The Pirates' first visit to WS1 in six years...
The Saddlers will be looking to build on last weekend’s superb 4-1 victory over league leaders Sheffield United – our biggest win and arguably most impressive performance of the campaign. Bristol Rovers secured back-to-back promotions last term and have enjoyed a solid season to date, sitting ninth with 39 points - four off the top six. Form has been inconsistent; Darrell Clarke’s men have been strong at home, winning eight times, although they have struggled on their travels, losing their last five. The Saddlers romped to a 6-1 victory on the Pirates’ last visit to WS1 in January 2011. Andy Butler scored twice, while Matt Gill, Julian Gray, Matt Richards and Alex Nicholls were also on target, handing Dean Smith his first win in charge.
Walsall: 14th – P26 W8 D10 L8 F30 A34 PTS34
Bristol Rovers: 9th – P27 W11 D6 L10 F46 A47 PTS39
14th January – Walsall 4-1 Sheff Utd – League One
The Saddlers produced a stunning performance to thrash League One leaders Sheff Utd and make it a hat-trick of wins against the Blades this season. Amadou Bakayoko fired the hosts into a fifth-minute lead, only for Jack O’Connell to head United level shortly after. But Jon Whitney’s side ran riot after the break, with goals from Jason McCarthy, Joe Edwards and Erhun Oztumer securing a thoroughly deserved victory.
14th January – Fleetwood 3-1 Bristol Rovers – League One
A Billy Bodin goal was unable to prevent Rovers from falling to a fifth consecutive away league defeat. A well-placed Ash Hunter strike put Fleetwood ahead, and Cian Bolger doubled the hosts’ lead from a corner on 23 minutes. Bodin gave Rovers hope with an expertly-taken 54th-minute volley, but David Ball’s fine solo goal sealed victory eight minutes from time.
Walsall wins: 36
Bristol Rovers wins: 38
13th September 2016 – Bristol Rovers 1-1 Walsall – League One
Erhun Oztumer bagged his third goal in five league starts as Walsall were held to a controversial draw at Bristol Rovers. The playmaker curled the Saddlers ahead on 16 minutes, but a hotly-disputed 28th-minute penalty from Matt Taylor, awarded for a foul by Adam Chambers on Billy Boden, drew Rovers level. The Pirates piled on the pressure in the second half, but goalkeeper Neil Etheridge produced a string of fine saves to earn us a point.
Bristol Rovers Manager: Darrell Clarke
The 39-year-old has led Rovers to back-to-back promotions from the Conference Premier to League One. The former Mansfield midfielder started his managerial career with Salisbury, guiding the Whites to two promotions. He replaced John Ward as Rovers boss in March 2014 but was unable to save the club from relegation that season – although he has since delivered successive promotions.
Bristol Rovers Star Man: Matty Taylor
The prolific 26-year-old striker has plundered 66 goals in 130 appearances for the Pirates since signing from Forest Green in July 2014, including 18 in 31 matches this term. The predatory frontman, who converted a penalty against Walsall back in September, netted 28 times as Rovers won promotion last season, being named in the PFA League Two Team of the Year.
Reece Flanagan is now back in training. Rory Oliver is out with a thigh strain.
Based in County Durham, Miller has brandished 45 yellow cards and six reds in the 23 matches he has officiated this season. His last Walsall game came just over a month ago - our 3-1 home defeat to Oldham in the Checkatrade Trophy.
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