Latics will have to be at their best tomorrow if they are to overcome promotion rivals Walsall at the Banks’s Stadium. The Saddlers sit in third place in the table, and lead Latics by one point as well as having a game in hand, so it would be the perfect time to get a victory.
Latics are on a great run and are undefeated in 10 games, and have only lost 2 in 24 games. But Walsall are also in a good vein of form and have only lost two in the last 14 League games and have responded very well to losing manager Dean Smith to Brentford in December.
New manager Sean O’Driscoll has managed to maintain the momentum near the top of the table and despite much speculation about departures during the transfer window, they have managed to hold onto highly rated players Romaine Sawyers, Rico Henry and top scorer Tom Bradshaw.
Walsall have won many plaudits for their attractive style of football including from former Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho who came up against them in the League Cup and commented:
“I have years of cups in this country and I haven’t found a team in League One playing the quality of football that Walsall tried to play.”
Latics will certainly have to up their game after a toothless 0-0 draw with Oldham Athletic. Gary Caldwell will be looking for a big reaction from his players who never really got going against Oldham.
The manager suggested that there could be one or two changes after the below par performance at the DW Stadium. I expect Sam Morsy to come into the team and there could also be a start for Haris Vuckic, who was unlucky to miss out last week.
I am expecting an open game with two teams who like to play football in the right way. Walsall do have home advantage, but on paper Latics look to have the stronger squad, especially since the new additions in the transfer window.
That extra quality could be the difference in a closely fought game. The new players Yanic Wildschut, Sam Morsy, Ryan Colclough, Conor McAleny and Reece Wabara have already made a good impression, but they are capable of having an even bigger impact as the season moves towards its climax.
Latics will be roared on by a big away following at the Banks’s Stadium. It is a high stakes game and everyone will be acutely aware that the winners will move one step closer to an automatic promotion spot.
This article was first published in the 12th Man column for the Wigan Evening Post on Friday 19th February 2016.