival atmosphere on Thursday night, it will be a sobering experience for the Magpies to play a side of real quality on Saturday and let`s hope we can show them what a world-class team really looks like. Lee Hughes will be taking a huge amount of abuse, as per usual, from the Walsall fans and let`s hope he doesn`t have reason to pull out that bloody ridiculous dance that some utter genius has masterfully named the "Hughesy".
Bias more than anything leads me to plump for a Walsall result but I am torn between a draw or an away win. No one can deny we are good away from home and I feel we might be too much for Notts County. On that basis, I`ll go for a 2-0 Walsall win but I say that with full appreciation of the home side`s talents and it will not be an easy ride whatever the score-line.