The Saddlers' first match of 2016...
Saturday, 2nd January 2016 (Kick-off 3.00pm)
Sky Bet League One
The table-topping Saddlers begin 2016 with a home match against mid-table Rochdale. Walsall, who are unbeaten in seven at the Banks’s, have won all three matches under head coach Sean O’Driscoll. The Saddlers are also searching for a sixth consecutive league win and a first league double of the season, having beaten Dale 2-1 in the August reverse fixture. Keith Hill’s Rochdale are 13th in League One, six points shy of the play-offs.
Walsall: 1st – P23 W14 D6 L3 F40 A19 PTS48
Rochdale: 13th – P23 W8 D7 L8 F29 A27 PTS31
LAST FIVE LEAGUE MATCHES: (Most recent match first)
LAST TIME OUT:
Monday, 28th December – Walsall 2-0 Peterborough – League One
Walsall stayed top of League One after late goals from Jason Demetriou and George Evans secured victory over promotion-rivals Peterborough.
Team: Etheridge, Demetriou, O’Connor, Downing (Preston 13’), Taylor, Mantom (Forde 74’), Evans, Chambers, Sawyers, Cook (Morris 88’), Lalkovic.
Subs not used: Baxendale, Henry, Kinsella, Roberts.
Monday, 28th December – Scunthorpe 1-1 Rochdale – League One
Rochdale ended 2015 with a draw at Scunthorpe. Ian Henderson fired Dale in front midway through the first-half but David Mirfin equalised on 33 minutes.
Team: Catro Pereira, Rose, Lancashire, McNulty, Cannon, Camps (Bennett 84’), Lund, McDermott (Mendez-Laing 68’), Vincenti, Andrew, Henderson.
Subs not used: Lillis, Eastham, Alessanda, Allen, Bunney.
Walsall wins: 22
Rochdale wins: 20
18th August 2015 – Rochdale 1-2 Walsall – League One
Two goals in six second-half minutes from Andy Taylor and Sam Mantom earned Walsall a third consecutive away win in all competitions. The Saddlers took a 65th-minute lead when Taylor volleyed home Milan Lalkovic’s cross. Mantom’s deflected strike made it 2-0 and although Rochdale’s Calvin Andrew pulled a goal back, Walsall held on for a hard-fought victory.
Keith Hill – The 46-year-old is into his second spell as Dale manager. Hill, who played at Rochdale for five years, has twice guided the Spotland club to promotion from League Two. He also managed Barnsley for a year and played as a defender for Blackburn, Plymouth and Morecambe.
ROCHDALE STAR MAN:
Ian Henderson – A former England youth international, the Thetford-born forward is Rochdale’s eight-goal leading marksman this season. Henderson, who finished as League One’s second-highest scorer last term with 22 goals, joined Dale from Colchester in July 2013 following a successful loan spell. The 30-year-old started his career with Norwich and has also played for Northampton, Rotherham and Luton.
VIEW FROM THE ROCHDALE CAMP:
Keith Hill (on playing Walsall) – “The appointment of Sean O’Driscoll makes superb sense when I’m looking as a manager from the outside in. It was a bright appointment and one that will stabilise the football club’s fortunes as the season progresses. On Saturday, we’ve got to go there with a game plan, an intensity and we’ve got to go there with no fear, which we will.”
WALSALL TEAM NEWS:
Rico Henry is fit after recovering from an ankle injury. Top-scorer Tom Bradshaw (ankle) could return. Paul Downing (illness) will be assessed. Youngsters Jordan Murphy and Amadou Bakayoko, whose contract has been extended until the end of the season, could be in the matchday squad. Midfielder Isaiah Osbourne (knee) is a long-term absentee.
STAT OF THE DAY:
We are unbeaten in our last eight home matches against Rochdale (W4 D4) since a 3-1 defeat on 3rd September 1991.
SATURDAY’S LEAGUE ONE FIXTURES (3.00pm unless stated)
Barnsley vs. Millwall
Burton vs. Blackpool
Chesterfield vs. Scunthorpe
Crewe vs. Coventry
Fleetwood vs. Bury
Gillingham vs. Bradford
Oldham vs. Colchester
Port Vale vs. Swindon
Scunthorpe vs. Wigan
Sheff Utd vs. Peterborough
Southend vs. Doncaster