The Saddlers entertain the Blades...
Jon Whitney’s men will be hoping to make it a hat-trick of wins over Sheffield United, having beaten the Blades twice already this season. Each of those victories came at Bramall Lane – 2-1 in the Checkatrade Trophy and 1-0 in the league – with Amadou Bakayoko scoring the winning goal on both occasions. The Saddlers tend to fare well in this fixture; we have lost only one of the last ten meetings between the sides and it is 14 years since United won here in WS1, a run of six matches. It will no doubt be a real test for the Saddlers this weekend, though. Chris Wilder’s Blades sit four points clear at the top of League One and have won their last six league matches, scoring an impressive 16 goals in the process.
Walsall: 14th – P25 W7 D10 L8 F26 A33 PTS31
Sheff Utd: 1st – P26 W17 D5 L4 F50 A26 PTS56
2nd January – Walsall 0-2 Rochdale
Goals either side of half-time from Ian Henderson and Joseph Thompson consigned Walsall to a disappointing defeat at home to fourth-placed Rochdale. The Saddlers started brightly and had a golden chance on 14 minutes when Amadou Bakayoko blazed over, unmarked, from 12 yards. Dale went ahead midway through the first half, Henderson tapping in Joe Rafferty’s cross-shot from close range. And Thompson made sure of the win with 16 minutes remaining when he slotted past Neil Etheridge.
7th January – Southend 2-4 Sheff Utd – League One
League One leaders Sheffield United made it six straight league wins after easing past play-off chasing Southend. Ethan Ebanks-Landell headed United in front, Simeon Cox equalised, but Jack O’Connell restored the Blades’ lead before half-time. Second-half strikes from Caloan Lavery and Kieron Freeman put the visitors 4-1 up, before Jermaine McGlashan netted a late consolation.
Walsall wins: 9
Sheff Utd wins: 13
29th November 2016 – Sheff Utd 0-1 Walsall – League One
Amadou Bakayoko scored the only goal as Walsall stunned high-flying Sheffield United. The decisive moment came on 42 minutes, when the young striker chased Erhun Oztumer’s long pass before prodding past Simon Moore. United had plenty of chances – the best of which fell to local lad Billy Sharp but his weak penalty was saved by Neil Etheridge. The Blades also had two goals disallowed, as well as a host of other opportunities, but the Saddlers held on for a memorable win.
Sheff Utd Manager: Chris Wilder
The 49-year-old replaced Nigel Adkins as Sheffield United manager in May 2016 after leaving Northampton, where he won the League Two title last season. A boyhood Blades fan, Wilder enjoyed two spells with United during his playing career, making a total of 105 league appearances, and also played four games on loan at Walsall in 1989. He has also managed Halifax, Alfreton and Oxford, whom he led to promotion from the Conference in 2009/10.
Sheff Utd Star Man: Mark Duffy
Former Birmingham winger who excelled on loan at Burton last season, being named in the PFA League One Team of the Year after helping the Brewers win promotion. The 31-year-old Liverpudlian joined Sheffield United in June 2016 and has also played for Morecambe, Doncaster and Scunthorpe, for whom he made over 100 appearances. He started out in non-league with Vauxhall Motors.
New loan signings Eoghan O’Connell and Scott Laird are available. Matt Preston is back after illness. Long-term absentees Maz Kouhyar and Reece Flanagan are making good progress; Kouhyar featured for the Saddlers’ Development Squad in midweek while Flanagan is back in training.
The Northumberland-based official has taken charge of 14 matches so far this season, brandishing 44 yellow cards and two red. The last Saddlers game he refereed was our 1-1 draw with Chesterfield in an FA Cup second-round tie back in December 2015.
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