We take a closer look at tomorrow's opponents, Walsall.
THE MANAGER: MATT TAYLOR
Former Northampton Town player, Matt Taylor, is the man in charge of the opposition dugout, taking his first managerial role in football after working in the Tottenham Hotspur academy after hanging his boots up in 2019. Taylor took the role of Head Coach in May 2021, starting the position from 1st June 2021 so he could finish the under 18 campaign at Tottenham Hotspur.
Prior to joining Walsall, Taylor was in charge of Tottenham Hotspur Under 18’s, a position he had held from 2019-2021. He has also had a very brief spell in caretaker charge of Swindon Town when he was a player, managing the team for one game before the appointment of Phil Brown. Following Brown’s arrival, Taylor became a player/coach, forming part of the backroom staff.
KEY PLAYER: BRENDAN KIERNAN
Brendan Kiernan signed for Walsall this summer after leaving Harrogate Town, penning a two-year contract at the club. At 29 years of age, Brendan has spent the majority of his career at League Two and National League level. Kiernan was part of the side that got promoted to the football league with Harrogate Town and was a key member of the squad in their first season in League Two.
An experienced winger who can play both on the left and right, Kiernan has been a key cog in the Walsall side this season, making 26 league appearances for the Saddlers this season, contributing with 5 goals and 4 assists so far this season. He is well known for running down the left before cutting in on his right foot to get his shots off, a lot of the goals he has scored this season have come this way.
LAST TIME WE PLAYED
Northampton Town 1-1 Walsall (Walsall win 4-2 on penalties)
The Cobblers met with Walsall earlier this season in the Papa John’s Trophy group stage.
It was a wet and windy evening at Sixfields and it was the visitors who made a quick start with Emmanuel Osadebe opening the scoring after being played in by Brendan Kiernan in the fourth minute.
There were plenty of chances throughout the match for the Cobblers to draw level, Dylan Connolly had a penalty appeal turned down following a challenge from Alfie Bates, Mitch Pinnock curled a free-kick just wide of the post and Kion Etete headed wide all before half-time.
The second half began as the first had ended, Etete saw an effort well saved by Jack Rose, who was also tested by Mitch Pinnock and Jordan Flores before Jon Brady made a triple substitution. Shaun McWilliams, Benny Ashley-Seal and Max Dyche all entered the field of play and it wasn’t long before the Cobblers had a reward for their work. Manny Monthe fouled Kion Etete in the area and Dylan Connolly stepped up, scoring from the spot and sending Rose the wrong way in the process.
It could have been sealed inside 90 minutes but Jack Rose made a good save with his legs, denying Kion Etete, not for the first time that evening. It finished all square at full-time with the two sides heading in to a penalty shoot-out to decide who would earn the extra point.
Mitch Pinnock’s effort came off of the cross bar, Dylan Connolly scored his second penalty of the evening whilst Kion Etete’s effort was saved. Jordan Flores scored from the spot but it wasn’t enough as Walsall scored all four of their penalties and won the shoot-out 4-2.
CURRENT LEAGUE FORM
08/01 – Stevenage 3-1 Walsall
15/01 – Mansfield Town 2-0 Walsall
22/01 – Walsall 0-2 Exeter City
25/01 – Walsall 1-2 Bradford City
29/01 – Bristol Rovers 1-0 Walsall
LAST TIME OUT: BRISTOL ROVERS
Walsall came in to this fixture looking to avoid making it 5 defeats in a row against Joey Barton’s Rovers side.
Things looked good for Walsall as Bristol Rovers had Luca Hoole sent off for a second yellow card in the 38th minute meaning that Walsall had just under an hour left to play with a one man advantage. Things did not go to plan for Walsall however, as they failed to capitalise on this advantage and fell to a late defeat. Aaron Collins took advantage of a defensive mix up between goalkeeper Carl Rushworth and central defender Donervan Daniels to head home the winner for the Gas.
The defeat consolidated to Walsall to five straight defeats in the Sky Bet League Two as they fell to 19th place.