A memorable 2015...It’s been quite a year for the Saddlers.
From playing at Wembley for the very first time to now being top of League One, 2015 will certainly live long in the memory.
Here is part two of our 2015 review...
An outstanding month for the Saddlers, who rose to the League One summit and reached the Capital One Cup third round for the first time since 2002. We started the 2015/16 season with a 1-1 home draw against Oldham, before winning our next four league fixtures against Southend (2-0), Rochdale (2-1), Coventry (2-1) and Blackpool (4-0). Walsall also enjoyed success in the League Cup, knocking out Championship sides Nottingham Forest (4-3) and Brighton (2-1) to book a third-round date with Chelsea. Boss Dean Smith was named August’s League One Manager of the Month.
Results were mixed in September. The month started in disappointing fashion with a JPT exit at Morecambe (0-2) and a league reverse against Bury (0-1). We soon picked up, beating Doncaster (2-0) and Scunthorpe (1-0), while also drawing 1-1 against both Peterborough and Crewe. We also hosted Premier League champions Chelsea in the League Cup third round and despite losing 4-1, then-Blues boss Jose Mourinho described the quality of our football as the best he had ever seen from a third-tier side. Left-back Rico Henry was named the Football League’s Young Player of the Month for September.
The Saddlers recorded 11 points from a possible 18 in October to finish the month top of the tree. After drawing 0-0 at Wigan, we then beat Burton 2-0 to go first – but slipped back to second after losing 2-1 against Chesterfield. A 2-0 victory at Barnsley followed before a thrilling 4-4 draw at Colchester. The month ended with a Halloween treat – a dramatic 3-2 comeback victory over former leaders Gillingham which sent us top.
Walsall ended November without a manager following Dean Smith’s departure to Championship side Brentford. The month started with a 2-0 victory over Fleetwood in the FA Cup first round. We then drew 1-1 against Sheffield United, lost 2-1 at Swindon and beat Bradford 2-1, in what proved to be Smith’s final game in charge.
The Saddlers began a new era in December as Sean O’Driscoll was appointed as the Club’s head coach. Before then, coaches Jon Whitney, John Ward and Neil Cutler were placed in temporary charge and oversaw a 3-1 derby win over Shrewsbury, the day after Smith’s exit. Under the caretaker trio, Walsall also overcame Chesterfield in the FA Cup, winning 5-3 on penalties (replay 0-0, first game 1-1), to set up a third-round tie with Smith’s Brentford. O’Driscoll was unveiled as Walsall’s head coach on 18th December and masterminded a 2-0 victory over Port Vale in his first game. We then beat Millwall (1-0) and Peterborough (2-0) to make it five consecutive league wins – and end 2015 top of League One!
WALSALL'S FINAL RECORD IN 2015:
Games Played: 56 (all competitions)
Here's to a successful 2016!