Dan's preview of Walsall V PNE
Technology is the latest in a long line of people and things to make it onto my "enemies" list. It now possesses top spot and ranks alongside such luminaries of evil as Enoch Showunmi, Jedward and that creepy magician guy from The Smurfs. For the last 2 weeks I have been completely betrayed by technology as my laptop broke, my university internet was restricted, my blackberry phone stopped working and my biro ran out. However, I appear to be out the other side of the tunnel so let the good times roll and let`s talk Saturday`s game against Preston.
Preston were disappointed to be relegated last season but there are those among us who remember when North End were regular visitors to our humble abode. However, there is no question that the quality of their side has greatly improved since then and we should be very wary of our northern rivals. They have Premier League and Championship experience in every single position and that is something that comes with establishing a reputation as a successful second-tier club. They had become synonymous with the modern day Championship until last season`s disappointment and they will no doubt be looking to return to that level at the first time of asking.
As far as danger men are concerned I quite honestly don`t know where to start. Games like this make me wish I was in the position of my opposite number at Vital Preston who is no doubt sat at his or her computer thinking "danger men…Grigg, Macken, occasionally Nicholls and Jarvis from 47 yards out….done." However, I am a Walsall fan so it is my job to list off the endless threats that the Lilywhites possess. I`ll start with the obvious; Neil Mellor. Mellor is probably best known for a couple of incredible cameo goals for Liverpool as a rookie but he is a familiar name on the Preston scoreboard. He spent last season with home-town club Sheffield Wednesday and enjoyed his best season as a front-man with 16 goals in 38 games. Since re-joining Preston he has started the season in scintillating form and has already 8 goals in his first 12 games. You can only say a striker is as good as his team-mates and Mellor would probably be nothing without players like Iain Hume around him. Hume has been prolific at every level he`s played at and you can guarantee he will be causing us problems tomorrow. He is responsible for some of the most spectacular goals many Preston fans have seen over the years and he will be just as, if not more important, than strike-partner Mellor as the Lilywhites look to bounce back. He sets up as many as he scores and he`s even defied life-threatening injuries to get to the level he`s at today; what a guy.
I won`t go into any more detail on their threats because a list of names will surely suffice so here`s the men you should be looking for on Saturday: Coutts (goal-scoring midfielder formerly of Celtic), Proctor (young striker-cum-winger currently leading North End`s assist chart), Nicholson (experienced centre-midfielder; always good for a few goals), Russell (ex-Norwich best known for all-action style and fantastic blonde dreadlocks which are now sadly gone) and Carlisle (towering centre-half, strong contender for smartest man in football: puts massive head to good use at set-pieces).
Sadly, we Saddlers can`t boast such an impressive list but it was good to see Nicho finally take his chance last weekend. He has probably been our most enthusiastic front-man this season and it is great to see him finally get the reward his industry deserves. Along with Macken, Grigg and Jarvis we have a very capable strike-force but there is little creativity in the midfield and that`s where our problem lies. It feels like we say it every week but Chambers and Taundry are not going to unlock defences consistently. Kevan Hurst and big Claude Gnakpa are good when they`re on form but they are not high-end League One wingers and I`d have hoped Deano would have used the loan market more effectively than he has done. David Martin has quality but he is yet to produce the goods for the club and an unfortunate injury has limited his chances.
What this article is trying to say is that, basically, we don`t have a chance on paper but paper never won a game of football. We will give it a go and, hopefully, keep up our unbeaten start to League One this month. Two 1-1 draws is building up to something and maybe, just maybe, Preston could be our first scalp since August.
None of us ever like to choose between optimism and realism but I, unfortunately, have to so I`ll go with optimism and say 2-1 Walsall. I don`t know why but I`ve got a good feeling about Saturday and I fancy us to pull off the unlikeliest of victories. COME ON YOU SADDLERS!!!