We roll back the yearbook to 29th January 2011...This weekend the Saddlers take on ninth-placed Bristol Rovers on the back of a brilliant 4-1 victory over league leaders Sheffield United (3.00pm kick-off).
It was during this very month in 2011 when we recorded a superb 6-1 victory over Rovers which lifted us off bottom spot in League One.
Former Saddlers captain, Andy Butler, opened the scoring with a trademark header to give us the early advantage. Now at Doncaster Rovers, the 33-year-old dominated the aerial battle and posed a constant threat to the opposition from set-pieces.
The Saddlers looked to set a quick tempo and build on their early goal. It didn’t take long before it was 2-0 when loanee Matthew Gill netted to put daylight between the two sides. It was a lovely move involving Jon Macken whose deft flick eluded the Rovers defender for Gill to smash in a second. He’d go on to represent Bristol Rovers 45 times during three seasons at the Memorial Stadium.
Julian Gray then made it three with the goal of the day. Rovers failed to deal with a corner from the left-hand side and having eventually managed to clear the 18-yard box, Gray was positioned perfectly to watch the ball onto his left foot and send a dipping volley into the bottom corner. The goal put Dean Smith’s men firmly in the driving seat at half-time.
The away side started the second period on the front foot and Jeff Hughes pulled one back for the Gas from an acute angle. After some neat build-up play, Daryl Westlake’s challenge took the ball wide of goal but Hughes somehow composed himself to squeeze an effort inside the post.
After defending against a brief spell of Rovers pressure, midfielder Marc Richards picked up the ball on the halfway line and drove forward. Approaching the edge of the 18-yard box, he arrowed a low drive into the bottom corner to restore the Saddlers' three-goal lead.
The scoring didn’t end there.
A ball down the channel came to Macken and the veteran striker used all his experience to hold off his marker and pull the ball back into the path of the onrushing Alex Nicholls who volleyed home a fifth despite the best efforts of a defender on the line.
With the game now well out of Rovers' reach, Butler poured further agony on the visitors when he rose above his marker to power home a sixth late on and complete the scoring.
Six-star Saddlers off bottom spot.
Dean Smith’s men would preserve their League One status for the 2010/11 season thanks to that famous final-day drama at promoted Southampton.