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WHITNEY TARGETING TOP-HALF FINISH

7 April 2017

Saddlers host Oxford tomorrow...

Jon Whitney has challenged his team to finish the season in the top half of the League One table. 

The Saddlers sit in 14th place with six matches remaining, a point off the top 12 with a game in hand on the teams above. 

And the boss wants his side to end the campaign as strongly as possible. 

“We had a meeting on Tuesday to set ourselves some targets,” said Whitney. “Points tallies, league positions – what we think we can achieve. 

“People keep talking about how we have got nothing to play for me but that riles me because we want to win every game. Pride comes into it. 

“We have got to make sure we give our all in every game and I won’t say what the exact targets are, but we want to finish in the top half. 

“I think the season we have had – the rollercoaster season – we need to finish in the top half and that will be a successful season building for next year. 

“We are more than good enough to finish in the top half and even higher - I think we all agree this group of players is good enough to achieve that. 

“It hurts being 14th in the table. We have to set high targets and achievable targets and for now that is finishing in the top half. We won’t accept anything else.” 

Whitney’s men host Michael Appleton’s Oxford at the Banks’s tomorrow – our first home game in almost four weeks. 

And Whitney is keen to close the gap on the tenth-placed U’s, who sit six points ahead of the Saddlers and seven points adrift of the play-offs. 

“If we can get a win against them then we’ll be within three points, which is a great incentive for my team,” Whitney added. 

“I went to watch them against Fleetwood and they were really good first-half. It was 1-1 at half-time and a very even match, but then Fleetwood went on to win. 

“I felt there was a little bit of fatigue, they ran out of steam a little bit. But in the first-half their energy was really high. McAleny was a handful. Maguire and Hemmings are good players. 

“They are very organised and disciplined - that is how Michael wants his teams to be. They will be hurting a little bit off the back of the defeat to Coventry [in the Checkatrade Trophy final]. 

“They will still believe they have an outside chance of scraping into the play-offs, but we have to go and make sure we can catch them. 

“We don’t want those clubs in the top half to get away. It will be a true test for us but we want true tests over these six games. We want to be in every game and fighting for every point.” 

Amadou Bakayoko has returned to training after missing the Bradford defeat with a groin problem. 

Eoghan O’Connell and Flo Cuvelier are back in contention after hamstring and calf injuries respectively, although Erhun Oztumer (knee) remains on the sidelines.

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