There have been just 3 league meetings between FGR and Walsall – last season a 1-1 draw at the Bescot Stadium (The Banks’s Stadium) in August 2019 was followed by Walsall beating Rovers 2-1 at The New Lawn in February 2020. This season’s game between the two sides at TiNL was a draw – a 61st minute Jamille Matt goal cancelling out a 14th minute strike by Caolan Lavery. Maybe it’s Rovers’ time to beat Walsall for the first time ever!?
The partnership between childhood friends Wes McDonald (number 15 in midfield) and Elijah Adebayo (number 11 – striker) was likely to have kept Rovers busy. After a slow start at Walsall, Adebayo found his touch, with 10 goals in all competitions this season. This brought him to the attention of Luton Town, who bought him in the January window. So, strike partner Caolan Lavery (who plays number 9), and who has netted 7 times this season, is Walsall’s leading current goalscorer.
Walsall started the season reasonably well but have hit the rocks since Christmas – 1 win, 10 draws and 9 losses have seen them drop to 20th in the league. They are 8 points above the relegation places but may be starting to look anxiously over their shoulders. By many measures they are the team with some of the worst form in League 2. However, Walsall are clearly able to stifle their opposition – 3 of their last 4 games have been 0-0 draws.
Walsall don’t seem to mind whether they are playing at home or away – they have 22 points from their 20 away games and 21 points from their 19 home matches.
Walsall’s drop in form coincided with some high-profile departures from the club in January and February. Their 2 top players were sold for financial reasons – leading scorer Adebayo went to Luton and full back Zak Joules joined MK Dons. Then manager Darrell Clarke shocked the club by moving to manage Port Vale in February. Former Development Coach Brian Dutton replaced Darrell Clarke in the Saddlers hot seat.
Other things you may want to know about Walsall;
- Walsall are known as ‘The Saddlers’ which reflects this Black Country town’s reputation as a traditional centre for saddle manufacture.
- Walsall were formed in 1888 as Walsall Town Swifts – a swift still features in their club crest and the club’s mascot is called ‘Swifty’ (see below).
- Their local rivals are Wolves and West Brom. However, the Saddlers have had few meetings with either of these sides over the years – Shrewsbury and Port Vale (both about 30 miles away) have been more frequent derbies.
- Walsall have spent a number of seasons in football’s second tier but have never reached the top flight. Walsall gained one of their promotions to the second tier in 1999 and they did so by pipping Manchester City to the division’s runners-up spot!
- Jeff Bonser bought the club in 1992 (when it was minutes away from entering into receivership) and in 2019 ended his almost 28-year spell as owner and Chairman when he sold his 76% shareholding in the club to Leigh Pomlett. Businessman Pomlett is a lifelong Walsall fan
- Walsall tried to sign striker Josh March from Leamington in 2019. As we know, Josh chose to come to FGR instead.