A return to league action this weekend...Walsall boss Dean Smith says his players are refreshed and raring to go after a three-week break from league action.
The Saddlers' last league outing was the thrilling 3-2 victory over Gillingham on 31st October – a result which sent us top of League One.
Now third in the division, Walsall host promotion-rivals Sheffield United this weekend – and Smith is looking forward to getting back down to business.
“We are very happy to be back at it,” said Smith.
“The players are refreshed, rejuvenated and looking forward to getting the league campaign going again.
“It’s been a while since the Gillingham game, nearly three weeks now.
“We obviously had Fleetwood (in the FA Cup) but then we had last weekend’s match at Shrewsbury off (due to international call-ups).
“But the players have trained really well.
“I was a little bit sceptical of how they would come in on Monday but I needn’t have been because they were right at it from the off.”
Nigel Adkins’ Blades – arguably the biggest club at this level – were the division’s pre-season promotion favourites but are currently eighth in League One.
And although United’s recent form has been indifferent, Smith is expecting a stern test this Saturday.
“It’ll be a tough game for us as they’ve got some good players,” admitted Smith.
“They’re a team who were well fancied at the start of the season to get promoted and have a manager in Nigel Adkins who knows how to get out of this league.
“He has managed some big clubs in the Premier League as well.
“They’re seven points behind us so it’s a great chance for us to put a little bit of breathing space between us and them.
“I certainly expect them to be challenging at the end of the season.”
Smith confirmed that goalkeeper Neil Etheridge and winger Milan Lalkovic, who both picked up knocks against Fleetwood, are available this Saturday, as is defender James O’Connor.
Midfielders, Sam Mantom (ankle) and Isaiah Osbourne (knee), are injured; the former has returned to training this week, while the latter is now walking unaided and making progress in his recovery.